“Good morning, toys!”
That’s how I was greeted by the Walt Disney World park employees at every turn at the brand-new Toy Story Land when I visited a week ahead of its official opening to the public on June 30.
Much the way Walt Disney World resort employees greet men and women, boys and girls as “prince and princess” at the Magic Kingdom, here at Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios, we’re all toys. And with good reason. Walking in, a visitor feels tiny in a world of larger-than-life toys.
David Minichiello, Executive Creative Director for Walt Disney Imagineering and Toy Story Land, told “Good Morning America” he’s proud of how they pulled off the scale. “When you walk into the Land you magically transform as you enter,” he said. “We do this by the toys around you suddenly getting larger and larger. In this land, you’re honorary toys and you’re about the size of a Green Army Man.”
From the moment I entered the new land, I did feel small. The 20-foot tall Woody wearing a hat 7-feet wide is the first thing guests will notice as they enter, plus the blocks and tinker toys towering high above and the 4-foot tall yo-yo nearby.
But I felt small in other ways too. The new space — the biggest expansion in the park’s history — brought me right back to the moments I saw all three “Toy Story” movies: the first one, released in November 1995, in the movie theater; the second, as soon as it was released four years later; and the last one that I rented long after it was out of the theaters, and sobbed as Andy grew up and gave his toys away.
It will no doubt do the same for countless other adults who saw the movie as a child and now, 23 years later, have children of their own to share both the movie and the new Toy Story Land with. I walked Toy Story Land, stopping at each spot and conducting interviews along the way.
The first is Slinky Dog Dash, a family-friendly roller coaster inspired by Andy’s toy, Slink. The attraction features a coaster track that Andy has built all over his backyard using his Mega Coaster Play Kit and other toys. A rider has views of all of Toy Story Land.
After a series of dips, twists and turns, Slinky Dog Dash riders end the adventure with a serenade of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Wheezy. The penguin who was once pushed to the back of the shelf takes a top spot.
The second new attraction in Toy Story Land is Alien Swirling Saucers, designed as a toy play set that Andy got from Pizza Planet. Aliens are flying around in their toy flying saucers and trying to capture your rocket toy vehicle with “The Claw.” It’s a dizzying ride fit for the whole family.
Toy Story Mania, which was an existing attraction, is still in operation.
What’s inside Woody’s Lunch Box, the new walk-up restaurant in Toy Story Land?
“It’s all the food we wish our moms had packed in our lunch box growing up,” chef Robert Adams told “Good Morning America.”
“Andy was in is backyard, setting up some things for his toys,” Adams said on the inspiration behind the new restaurant. “He propped open is lunchbox with a thermos and now feeds the Green Army Soldiers and the other toys.”
Comfort food and classics are the staples at Woody’s Lunch Box. Items like a brisket melt, Monte Cristo and a three-cheese grilled sandwich are sure to be favorites.
The must-have swag:
Steven Miller, who covers the merchandise beat on DisneyParks.com walked us through the swag you cannot leave Toy Story Land without.
Perhaps trying to find their very own Instagram moment, the head gear available at Toy Story Land is intended be this land’s version of the ubiquitous mouse ears over in Magic Kingdom.
Sure to be top-sellers: the two headbands created specifically for the new land. The first, a green band that’s themed after the space aliens lights up and has moving eyes. The second is modeled after Slinky Dog Dash, the new coaster at Toy Story Land.
“Our headbands have been so popular at Disney Parks,” Steve Miller, who covers merchandise for DisneyParks.com, said. “We thought what a fun twist for the playfulness that is Toy Story Land.”
There are toys, too of course; the Dash and Dodge Power Boost set among them. “This features a key moment in the attraction [Slinky Dog dash coaster] when it launches through a series of rings” Miller said. “We worked with Walt Disney Imagineering to use the 3-D models they use to create the attraction, we basically just shrunk that all down.”
And as for why now? Why this particular land at this time, decades after the first movie was released?
“So many generation have grown up with Toy Story film we thought this was the perfect time to bring it Disney Hollywood Studio park,” Minichiello said.
Rich, strong colors dominate the land. “You see the familiar characters like Woody and Buzz at the entrance,” said Minichiello. “I think it will be very successful in wowing our guests and we’ve pulled off the fun and playful environment we were trying to create.”
One of the challenges, Minichiello said, was having the scale seem believable when it came to making small toys into very large ones.
“We had to study how toys are out together, what materials are used,” he said. “But now it really pays off.”
The land it set up with what Minichiello calls “visual magnets.” The familiar characters — starting with Woody and Buzz at the entrances, then revealing others like Jesse and Rex — “things to entice guests to go further and further in and explore this whole land and have fun together while doing it.”
And as I exited the land, the background music playing was the instrumental version of “When she loved me” from “Toy Story 2.”
“When somebody loved me, everything is beautiful. Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart. And when she was sad, I was there to dry her tears. And when she was happy, so was I,” the song goes.
It’s one of the saddest moments of all the “Toy Story” movies, and I felt a lump in my throat. For parents visiting with their kids, walking out of such an incredible experience and nostalgia in Toy Story Land, the song and the moments shared take on new meaning.
Disney is the parent company of ABC News.