New Rides & Attractions - Disney Delights - August 2018


Disney Parks worldwide are making the most of their IPs

by Juanita Chavarro Arias, Scott Fais, and Juliana Gilling


Toy Story Land

Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Orlando, Florida

Imagineer Kathy Mangum never forgets the first time she saw “Toy Story” in the theater.

“The movie was utterly charming, from its funny and relatable characters, to its poignant storyline, to its playful and eye-grabbing art direction—it was a movie that resonated with me,” says Mangum.

That was 1995. Little did the regional executive with Walt Disney Imagineering expect to partner with Buzz Lightyear and Woody on an ambitious project more than 20 years later. 

Today, Mangum and a team of creative masterminds have not only created Toy Story Land—Walt Disney World Resort’s new themed area based on one of the highest grossing animated movie franchises of all time—but simultaneously, put in motion a new direction for Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.

Howdy Partner

Toy Story Land invites visitors to use their imagination as they become the size of honorary toys upon entering the backyard belonging to Andy, the young boy from “Toy Story” who holds an affection for his playthings. The traditional theme park pavement gives way to what looks like a turn off the beaten path. Here, Andy’s giant shoe print (a size 200-plus, from this perspective) can be found embedded in what resembles dirt. While Andy has stepped away, it’s apparent he’s stayed busy creating a theme park in his backyard made from toys. 


Life-size Green Army Men are stringing lights, a roller coaster building kit uses Slinky Dog as passenger vehicles, a lunch box has toppled over, and toys from the fabled Pizza Planet restaurant are set up to resemble a circular ride. Colorful building blocks and larger-than-life Tinkertoys that adorn pathways work in concert with lush landscaping to transport visitors into a space that feels a world away.

“You start to realize when you are ‘blue-skying’ the area, you start to come up with more ideas than you possibly have room for, and that’s when you know you have a good idea,” Mangum says.

Those ideas led to “Slinky Dog Dash,” a family-friendly roller coaster with two launch zones; “Alien Swirling Saucers,” a circular attraction patterned after an old-fashioned spinning ride; and the existing “Toy Story Mania!” dark ride sporting a new entry portal. Roaming live entertainment, character experiences, and a heavily themed food and beverage location highlight the new area.

As one of the creative minds who led the Cars Land expansion at Disney California Adventure park in Anaheim, California, Mangum approached Toy Story Land using what she learned on the West Coast.

“Cars Land taught us that walking down Route 66, walking through that town, is something people loved to do—with or without seeing the movie. That told us we were on to something, and let’s go do more of that,” Mangum says.


Springing for Slinky

Walt Disney Imagineering again partnered with Pixar Animation Studios to create Toy Story Land in Florida. Previously, Toy Story Lands opened in France at Disneyland Paris and in China at Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disney Resort.

“There was an opportunity to be different,” says Roger Gould about designing the 11 acres of Orlando’s Toy Story Land. “This was really a blank sheet of paper.”

As Pixar’s creative director for theme parks, Gould and his team collaborated with Imagineering to look at concepts. One collective favorite: how the earlier Toy Story Lands use Slinky Dog as the character wrapped around a spinning Himalaya ride.

“We love that. And we said, ‘Now that we have the land, we can expand it!’” Gould says excitedly, sharing Toy Story Land in Florida is the largest version to date. Using the gift of space and retaining Slinky Dog led to telling a story using a roller coaster. 

“We started really kind of thinking small, with, ‘Well, maybe it has one loop that you see overhead, and then it goes down,’” Gould recalls. “And then we started looking at the size of this property, and we said, ‘We could really fill this land with this!’”

Harnessing that enthusiasm, Pixar and Imagineering used a design tool that Walt Disney himself was fond of at Disneyland.

“Walt was amazing at overlapping kinetics. It’s how do you make the place feel energized, even when you’re not on the attraction,” Gould explains.

Examples are still at work with how the famed Disneyland Monorail interacts with Tomorrowland, and how the Walt Disney World Monorail coils through Future World at Epcot. 

Therefore, designers wanted “Slinky Dog Dash” to interact with the new landscape they made. Sometimes the passenger train hugs the terrain, while other times it dips under a bridge, all before rising elsewhere on the horizon, much like a game of hide-and-seek.

