Toy Story Land is Imagineering's first land about itself

June 28, 2018, 10:47 PM · For more than six decades Walt Disney's Imagineers have been creating some of the world's most enduring and engaging theme park attractions. But in telling all those stories about pirates, and ghosts, and explorers, and space adventures, the Imagineers haven't really told a story about themselves — the lifelong tech geeks who just want to build an amusement park.

Until now.

Behold, Walt Disney World's Toy Story Land. Allow me and Pam from Walt Disney Imagineering to explain:

That's right, who knew that Toy Story's Andy was actually an aspiring Imagineer? But there are hundreds of people working at WDI, and Universal Creative, and Thinkwell, and Mycotoo, and BRC Imagination Arts, and The Hettema Group, and dozens of other themed entertainment firms around the world, who first expressed their passion by hacking their toys together into a bedroom or backyard "amusement park." Just like Andy.

And just like Andy, they refused to use the things they had been given to play with for their intended purposes. Storytelling is just one of many creative arts. The ability to see how theater props, military engineering, and household chemicals can be repurposed to help tell those stories is another. Toys, being many children's first beloved possessions, were just the first thing to hack.

Of course, the Imagineers cast themselves here as Andy, the noble creator of fun and wonderful things, and not as Sid, the awful backyard Dr. Moreau. But if Disney ever wanted to cash in a few extra bucks next fall by blanketing Toy Story Land with a Halloween overlay, I know which character I am putting in charge of that. Sorry Andy. Take the month off.

But while Andy's story might be familiar to hundreds of Imagineers, it won't sit well with the millions of Walt Disney World visitors that the company is paying to attract unless something within it resonates with them, as well. Maybe there are some other adults out there who hacked their playsets but never made that into a career. This land isn't for them, though.

No, Disney's Toy Story Land is a play place for today's children, not yesterday's. With two new rides restricted by height requirements that will exclude toddlers, this is a land for early elementary children who are beginning to awaken to the world of theme parks... to Andy's world of backyard imagination. The Imagineers keep talking here about visitors being "shrunk to the size of a toy," but what I really see here is a land that is shrunk to comfort a child.

Scale is out of whack here, putting the even the adults in their kids' place, always looking up at bigger things. The rides are intimate. The restaurant is a lunch box. Heck, in the bathroom, every urinal is sitting at the lower, kid's level.

Where have I seen this before? Children's playthings, scaled to larger-than-life? A park with limited capacity, engineered to appeal to the imagination of early elementary kids? Wait a minute... all these primary colors, too. It's coming to me.

Toy Story Land isn't just an homage to Imagineering. It's Disney's Legoland.

Now Legoland built its parks in places such as Carlsbad and Winter Haven — and not Anaheim and Orlando — because they aren't designed to put through the 10 million-plus visitors a year that will come through Disney's Hollywood Studios. By the end of next year, when Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is open and pulling ninety-some percent of the park's visitors into a galaxy far, far away, Toy Story Land will do well for much smaller fraction of families with four-to-nine-year-olds who will find refuge here.

But this summer? Ew, boy, look out. I fear that some visitors will want to go Full Sid on Andy's creation after enduring what promises to be hours-long wait times for Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers over the next many months. Designing for high capacity is an advanced themed entertainment skill, and not one that most kids Andy's age learned with their backyard parks.

That tempts me to yell "Stay away!," while whispering to parents of elementary-aged kids, "Ignore that. This is land is just fine for you. You actually don’t want to miss it.”

...If only I had the power to control crowds the way I did with my bedroom amusement park, way back when.

Update: Tim Allen (the voice of Buzz Lightyear) appeared to help Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek and the gang dedicate Toy Story Land on Friday morning.

Replies (7)

June 28, 2018 at 11:32 PM

I just wanna say that Sid was the real Imagineer. He took things apart, recombined them in interesting ways, and used storytelling in the process. Andy’s creations were fine, but were the large screen on one wall in a room of bouncing benches. Sid was full-on Mystic Manor.

All that said, Sid’s Toy Story Land would be horrifying and not at all cozy. So I guess Andy’s work is the safer choice for the kids.

June 28, 2018 at 11:47 PM

I was able to visit Hong Kong Disneyland's Toy Story land a couple of months ago. It looks cute and all, but you are right on that it isn't much for anyone over 7. I think Disney will regret overselling this land to drive attendance ahead of Galaxy's Edge. It's much more Mickey's Birthdayland than anything that would appeal to the whole family. It's a better trailer than people will find the movie to be.

June 29, 2018 at 8:18 AM

Bright and colourful land but the two rides added will have a low hourly capacity.
Yet again just putting you in a queue for over an hour and tying up the crowd for what will be a two minute ride at best.

June 30, 2018 at 6:33 AM

Opening day -- 730 AM -- Slinky Dog line is a three hour wait.

June 30, 2018 at 7:22 AM

It was Walt who ushered the immagineers into the park to see what their creations do to the public and how they work in a real life environment.
Low capacity, almost no cover for sun and rain, no escape from the heat, this must have been created in a bubble far far away. It's both shocking and disappointing.
It's also disappointing Disney continues to focus on particular demographics and not at the family as a whole as they used to do. I get it, it's easier to create and sell but disappointing nonetheless.

July 1, 2018 at 3:28 PM

"I think Disney will regret overselling this land to drive attendance ahead of Galaxy's Edge. It's much more Mickey's Birthdayland than anything that would appeal to the whole family." Given the huge waits in line this opening weekend and selling out of some merchandise, trends which likely will continue through into the fall at least, I seriously doubt Disney is regretting "overselling this land" right now.

July 2, 2018 at 1:03 PM

I absolutely was inspired by my toys. I used to create "dark rides" using slot-car track as the ride vehicle, and various building toys and action figures surrounding the layout. My favorite was a mash-up of Lincoln Logs & LEGOs with the Revell Universal Monster model kids, and I'd play the "Thrilling, Chilling Sounds of the Haunted Mansion" record in the background. Oh, how I *pined* to be small enough to ride in one of those slot-cars. LOL

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