My First Visit to Disney’s New Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios
I honestly did not expect too much from Disney’s new Toy Story Land. After opening earlier this year, there was not a lot of buzz. People would tell me that it was good, but that was about it. Internet photos did not compel me, either.
I missed my annual Disney World Christmas trip last year due to influenza. After too long of a hiatus, I couldn’t wait to return and to experience Toy Story Land for myself. Extra Magic Hours, in which Hollywood Studios opens an hour (or more) early on Sundays for those staying on Disney property, provided a perfect opportunity.
We arrived at Hollywood Studios almost 45 minutes early. A long line had already formed. The gates opened 30 minutes early! Almost everyone was headed for Toy Story Land. The Disney cast members controlled the chaos, leading the crowd at walking pace to the entrance and directing us towards the rides.
Upon rounding the corner and gazing into Toy Story Land, I was amazed. From first glance, it worked! Woody stands at the entrance greeting you. The layout, the theme and the scale all make sense immediately when you enter.
My teenage son and I both felt the same. Huge, scale Tinker Toys, green toy soldiers, Elmer’s glue, and numerous other remembrances from both our childhoods lined the paths. Nostalgia overcame us. We smiled and laughed the whole time. Clever details like “restrooms” spelled out with scrabble letters were everywhere.
Disney got it right!
Slinky Dog Dash
We and most of the other guests bee-lined for the newest Disney roller coaster, Slinky Dog Dash. Fortunately, our total wait was only about 10 minutes, with most of it spent winding through the wonderfully themed queue. Disney does a great job making a line as enjoyable as possible with details to keep your attention. I still hate waiting, though!
Slinky Dog Dash does a good job of mimicking what I imagine it would be like to ride a slinky. Quick ups and downs. Sharp circles and turns. An unexpected stop and start. It is fun, a great start to the day.
Anyone who likes roller coasters should enjoy this ride. It has enough thrills for thrill seekers, but is restrained enough for everyone else. The intensity is similar to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Big Thunder Mountain.
Jim Varney/Slinky Dog’s Link to Hollywood Studio History
When Disney opened MGM Hollywood Studios in 1989, it operated as both a theme park and a working movie studio. The first movie filmed here was Ernest Saves Christmas. It starred Kentucky native Jim Varney as the hapless, well-meaning, goofball Ernest P. Worrell. Parts of the set remained on the Studio Backlot Tour through 2002.
In 1995 and again in 1999, Jim Varney voiced the character of Slinky Dog in Pixar’s Toy Story and Toy Story 2. He died of lung cancer in 2000, before Toy Story 3 was filmed. Today, Toy Story Land and Slinky Dog Dash stand on some of the same ground where Mr. Varney helped inaugurate Hollywood Studios 30 years ago. A nice tribute to a funny man.
Alien Swirling Saucers
After exiting Slinky Dog Dash, we crossed over to the other new attraction, Alien Swirling Saucers. There was no line here. The line for Slinky Dog Dash was already up to 120 minutes and Toy Story Mania had a wait of 45 minutes. We were very lucky!
If you have visited Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland, then you will understand that Alien Swirling Saucers is the exact same ride at Tow Mater’s Junk Yard Jamboree. The music and theming obviously differ.
While sitting in a space cruiser, you are whirled in circles and semi-circles. Abrupt direction changes send passengers sliding on the slick plastic seats from side to side and into each other. When we visited, Christmas music played overhead.
Another fun experience!
Toy Story Mania
We were unwilling to wait over 45 minutes to ride Toy Story Mania, but we have ridden it numerous times in the past. It is not a new ride. The entrance has changed, but the queue and the ride itself have remained the same. It has been the most popular attraction at Hollywood Studios since it first opened years ago.
On this ride, you are zipped from one carnival style game to another wearing 3D glasses. Try to score as many points as possible on the ring toss or shooting gallery. It is great fun.
Dining and Shopping
Woody’s Lunch Box offers quick service dining. The menu is small but promising. For lunch and dinner, enjoy turkey or grilled cheese sandwiches and maybe a bowl of tomato basil soup. We did not get the chance to try it. Maybe next time.
Of coarse, there is merchandise. This is Disney!
Character Meet and Greets
Woody and Jesse from the Toy Story movies greeted guests while we were there. Green toy soldiers patrolled Andy’s back yard (Toy Story Land). Expect generous and frequent meet and greets with multiple Toy Story characters.
Over the past 5 or so years, Disney closed multiple attractions at Hollywood Studios. It already only arguably had enough to fill a day. Hollywood Studios boasts 3 of Disney World’s best rides: Rockin’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania. 50s Prime Time Cafe and Sci Fi Dine-In Theater are two of our favorite WDW restaurants. Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is a great show. There is just not a lot else.
Toy Story Land helps fill this void. It definitely makes Hollywood Studios better, but there is still not enough for a day ticket.
Next year, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens. Sometime the following year, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway premieres. If Disney does not shut down more, then I believe that Hollywood Studios will be a world class park.
Toy Story Land Comparisons
Toy Story Land is the third new land to open at Walt Disney World since we have been regulars the past 7 years. New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom and Pandora (aka Avatar Land) at Animal Kingdom make the other two.
New Fantasyland tops the list to me. It is much grander than the other two and has more to pull from: Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Little Mermaid, Dumbo... Pandora boasts what many have told me is the best ride they have ever ridden: Flight of the Banchee. I have yet to ride it. Avatar Land works visually as it is beautiful. The Avatar movie and theme fall short for me, though. Pandora is cool, but I do not find it compelling.
Toy Story Land fits in the middle. The three attractions are fun, the theming is spot on, the feel is joyous. New Fantasyland provides more, though.
How does Toy Story Land compare with the other Pixar movie themed land, Cars Land in California. For me, Cars Land is the best themed US Disney “land.” I love Radiator Springs Racers, too. I much prefer the Toy Story movies to the Cars movies. That said, Cars Land wins the comparison. You feel like you have walked into Radiator Springs straight from the movies. Toy Story Land effectively places you among realistic, hugely, scaled toys; the yard fence is affective, too. You do not enter into the movie, though.
We loved Toy Story Land! All three attractions provide entertainment and thrills for the whole family. We smiled, laughed, screamed a little, and had a great time. Even if it is not the best at any or everything, it is still awfully good. I am glad to have experienced it.
Until Star Wars Land opens, the lines to Toy Story Land will remain atrocious. Get there very early, before the park officially opens to avoid unbearable waits.
Reserving a FastPass+ spot 60 days out for Slinky Dog Dash will save you from the line. You can then dash to Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster before the lines develop.
After Star Wars Land opens sometime in 2019, I expect that the waits will diminish greatly.
Do not miss Toy Story Land, though. It makes adults and teens feel like kids again. That is definitely time well spent!