Technology aided in ironing out the final design, as Imagineers in Glendale, California, rode a virtual-reality version of the coaster inside Disney’s Digital Immersive Showroom, also known as “The Dish.” The simulation assists Imagineers when figuring out timing and special effects.

“We would sit in ‘The Dish’ and ride version after version,” Gould recalls. “We would talk about how we could make it more ‘Slinky-ish.’ How do we get twists and turns that feel unique to this character?” 

From that simulation experience, Gould says one element found on traditional roller coasters was dropped.

“There was a version early on with a traditional lift, and it just felt slow,” Gould says.

Therefore, Imagineering opted to include two launches on the ride, a first for a Disney Parks roller coaster.

Today, when trains full of passengers leave the station aboard “Slinky Dog Dash,” riders hear Slinky’s voice telling them to “Hang on,” before a metallic “twinge” sound effect signals Slinky’s tail is wiggling. Outside the station, the trains resembling the cartoon character zoom forward upon entering the first launch section, before wrapping around building blocks and characters from the film set atop different perches.

A second launch looks like an oversized slot car base. Here, trains come to a complete stop before shuffling backwards, just ahead of a speedy launch that begins the second half of the ride.

“I feel like we captured some of Walt’s kinetic spirit here because we have this amazing roller coaster that is racing through the entire backyard,” Gould says.


Saucers Spinning

Next to “Slinky Dog Dash” is a familiar icon from “Toy Story.” The famed three-eyed green Aliens found inside a game of skill at the Pizza Planet restaurant now have their own attraction named “Alien Swirling Saucers.” Arriving on using the Aliens as a character to wrap the ride around came from collective brainstorming.

“The challenge was if you’re going to have 22 vehicles out there, what character can you have 22 of? And the answer was, ‘You can never have too many aliens!’” Gould says.

Pixar artists and Disney Imagineers started drawing together and arrived on a vehicle for the aliens to pilot: a flying saucer.

“But what is the guest’s vehicle?” Gould asked. “‘Is the saucer actually pulling something?’ So, we came up with the idea of a saucer and a rocket.”

The two are connected by the same redemption game claw as seen in the film, while the rockets carry the fictitious Pizza Planet logo. Yet, that led to a new question for Gould: “The aliens have become so popular, we’ve had to think, ‘What is their toy line?’”


Take Home Toys

Using the design plans from “Alien Swirling Saucers” and “Slinky Dog Dash,” merchandise planners created miniaturized toys of the ride vehicles.

“We took the 3D files of the attraction vehicles and shrunk them down and used them to create the toys themselves,” says Walt Disney World Product Developer Victoria Hamilton. “It helps us emulate them and pull out some big ideas and put them into our products.”

Products include a spring loaded Slinky Dog roller coaster train that launches out of the same track piece seen on the ride, “Alien Swirling Saucers” ride cars, and even a light-up headband that places the Alien’s three eyes atop a guest’s head.

“There are usually sketches happening while we’re talking,” Hamilton says. “Once you see the sketch, you say, ‘Oh! Those Alien googly eyes have to move!’”


Comfort Food

An oversized lunchbox appears to have tipped over, providing an opportunity to offer visitors a new take on quick-service dining. Continuing the backyard theme of what would have been packed in Andy’s lunch, Woody’s Lunch Box offers hearty barbecue brisket melts, grilled three-cheese sandwiches, potato barrels, and two types of tarts for dessert.

“We tweaked several traditional items to make them more delicious,” says Evette Roman, a food and beverage experience manager.

For example, a Monte Cristo sandwich includes raspberry marmalade hiding inside. A bowl of tatchos includes potato barrels smothered in chili, cheese, corn chips, sour cream, and onions.

Meanwhile, breakfast sandwiches are available in the morning for early arrivals.

“Food has become its own immersive experience,” Roman says. “Guests have an added attraction when they see it, smell it, and taste it.”


Building Blocks

The addition of Toy Story Land will continue to be relevant for generations to come, according to Mangum, since the land creates a sense of place without following the scripts from the three “Toy Story” films to date and a fourth scheduled for release next summer.

