Disney’s newest theme park innovation, Toy Story Land, opens to the public this weekend at Hollywood Studios in Orlando. I was there for a media preview and behind-the-scenes look at the new themed area ahead of its official opening on Saturday, June 30. Here are my initial impressions of Toy Story Land and the ongoing expansion and renovation of Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.
Welcome to Andy’s Back Yard
The new 14-acre Toy Story Land is located adjacent to Hollywood Studios’ existing Pixar Place area, and everything is designed to give you a toy’s-eye view of Andy’s back yard. More than 400 toy blocks fill the area; giant Buzz and Woody figures tower over it all; and the land’s prime attraction, the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster, coils and twists and turns through the entirety of the land.
Enormous crayons, a Rubik’s Cube, and other toys and board games provide the oversized decor. Lampposts are shaped like Tinkertoys, while benches are made to look as if they were constructed from Lincoln Logs and K’nex pieces. The overall impression is one of being a pint-sized toy at the heart of Andy’s back yard.
The Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster is one of two new rides debuting at Toy Story Land. The other is Alien Swirling Saucers, a creative new take on the classic whirling teacup motif. The popular Toy Story Mania ride, already available via the Pixar Place area of the park, gets an update and new entrance as well. All three rides fall into the family-friendly category of theme park amusements—they’re perfect for younger kids, but offer plenty of charm and gentle thrills for teens and adults, too.
The Slinky Dog Dash Roller Coaster at Toy Story Land
The Slinky Dog Dash is Disney’s first-ever double-launch coaster. At the midpoint of the ride, the coaster comes to a full stop, backs up, and then rockets forward again through pulsing rings, spinners, and flashing lights. (Star Wars fans, take note: The best views of the under-construction Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area are from the top of the Slinky Dog Dash.)
“The first half of the ride is many swirls, turns, and dips,” says Dave Minichiello, Executive Creative Director of Walt Disney Imagineering. “After the second launch comes a drop and camelback humps, as if you were playing with a Slinky Dog toy.”
FastPass+ is accepted on the Slinky Dog Dash. Children must be 38 inches or taller to ride.
Alien Swirling Saucers at Toy Story Land
A 14-foot statue of Buzz Lightyear greets guests at the entrance to the Alien Swirling Saucers ride. (Lest anyone doubt who the true star of Toy Story is, however, the Sheriff Woody statue at the land’s entrance stands 20 feet tall.) On the saucer ride, the three-eyed, pointy-eared aliens from the Toy Story movies are the central attraction, while the dreaded Claw hangs menacingly overhead. Each alien’s flying saucer is hitched to one of the 22 rocket ship cars that spin and twirl through the Pizza Planet galaxy of Andy’s imagination.
FastPass+ is accepted on the Alien Swirling Saucers. Children must be 32 inches or taller to ride.
Dining Options at Toy Story Land
Woody’s Lunch Box, situated halfway between the Slinky Dog Dash and the Alien Swirling Saucers, serves up kid-friendly food (think grilled cheese sandwiches) and old-fashioned soda floats in an area surrounded by more of Andy’s favorite toys. Woody’s Lunch Box also features Mini Babybel cheese, which provides the inspiration for the cheese-wheel-shaped chairs and tables.
What’s Next for Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Toy Story Land continues the massive re-tooling and expansion of Hollywood Studios in Orlando, but it’s far from the only change on the horizon. At the media preview of Toy Story Land, Disney also announced the 2019-debuting Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, “a high-octane first-of-its-kind new show that’ll put you right in the middle of the world of Disney-Pixar’s Cars.” Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is also slated to open in 2019.
And then there’s Star Wars.
Next year, Disney will open the fully immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge themed area, called Blackspire Outpost, and sometime after that will come a Star Wars-themed hotel adjacent to the Star Wars area of the park. (No official date has been announced for the hotel.) This is all in addition to the updated “Star Tours” attraction (now featuring planets and characters from Star Wars: The Last Jedi), the park’s Star Wars Launch Bay area, Star Wars: Path of the Jedi interactive training for young padawans, and of course the Tatooine Traders merchandise shop.
All told, it sure looks like Disney’s Hollywood Studios is set to become Orlando’s main attraction in the years ahead.
More from SmarterTravel:
- What to Expect on a Disney Cruise
- 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My First Disney Vacation
- 10 Fun Things to Do in Orlando
Follow Josh Roberts on Instagram @jauntist for behind-the-scenes pics from Toy Story Land’s opening weekend.