We're learning that Andy is smart. The owner of Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear, he made only brief appearances in the Toy Story movies, a supporting actor while his toys were the leads. But looking at the new Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios, which he created in his own backyard, we realize that he's resourceful, clever, creative. Who knew?
Toy Story Land officially opens June 30. If you thought the toys would continue being the heroes in this chapter of the Toy Story saga, you'll see now how wrong you were.
Here's what Andy did: He assembled a Dash & Dodge Mega Coaster Play Kit, but instead of using the standard vehicle that came in the kit, he used his slinky dog toy and turned a dachshund into a roller coaster train. If you have doubts that he's smart enough to accomplish that, you can see his notes and drawings tacked to the wall in the Slinky Dog Dash loading zone.
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He used a playset that he won at Pizza Planet to create the Alien Swirling Saucer ride. He propped open his lunch box with a giant thermos to serve up grilled cheese sandwiches and soda floats. And he turned two other toys — a dump truck and a camper — into souvenir shops.
Andy didn't make an appearance Thursday when Disney World showed off the new land to more than 400 members of the media. A crew of Imagineers — Disney's term for its creative team — took all the credit.
"Andy and I were the same age when the first movie came out" in 1995, said Ryan Wineinger, creative director for Toy Story Land.
Here's a bit more evidence that Andy, not the Imagineers, is the creative brain behind Toy Story Land: They couldn't say how high or how fast the roller coaster goes. Asked about the numbers, Pam Rawlins, executive producer of Toy Story Land, said: "It's just thrilling enough that it can appeal to everyone."
Setting aside for the moment the question of who was the real creative mind behind Toy Story Land, here's what you'll find there.
Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster is fast but it’s not too fast. It never turns upside down but it has smooth banked turns, two high-speed launches and a couple of not-too-steep but still thrilling drops. The coaster, the centerpiece attraction, is just right for kids under 10 who’ve outgrown kiddie coasters.
It might be a little tame for thrill-seeking teens, but their parents, who grew up in the era of the first Toy Story movie (1995), might find Slinky Dog Dash more their style than high-speed coasters that have sheer drops and turn upside down.
And the decor, colorful and full of toys, might appeal to their grandparents (or people old enough to be grandparents), who grew up in the era of Tinker Toys, which are part of the kitschy infrastructure, and Slinky Dog, a pull toy that came out in 1952 and is the model for the coaster. The youngest ones may like Alien Swirling Saucers, where the minimum height to ride is only 32 inches.
More than many theme park lands (or clusters or islands), Toy Story Land has an appeal that is multigenerational. It was deliberately designed that way, said Wineinger.
“One of our guiding principles was making this experience something that children and their parents and their grandparents could all have a good time here,” Wineinger said. If the land is going to be true to the values of the Toy Story movies, he said, “we need it to be multigenerational.
“It’s a very fine line between being an approachable attraction and being too thrilling for the young ones — or for the older generation."
The 11-acre land sits roughly behind Toy Story Mania!, which got a new entrance across from Slinky Dog Dash, a third track, and a general refresh.
Here's what to know about Toy Story Land:
How fast is Orlando’s newest roller coaster? Disney won’t say. Its representatives frequently compare Slinky Dog Dash to another family coaster, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, which has a top speed of 39 miles per hour. Slinky Dog feels faster than that.
Another coaster with parallels to Slinky Dog Dash is Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens, also a family coaster. Like Cheetah Hunt, Slinky Dog has a couple of launches — points from which the coaster accelerates like a rocket. On Cheetah Hunt, a launch takes the coaster to 60 mph, its top speed. Slinky Dog Dash doesn’t feel that fast.
Best guess for Slinky Dog Dash: 45-50 mph.
We also don’t know how fast Slinky Dog’s two launches are — there’s one at the start and one near the midpoint. “It’s a family-friendly launch, it’s not the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster,” said Phil Holmes, vice president of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, referring to the park’s other coaster, which goes from zero to 57 mph in 2.8 seconds.
Minimum height for Slinky Dog Dash is 38 inches, which generally means children as young as 3 or 4 can ride with their parents.
Is that Tatooine? No, it’s Batuu. Look right when you reach the top of a hill on Slinky Dog Dash, and you’ll see the spires of a village. That’s Star Wars Land being built In Hollywood Studios, a village called Black Spires on the planet Batuu, a trading post on the Outer Rim of the Star Wars Galaxy. Star Wars Land is supposed to open in late fall 2019.
Which toys are real and which were created for the movies? Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear, who greet visitors at either end of Toy Story Land, are original characters who were created for the Toy Story movies. But more of the toys featured at Toy Story Land are real toys from the mid-’40s through the ‘60s, including Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Tinker Toys, Etch-A-Sketch, Barrel of Monkeys, Cooties and Slinky Dog.
What’s with the spinning spaceships? Alien Swirling Saucers was designed for kids 3 and older. It is based on a scene from the original movie in which a giant claw in a vending machine occasionally descends and grabs a little green alien. On the ride, a claw grasping a helpless alien hovers overhead.
The ride’s architecture is similar to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree In Disney California Adventure Park at Disneyland. The ride vehicles, toy rockets pulled by aliens in tiny spaceships, are arranged on disks or carousels that turn constantly and move the spacecraft from one circling carousel to the next. And it’s a generation or so removed from the Mad Tea Party at Magic Kingdom, which also has a rotating carousel. Unlike the teacups though, the rockets don’t spin — which is probably more of a relief to adults than it is to spin-loving kids.
Who wants a retro breakfast: One of Toy Story Land’s most unexpected features is a food item: sugary pastries like Pop-Tarts, a still-popular snack introduced by Kellogg in 1964. At Woody’s Lunch Box, you can buy Raspberry or Chocolate-Hazelnut Lunch Box Tarts developed by Disney’s culinary team.
Where did Wheezy get that sexy voice? At the end of the Slinky Dog Dash track, riders are serenaded by Wheezy, a squeaky penguin toy, who invites guest to sing along. Using a Mr. Mike, a rudimentary karaoke-type toy invented for the movie, Wheezy breaks into a suave, baritone version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” In “Toy Story 2,” Wheezy is voiced by the late Robert Goulet when he sings. At Toy Story Land, asked if the Goulet recording was used, a Disney spokeswoman said, “Wheezy sings the song.”
Uh-huh. Who thinks that squeaky penguin could sound like that? Clearly another inspired move by Andy. We'll go with Goulet.