“We’re not looking to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and an end,” Mangum says, adding visitors can write their own story each time they visit.

Toy Story Land could be remembered as phase one of a new vision for the park.

“The opening of Toy Story Land is a big step in the evolution of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as we transform it from a place that took guests behind the scenes into one that puts them at the center of the action,” says Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products.

The new direction continues next year, as Toy Story Land’s next-door neighbor takes shape, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. When complete, Toy Story Land will connect with Galaxy’s Edge through a new thematic portal. 

Until then, Mangum is happy to spend a moment watching families and children interact in the new space her team created.

“Any Imagineer will tell you that opening day will be the happiest day and the saddest day. It’s hard to let go. But, at the same time, it’s so fun to see it come together and look so great,” Mangum concludes.


Pixar Pier

Disney California Adventure Park
Anaheim, California

With a bright, light-adorned marquee, Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California, welcomes guests into a land that brings Pixar Animation Studios’ films and characters to life. 

The reimagined land, which replaces Paradise Pier, opened in June with a variety of new themed entertainment offerings, food kiosks, attractions, and the Lamplight Lounge dining location.

The project began a year ago, focusing on the idea of giving Pixar a permanent home on the pier and updating “California Screamin’” with a new story. 

“We typically tell a Pixar story in a land, like Cars Land or Toy Story Land. It’s one immersive story that you really explore,” says Jeffrey Shaver-Moskowitz, executive producer for Pixar Pier, with Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI). 

“We knew that the Pier was always going to be a collection of experiences, so how do we marry these stories together? We came up with these neighborhood concepts,” Shaver-Moskowitz says.

With “Cars,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Toy Story” already represented at the park, WDI looked at showcasing “Coco,” “The Incredibles,” “Inside Out,” “Up,” “WALL•E,” and popular Pixar shorts. The result was dividing Pixar Pier into four themed neighborhoods: Incredibles Park, Inside Out Headquarters, Toy Story Boardwalk, and Pixar Promenade, which is an area not centered on a singular story, allowing flexibility to introduce new Pixar characters in the future, says Shaver-Moskowitz.

Before deciding which films were going to be presented in the neighborhoods, Imagineers visited piers across the West Coast to identify elements to bring to Pixar Pier.

“You’ll see a lot of domes and very elegant architecture in our entrance area and our promenade area because we wanted to take it back to the golden era of travel,” says Debbie Gonzalez, Imagineering’s creative director for Pixar Pier.

To create the right environment, the Imagineering team worked with Pixar’s theme park group, filmmakers, and production designers. 

Whimsical food and beverage locations line Pixar Pier, offering items inspired by Pixar films, such as soft-serve cones and parfaits at Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats and chicken drumsticks at Poultry Palace. New attractions also place guests in the center of their favorite Pixar stories, from “Pixar Pal-A-Round’s” character-embellished gondolas to the colorful “Games of Pixar Pier.”

The new land’s centerpiece is “The Incredicoaster,” a reimagined “California Screamin’” that’s rededicated to the Parr family, as a way for the town of Municiberg to recognize the Incredibles’ heroic efforts. When baby Jack-Jack escapes Edna Mode’s supervision, he runs rampant through the roller coaster, causing the family to jump into action to retrieve him. Riders experience the story through longer enclosed tunnels, lighting effects, character appearances and dialogue, and a musical score by “Incredibles 2” composer Michael Giacchino.

Pixar Pier will open Bing Bong’s Sweet Stuff in mid-summer 2018 and introduce two new attractions—“Jessie’s Critter Carousel” and “Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind”—in 2019.


Marvel Summer of Super Heroes

Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Paris
Marne-la-Vallée, France

Marvel superheroes have assembled for the first time at Walt Disney Studios Park in France this summer. Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Thor are among those joining forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a season of epic entertainment.

The centerpiece is “Marvel: Super Heroes United,” a new live-action show combining carefully choreographed fight sequences, an array of special effects, and indoor drones. Galactic villain Thanos is using the power of the Mind Stone through the drones to manipulate the superheroes’ minds, turning them against each other. 

