The Mouse House ushers in a new era at the former Disney-MGM Studios with Toy Story Mania!, opening Saturday. Need proof that Disney's Hollywood Studios is slowly shedding its Old Hollywood image? Look no further than the Pixar archway that welcomes you to this attraction, which mimics the soundstage at Disney-owned Pixar's California studios.
The premise: Toy Story Mania! is inspired by Buzz, Woody and pals. Once inside, visitors view the world from a toy-sized perspective as they wind through the line. Before boarding a four-person tram, you don 3-D glasses. The trams travel slowly — and spin — through "Andy's Bedroom," where you make stops to play a series of midway games. Using the tram's Spring Action Shooters, players launch virtual darts, rings and other objects at 3-D animated targets.
The good: The ride appeals to all ages. Baby boomers,
especially, will get a kick out of revisiting the toys and games of their childhoods — Lincoln Logs, a Disneyland ViewMaster, Chutes & Ladders, etc. — as they wind through the line. Then there's the 5-foot-tall-plus Mr. Potato Head,
an audio-animatronic carnival barker voiced by Don
Rickles ("It's a ride; it's game. It's a game; it's a ride"), who engages guests in two-way conversation (a la Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot). Once in the ride, the coolest effect is watching the virtual ammo launch from your shooter — even your misses look realistic. Then there are the interactive elements — which Disney calls "4-D" — such as when you pop a balloon and are sprayed by water or hit with a burst of air.
The bad: Smaller children may need help with the repetitive pulling of the Spring Action Shooters. And there are sure to be long lines, so get there early for a FastPass.
Good for kids? You bet. There are no height or age restrictions. There's nothing scary — especially for kids who have seen the Toy Story movies.
What else is new? The Block Party Bash, an interactive parade with Pixar characters. Playhouse Disney Live on Stage! has updated its cast with more Disney Channel favorites such as characters from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Little Einsteins. Kids can't get enough High School Musical? High School Musical 2: School's Out! is the interactive show that hits the park's streets on a traveling stage. There is also a Jedi Training Academy (adjacent to the Star Tours ride), where young padawans can be tutored in the lightsaber by a Jedi master.
Worth the trip? You bet. With Toy Story Mania! joining the new Playhouse Disney offerings, Hollywood Studios is on its way to becoming a strong No. 2 to the Magic Kingdom as the WDW place for the younger set.