Story of Toy Story Land

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

Different variations of Toy Story Land that was inspired by the popular Pixar Toy Story movie franchise exist at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland.

In 2015, it was announced that a Toy Story Land would be built on 11 acres at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida near the area already designated as Pixar Place. Construction began April 2016.

At Walt Disney World, Pixar Place had opened on May 31, 2008 in the area that included many of the original soundstages used when the park hosted actual production facilities. Its sole attraction was Toy Story Midway Mania. Across from that attraction was the 6-foot tall audio-animatronics Luxo Jr. who was Pixar's desk lamp mascot. It periodically performed during the day unexpectedly to the delight of the guests.

It was John Lasseter's suggestion that the archway entrance for Pixar Place look like the entrance to the real Pixar Studios in Emeryville, California to even using the same type and color of brick.

The Disney's Hollywood Studios land shifted from Pixar Place to Toy Story Land, when it was announced in 2015

In June 2008, composer/orchestrator Jennifer Hammond was at the famed Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood recording the music for the area. Taking themes from Randy Newman's first two Toy Story films, Hammond arranged over 60 minutes of score that was heard on a continuous loop at Pixar Place. The score was recorded over a few days at Capitol's Studio A, where Hammond conducted varying ensembles of the Hollywood Studio Symphony. Orchestrated by Marshall Bowen, Larry Rench, Ladd McIntosh and Leland Bond, Hammond's score consisted of new arrangements based on the themes composer Randy Newman wrote for the original films, as well expanded musical ideas based on selected underscore moments. Bowen was present in the booth along with scoring mixer Charlie Pakaari and Walt Disney Imagineering Music Executive John Dennis.

Having a permanent Toy Story element in Disney's Hollywood Studios was a natural progression.

To help publicize the initial release of the first animated feature film, The Toy Story Parade made its way down Hollywood Boulevard from November 22, 1995 to June 8, 1997. The parade was led by Sarge and the Green Army Men and also included Buzz Lightyear standing on top of his spaceship surrounded by the little green aliens, Woody standing on top of some stacked toys, the Barrel of red Monkeys dancing down the street and even Mr. Potato Head and Hamm on a float with stacks of classic games.

In addition, guests could interact with characters like Woody, Buzz and the Green Army Men in character greetings at the park.

When Pixar Place opened, there was a dedicated area to meet Woody and Buzz across from Toy Story Midway Mania while the Green Army Men sometimes cavorted outside the attraction.

Of course, the Toy Story characters also showed up in the Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade (riding in a car the shape of Andy's bed) from 2001 to 2008, Block Party Bash (2008-2011) and the "Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun" parade (2011-2013) at the Studios along with other Pixar animated characters.

The park was also host in 2017 to the 45-minute long show "The Music of Pixar Live! A Symphony of Characters" at the Theater of the Stars that featured the Toy Story characters. It featured a live orchestra playing music from Pixar films along with character appearances of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Mike and Sulley, Carl Fredricksen, the Incredibles and more. The backdrop behind the orchestra showcased moments from the films as well as special video segments where the composers of the films shared information on the importance of scoring of a Pixar film. Their on-camera comments were backed by behind-the-scenes footage including orchestra recordings, story development, concept art and animation.

The Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios on May 31, 2008. The idea had been pitched to CEO Bob Iger and Head of Pixar John Lasseter as "Traditional midway games that you can ride through, hosted by the Toy Story characters." At DHS, as park guests entered the attraction, they found themselves in Andy's room from the 1995 Pixar animated feature film Toy Story which is strewn with board games from the 1960s and 1970s, puzzles and other toys. The murals located in the load area are the biggest murals painted since Epcot was built.

The toys all look gigantic because the guests have "shrunk" to the size of a toy because the toys won't come to life if a human is around. The area was designed so that a five foot six inch tall person would feel about 14-inches tall. The ViewMaster reels were nearly four feet in diameter and the Tinkertoy connectors were 2-feet across.