The show explores the origin stories of characters including Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and the Scarlet Witch with playful sequences as they get to grips with their powers. Marvel’s superheroes manage to overcome Thanos’ spell, unite, and live to fight another day. The family-friendly show takes place on stage several times a day in the park’s Studio Theater. 

Outside, in the Production Courtyard, Tony Stark—aka Iron Man—presents his revolutionary new Arc Reactor. When mischievous god Loki interrupts the Stark Expo, intent on stealing the technology, Black Widow, Spider-Man, and Thor spring into action.

Peter Quill and Gamora from the Guardians of the Galaxy get guests into the groove with an “Awesome Dance-Off” to ’70s and ’80s tunes from Quill’s playlists. Meanwhile, Captain America offers heroic handshakes and photo opportunities.


Moana: A Homecoming Celebration

Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL) is the first Disney park to welcome Polynesian princess Moana with “Moana: A Homecoming Celebration.” Inspired by Disney’s hit movie, the live, 20-minute show blends music, visual storytelling, dancing, and puppetry. It marks Moana’s return to her island home of Motunui after she restores the stolen heart of Te Fiti. 

Moana shares her adventures with the audience. Together with her fellow performers, she encourages guests to act out the story by moving their arms like ocean waves, clucking like her chicken Hei Hei, or cheering the demigod Maui. Custom-made costumes and storytelling props add to the show’s appeal. 

“Moana: A Homecoming Celebration” showcases HKDL’s commitment to “bringing some of the most popular Disney characters and stories to life through never-before-seen attractions and experiences,” says Samuel Lau, HKDL managing director. 

The atmospheric production takes place in a new outdoor venue in Adventureland. Floral garlands decorate the venue, which evokes the traditional architecture of the Pacific Islands. Guests will also be able to meet Moana. 

“‘Moana: A Homecoming Celebration’ heralds a new era of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort as the first of many new and exciting offerings coming as part of a multiyear transformation,” says Michael Colglazier, president and managing director, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts – Asia Pacific. “The new Moana entertainment experience showcases what we do best at Disney, immersing our guests in their favorite stories as only Disney can.” 

This year, the park has unveiled a new “We Love Mickey!” projection show. An Ant-Man and The Wasp ride-through experience will debut at HKDL in 2019. The castle’s makeover has also begun; it will become home to a new daytime show and nighttime spectacular in 2020. A cool “Frozen”­themed area will arrive in 2021.


Disney·Pixar Toy Story Land

Shanghai Disney Resort
Shanghai, China

It’s playtime every day at Shanghai Disney Resort now that Disney·Pixar Toy Story Land is open. The new addition is the first major expansion of Shanghai Disneyland since its debut in June 2016 and the park’s seventh themed land. 

Based on the hugely popular movies, Disney·Pixar Toy Story Land is designed to make guests feel as if they have shrunk down to the size of toys in Andy’s backyard. The bright and colorful land is filled with oversized playthings and photo-friendly characters from the films. It offers three new family rides: “Slinky Dog Spin,” “Rex’s Racer,” and “Woody’s Roundup.” Fan favorites including Woody and Jessie are ready to meet guests at The Meeting Post, a themed character greeting area. Families who have worked up an appetite can visit the Toy Box Café or stock up on souvenirs at Al’s Toy Barn. 

“The new Disney·Pixar Toy Story Land further elevates the guest experience,” says Fan Xiping, chairman of Shanghai Shendi Group, the resort’s joint shareholder with The Walt Disney Company. The expansion signals the companies’ confidence in China’s themed entertainment market and continues to strengthen Shanghai’s position as a tourism hot spot.

“We’re grateful to the people of China for wholeheartedly embracing Shanghai Disney Resort, for truly making it their own, and also making it one of the most successful theme parks we’ve ever opened,” says Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “We’re incredibly proud of the success of this one-of-a-kind, world-class destination, and we are thrilled to give our Chinese guests even more to explore and enjoy at the resort with the addition of a spectacular new land based on Pixar’s beloved ‘Toy Story’ characters.”

Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris already have themed lands inspired by the “Toy Story” films. Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will take guests “to infinity and beyond” with the launch of its Toy Story Land this summer. 

Shanghai Disney Resort also premiered a sumptuous stage production of “Beauty and the Beast” in Mandarin this season.