Imagineer Kevin Rafferty talks about Toy Story Mania

by MouseStation Crew, staff writer

MouseStation 193 - Imagineer Kevin Rafferty talks about Toy Story Mania

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Featured Topic - Imagineer Kevin Rafferty talks about Toy Story Mania

In this week's feature, Mark interviews Imagineer Kevin Rafferty about his work on the Toy Story Mania attraction.

Kevin was involved with the attraction from the beginning, from the conception of the idea, through writing the script, right up to bringing it to life. He noted that of all the attractions that he's worked on in 30 years at Imagineering, it's the closest in the end result to the original idea concepts from when they first came up with it.

Kevin was talking with colleague Robert Coltrin trying to come up with what might be the next development in interactive attractions beyond Buzz Lightyear. As they walked past the Paradise Pier area at Disney's California Adventure, they wondered what would happen if you could ride through the midway. Kevin and Robert decided that the firing mechanism from the virtual "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Battle for Buccaneer Gold" game at DisneyQuest would be ideal, as you can see the actual trajectory of what you fire. They also thought that the Toy Story characters would make excellent hosts of each game, thanks to their wildly different personalities. They brought in Imagineer Sue Bryan, who had worked on the "Pirates" firing mechanism, to head up the team designing the games for Toy Story Mania.

A Little Golden Book about Tin Toy jams the door closed so that the toys can play Midway Mania without anyone interrupting. Photo by Mark Goldaber.

Because the attraction's idea was so simple and easy to understand, it went through executive approval and got the official go-ahead when they were not even past the concept drawing stage. They worked closely with the Pixar folks, including director Roger Gould and supervising animator Rob Russ, and they all had to work hard together to marry the Toy Story characters with the game design technology.

While the attraction is the same on both coasts (and is the first attraction to open simultaneously on both coasts), the queue and area decor are very different because of the location of the attractions. Obviously, it's an easy fit on the midway at Paradise Pier. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, you see larger-than-life Toy Story characters out on the buildings representing Pixar's Emeryville, California studios before entering the studio building and finding yourself under Andy's bed.

You enter the ride portion of the attraction through the "Toy Story Midway Games Play Set" box. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The loading/unloading area for those needing assistance allows ride vehicles to be pulled onto a separate switch-track on the side to give them as much time as they need to get out of their vehicle without slowing or stopping the attraction itself.

There were many difficult parts that needed to be created for the attraction from the ride vehicles, the technology to support the games and character animation, the Mr. Potato Head animatronic and understanding the playability of the game. The most difficult thing to pull off was probably the technology to make the games work.

Kevin's favorite character is Mr. Potato Head, but his favorite toy in the queue was the balsa wood airplane with the words "Blue Sky" on the wing.

The "Wanted" poster from the original Toy Story movie appears in the queue. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Kevin noted that you should listen to the characters as you enter each game area, as they give you tips on how to score well. Also, the higher you shoot, the farther you shoot. He also offered the tip that, in "Bo Peep's Baaa-loon Pop," if you pop one of the balloon flowers, it releases a balloon bee, which is worth more points.

Kevin Rafferty was the lead author on Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real, which is a fabulous look at how Imagineering does what it does. You can buy it from Amazon here.

The iconic Pixar star ball and Luxo Jr. lamp are on opposite sides of Mr. Potato Head in the queue. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

After the end of the interview, Mark talked a bit about the logistics of conducting the interview (and getting backdoored onto the attraction between software upgrades). He noted that Kevin and Sue Bryan both enjoyed the comment that Mark had heard where someone noted that they liked the firing mechanism so much better than the first time that they had used it on Virtual Pirates.

Also, note that you can get off up to six shots per second. If you do pull the rope more than that, it won't fire any faster. Another thing that Kevin pointed out to Mark was that all of the crayons in the queue area are worn down differently. The only crayon that is not used at all is the pink crayon, because Andy would never use it. (See if you can find it in the queue!)

See if you can find the unused pink crayon in the queue. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Mark also talked about the struggle to get the attraction into soft opening/sneak preview mode (which is the standard nature of test-and-adjust mode), and how he managed to get in to take four more rides on Sunday (including two with podcast listener Alex Navarro, beating him both times).

Mark found Nemo in the queue, and noted that the iconic Pixar star ball is to the left of Mr. Potato Head, and the spud's spotlight is provided by none other than Luxo Jr. In the loading area, a number of books are painted on the walls, including Red's Dream and other Pixar shorts. There's even a Little Golden Book of Tin Toy holding the door closed.

You can find Nemo in the queue. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

So have you gotten the chance to try out Toy Story Mania yet? If not, are you looking forward to it? What do you think? Let us know by sending us an email or calling our toll-free feedback line (1-866-939-2278) and let us know what you think!

Wrapping up

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Special thanks to Marilyn Waters, Frank Reifsnyder and Diego Parras of Walt Disney Imagineering for helping to set up the interview, to Kevin Rafferty for his time and effort, and to Sue Bryan for getting Mark onto the attraction between software upgrades.

Thanks to our audio engineer and sound editor Steven Ng.

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