According to the back story, Andy (the young Andy Davis in the Toy Story movies who owned the toys) received the Midway Games set for his birthday. However, before he can completely set it up and play with it, he is called away for dinner and Andy's toys decide to set it up and play with the game themselves.

The idea for the $80 million Toy Story Mania attraction began in May 2005.

The 5-foot tall Mr. Potato Head Broadway Barker figure (the most complex Audio-Animatronics figure ever built by Disney up to that time) is actually not part of the set itself, but an additional figure that was "sold separately" as can be seen by his boxy stand and backdrop.

Imagineers spent more than 30 hours with comedian Don Rickles, who was the voice of the character in the original films, the 30 minute specials and short cartoons, to record his dialog.

The figure sings songs written by the group Riders in the Sky who wrote the song Woody's Roundup for the second feature film, dances, tells jokes and can remove his ear and put it back on. He was the first Audio-Animatronics figure whose mouth appeared to form words and vowel sounds.

"I think guests will most enjoy Don Rickles' fast tongue and mellifluous movement this figure possesses as it accompanies his voice with both mannerisms and actions," said Jimmy Thomas, principal Manufacturing technical and mechanical designer for Mr. Potato Head. "There are too many different things to list from a technical standpoint by comparison to any other audio-animatronics figure that we have built thus far at Imagineering."

The voice of Woody in the attraction is supplied by Jim Hanks who is the younger brother of actor Tom Hanks. Jim has supplied the voice of Woody for videogames, parades, merchandise and more including the 2000 straight-to-video movie Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins because Tom is often too busy on some other project.

Tom Hanks told talk show host Graham Norton on air in 2011 who questioned whether Hanks had supplied the voice on a talking Woody doll, "No, it's my brother Jim. There are so many computer games and video things and Jim just works on those all year long."

The idea for the $80 million attraction began in May 2005, when Imagineers were working on the concepts for Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure and thinking about how they could bring some interactive components to the area. They later discarded those ideas, but were still intrigued by the initial concept, as well as by the games at Paradise Pier and the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin attraction that opened at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 1998—and was instantly popular.

Variations of that attraction were later incorporated into Disney California Adventure, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Shanghai Disneyland. In fact, the attraction opened at DCA just two weeks after it did in Florida.

After some in-depth research at the local Los Angeles County Fair with classic midway games, the idea progressed to develop similar classic games but using the newest technology to more effectively control the experience. The pull-string shooter was inspired by the cannons used in the Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold game at DisneyQuest. In order to create a show that responds not only to every pull of a guest's spring-action shooter, but also every move their midway tram makes, there are more than 150 computers communicating over multiple networks throughout the attraction.

Imagineers Lori Coltrin, her brother Robert Coltrin, Roger Gould, Sue Bryan and Kevin Rafferty were the primary team on the attraction.

The look of the attraction was inspired by a game that one of the Imagineers had as a kid called "Snoopy and the Red Baron" which is why there appears to be cardboard backdrops, stickers, and pieces molded out of single color of plastic as there were in that game. In their test group, the Imagineers saw young children were reluctant to break the plates so they added the line where Sarge yells: "I am not your mother! Break those plates!"

Typically over 1 million of the virtual China plates are broken every single day. The green army men work hard to clean up the plate shards as plates are shattered all around them although most riders never pay attention to that action.

This is the first blacklight show viewed with 3D glasses, which made mixing the paint colors more of a challenge and the Imagineers involved in the art direction had to always carry 3D glasses around with them when they were working on the attraction.

The attraction opened before Toy Story 3 was released so in May 2010, Disney replaced the mini game, "Bo Peep's Baaa-loon Pop" with "Rex and Trixie's Dino Darts". Trixie was a new character introduced in the film, as was the unicorn Buttercup, who replaced Rex in the "Hamm and Eggs" game.

The attraction was so popular that a third track was added in May 2016.

With the opening of Toy Story Land in June 2018, Toy Story Mania! attraction was re-themed with a new entrance to look like walking into a carnival game box that's supposed to be the box that the Toy Story Mania! game came in. The queue is adorned with super-sized board games and playthings: Crayola crayons, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Tinkertoys, enlarged Viewmaster reels based on real ones that were produced (one of Disneyland's 1965 Tomorrowland and another from the animated feature Peter Pan), A Barrelful of Monkeys, Checkers, Little Golden Books and much more.

Imagineer Lori Coltrin emphasized that there is no specific time era around Toy Story, although they did draw inspiration from the 1960s and 1970s. The Chutes and Ladders game is clearly from the early-1960s, while several Old Maid cards have a more contemporary 1970s design. Other toys seem to have been inherited by Andy from his mom since they disappeared before he was born.

Two new characters were added as well: Lenny, Andy's walking binoculars, and Chuckles the clown are referenced by way of the boxes they originally came in.

With the shift from Pixar Place to Toy Story Land, the loading area is themed as the floor of Andy's room with the iconic blue cloud wallpaper, images of Andy's bed and dresser along the walls as well as books and toys.

Guests are situated back-to-back four to a vehicle so everyone has a front row seat. A computer prompts various sounds, lighting and other themed effects depending on where the vehicle is along the track. Each vehicle consists of four "spring-action shooters" used throughout the attraction to launch virtual darts at balloons, rings around aliens and eggs at barnyard targets among other functions. With 56 giant screens programmed with 3-D animation from Walt Disney Pixar Animation Studios, each game lasts approximately thirty seconds.

"With the use of more than 150 computers over various networks, the technology in this attraction makes it feel like it's never the same experience twice," said Walt Disney World Senior Engineer Jose Corpuz.

Another innovation was an offline loading area for guests with disabilities.

"As a result of this unique approach to accessibility, guests traveling in wheelchairs or using other mobility aids such as walkers, canes or crutches have as much time as they need to board either a specially designed Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle or to transfer into a standard vehicle," said Mark Jones, Operations manager, Walt Disney World Services for Guests with Disabilities.

According to Disney publicity when Toy Story Land opened with a 20-foot tall Woody at the entrance (which would make guests the approximate size of the green army men, compared to Andy's 25-foot long sneaker prints throughout the area):

"Toy Story Land. In Andy's backyard, guests are shrunk to the size of their favorite toys and invited to join Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and the rest of the Toy Story gang for a larger than life adventure among giant building blocks (over 400) and game board pieces. It's the perfect setting for toys of all kinds to gather together for an experience that's more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys.

"Alien Swirling Saucers. Andy has collected enough game tickets at Pizza Planet to get the Alien Swirling Saucers (Home Edition), which has now landed (pun intended) in his backyard. The game features Alien-driven flying saucers whipping rockets around four turntables while 'The Claw' looms ominously overhead, seemingly ready to nab those who are 'chosen'.

"Slinky Dog Dash. Andy built Slinky Dog Dash with his Dodge & Dash Mega Coaster Kit. Instead of using the coaster that came in the box, he decided to put his Slinky toy on the tracks. The result is a family-friendly thrill adventure that whooshes around curves, up hills and down drops as it winds around the backyard."

The gold-rimmed Standby sign at Slinky Dog Dash shows the wait time for the attraction, but as guests pass under it, they discover that it is actually the tag from the collar of Andy's dog, Buster. It even has Buster's name and Andy's address, 234 Elm Street, on the back of it. Everything was designed with items that Andy could easily find and use from a checkerboard wall to a popsicle stick wall to the Jenga block towers and the benches made out of dominoes, Lincoln Log train tracks or popsicle sticks. The sign above the bathrooms is fashioned out of Scrabble letters.

According to Imagineer Kathy Mangum, Toy Story Land was inspired by the overwhelming guest response to Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.

"As all of you know, here in Anaheim, we've been quite successful with taking immersive experiences to a whole new level as we did with Cars Land. In fact, one of our favorite stories from opening day is that we overheard a little boy asking his mom, 'Is this where they filmed the Cars movie?'" she said. "That's exactly how we want people to feel – like they've stepped onto the set of their favorite film … like the quaint town of Radiator Springs or, in the case of Toy Story, the wild and adventurous outdoors of Andy's backyard."

The idea behind the Slinky Dog Dash was to have a family friendly coaster but also to take advantage of the fact that Andy has a big imagination so would have incorporated some of his other toys into the standard design and to make the coils stretch to their limits. The attraction even features Andy's hand-drawn design plans for it. Rex and Jessie decided to help Andy by stringing up a chain of Christmas lights on towers of Jenga blocks. Rex, of course, has got tangled up in the lights, but Jessie is nearby to help.

The attraction concludes with a performance by the audio-animatronics Wheezy the Penguin (voiced by Sean Kenin) who serenades guests on the final brake run with the song You've Got a Friend in Me. Mike the tape recorder (who is standing across from Wheezy) has provided Wheezy with a microphone. On Wheezy's right is Mr. Spell, texting funny commentaries. The Imagineers had to hand-sculpt the Wheezy figure first before scanning it into computer software. A foam version was then made, followed by fabrication.

For Alien Swirling Saucers, "As you rotate around the toy planets and satellites as part of the game, you'll swirl to the beat of fun 'Space Jazz' music developed just for this experience," Mangum said. "The music, the lighting, and the sound effects will add to the flurry of your adventure while 'The Claw' looms ominously over you."

The attraction uses the same ride system that is used for Disney California Adventure's Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. It was manufactured by Zamperla, but themed as a play set that Andy won at Pizza Planet. The entrance to the new land is through the area that originally held Soundstage 4 where walk-through experiences like "The Making of the Haunted Mansion Movie," the set from the live action version of 101 Dalmatians and two different versions of the Journey into Narnia, as well as the Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow were housed.

The fence line in Andy's backyard is made from a popular children's building toy called K'NEX.

Woody's Lunch Box is the quick service food and beverage location. Andy has taken a vintage Woody themed lunch box and propped it open with a thermos. The interior shows what was packed for Andy's lunch, including Oreo cookies, celery, carrot sticks, animal crackers, a juice box and Babybel cheese, with oversized plastic food containers used as windows.

Scattered about the area are toys, items from the lunch box, and a storybook from Woody's Round-up, the fictional television show shown in Toy Story 2. A green army man keeps a lookout for Andy's return to grab a snack from the box to alert the other toys.

Although delayed by the pandemic, plans are still in place for a sit-down restaurant at the front of the land to be called Roundup Rodeo BBQ.

The Disney description is;

"Using three cardboard boxes cut and taped together, Andy has created a new rodeo arena using some of his favorite toys, games, and play sets. And while some pieces are definitely western-themed, what makes this rodeo special is the broad assortment of toys that have been brought together to create a fun, colorful mashup-atmosphere that only a child could create.

"Once inside, you'll be surrounded by all of the rodeo festivities in-action as well as western town and train station play sets. And you just might spot some of your favorite Disney•Pixar characters scattered throughout the restaurant in the form of toys and game pieces including a toy version of Jessie riding on the back of a Trixie pull-toy and unique toy versions of Bo Peep and her sheep, all who appear to be performing in the rodeo together.

"This immersive restaurant will surround guests with a kaleidoscope of toys, games, and playsets, providing yet another unique, fun, family-friendly dining experience that could only be had in Toy Story Land."

The first Toy Story animated feature film was released in 1995, but the characters and the world of toys remain timeless, especially in this clever addition to DHS where guest become an "honorary toy" to experience Andy's imaginative reformatting of his backyard.