It was a very early start to my day. The stars were still out and the sun hadn’t even begun to rise. Not much will get me up at such an ungodly hour ~ except maybe a sick child, a natural disaster…and the opportunity to explore behind the scenes at Walt Disney World®. By way of a D23 event (D23 being the official Disney® fan club), I had an opportunity I could not pass up, so I readied myself before the sun and headed over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to begin my day by exploring some of the details surrounding the recently opened Toy Story Land.
Disclaimer #1 All expenses for this tour were paid by me. This post was not requested, nor compensated for its publication.
Toy Story Land opened it’s “backyard gate” here in Florida on June 30th. Since then, my family and I have ventured over a handful of times to enjoy Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the gang in the new part of the park. It’s adorable, bright, fun, family-friendly, relative and extremely interactive. It is a definite must-add to your next Disney vacation itinerary.
However, I didn’t realize how much I had underappreciated the creativity and imagination that went into this project until I attended this D23 Gold Member event. In just a few short hours, I learned that nearly every piece placed within those 11 acres had a purpose and a story. THAT made Toy Story Land truly come to life for me.
That Early Morning Arrives
Yes ~ it was an early morning that day. Believe it or not, I didn’t have to hit the snooze button. I got up right away with the alarm. Now, I’m not saying I sprung out of bed like a jack-in-the-box, but I was able to get myself going well enough.
Once I was ready, I grabbed my coffee at 5:05 AM, said “Good Morning” to Hubby as he was starting to rise and then I walked out the door. Here I come, Buzz and Woody!
Arriving at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
After a little “parking” confusion, I found where I was supposed to be and made my way to the front. Along with everyone else, I checked in with Tyler, our D23 connection, scanned my e-ticket and received my lanyard.
Yes!!! More lanyards!!! I am quite proud of the collection I’m accumulating. No, really. I mean it!! Lanyards are life!
While we waited for everyone to arrive, I snapped a few classic “empty park” shots and a little video I hope to use in the future. Within ten minutes or so, we were on our way. We followed a wonderful Cast Member by the name of Art and the big red glowing stick he was holding up in the air for us to follow ~ straight to Toy Story Land.
Arriving in Andy’s Backyard
As we turned the corner and walked down the path, we saw various Cast Members scattered here, there and everywhere prepping things for the Guests who would arrive within the next few hours.
It’s true – the park never really closes. They don’t even turn off the music. They just turn it down every once in awhile.
We also saw the nearly 20 foot tall Woody, who was standing there at the entrance with his ginormous smile ready to welcome us to our “play date.”
Wait – Did they call them “play dates” back in 1995??
Time to Learn
This is where the magic began. We met Kelly and Hannah, two of the amazing Cast Members assisting with the event. As we stood there under a dark sky and theme park lights, they introduced themselves and immediately began sharing some of the details found hidden within this brand new addition to Walt Disney World®.
Over the next few hours, we traveled the layout of the land, while Kelly and Hannah pointed out Andy’s shoeprints and various other creative elements. We walked by the familiar Toy Story Mania, who has a brand new entrance and queue. We then stopped in front of Woody’s Lunchbox and onto Alien Swirling Saucers before finding ourselves at the entrance to Slinky Dog Dash.
Some of the features they shared were not surprising or may have been something of which most of us were aware. However, there were some really fun tidbits that brought more of the backyard adventure to life….at least for me, it did.
Toy Story Land as a Whole
Did you know there is an actual story behind the creation of the land? It’s not just a huge 11 acre backyard with toys strung all over the place. Nope – The story goes…Andy was actually playing in his backyard, building an entire world for his toys. He had envisioned a roller coaster, carnival games and even a place for them to eat. His imagination incorporated every toy he could find and he was quite the engineer, to be quite honest! That was, of course, until he was “called away” from his “project.”
In Andy’s absence (and lack of time to pick up his toys), Woody, Buzz and the gang decided to keep the fun going ~ and, in the meantime, invite us along! While green army men keep a lookout for Andy’s return (and you can hear them talking to each other every once in awhile), the toys continue to play and bring us in on the adventure.
Slinky Dog Dash
This very smooth, kid-friendly roller coaster is Andy’s unique brain child using a Hot Wheels race track and Slinky Dog. Even within this vignette, there is a story behind the design. During the course of “playtime,” Rex apparently finds himself in a precarious situation at the top of a tall stack of Jenga blocks. In typical Jessie fashion, the brave cowgirl comes to the rescue with the use of Christmas lights in an attempt to lasso Rex from his “dangerous” scenario. If you listen closely, you can even hear them talking back and forth between each other during “rescue efforts.”
One of the fascinating aspects of this particular attraction is found within the queue itself. Andy was hard at work designing the contraption, using all sorts of toys for this and even some Elmer’s Glue (it’s not hard to miss). Inside the stand-by queue (and visible to the FastPass queue if you look to your left as you almost approach the second entrance), Guests can find where Andy hand drew his idea for using Slinky Dog on the track instead of race cars. You’ll notice, he is quite the artist!!!
BONUS TIP: As you first approach the standby entrance, look up at the board that shows the wait time. Did you know that this represents Buster’s dog tag? Yup – they even incorporated Andy’s pet dachshund into the design.
Alien Swirling Saucers
We learned a lot about this attraction, but I don’t want to give everything away. If you remember the original Toy Story movie, you likely remember Pizza Planet. This entire 1990s “neon and plastic” attraction is built to represent a playset Andy won at the pizza joint. If you look at the entrance to Alien Swirling Saucers, it is shaped just like the front of the restaurant and has the same robot guards standing watch. Inside, the alien saucers from Planet Pepperoni take Guests on a “deep dish space” adventure to the beat of “space electronica” (as termed by Kelly).
Our youngest, Logan, has had a burning question on his mind since the first time we walked into Toy Story Land together.
Why do they call it “Woody’s” Lunchbox and not “Andy’s”?
That question was also asked by one of the other D23 members later on the tour. Kelly was quick to answer and able to solve the month-long mystery. Ready for this?
Though Toy Story Land is built around Andy’s perspective, he is playing through the eyes of his toys. He has Woody wanting to make sure his friends get a good meal while they enjoy their adventures, so Andy creates a place where Woody can serve his friends. Thus, Woody’s Lunchbox was born and created out of Andy’s own vintage lunchbox and other toys. In other words, it was all Woody’s idea. Right?
Another thing to point out about this quick service venue is the structure itself. Look at the face of the building. It is a perfectly organized lunchbox complete with plastic containers, a juice box, Babybel® cheese wheel (the official snack cheese of Walt Disney World®) and “critter crackers” (a nod to Jessie and her critters). It is being held up by a complementary vintage thermos and silly puddy on one side and perhaps a pencil or cylindrical block on the other. Is that not awesome or what?
Oh – and don’t forget to check out the tables and chairs, too. Those are some brilliantly designed pieces of furniture, as well!
Toy Story Mania
With the new addition, a new entrance and queue were designed for this familiar and extremely popular attraction. Meant to represent a carnival under Andy’s bed, Guests enter under the “Big Top” and make their way through cards, cardboard cutouts, game boards and game board pieces until they reach the ride vehicles.
Something Hannah and Kelly pointed out to us, which I had not recognized yet, was the entrance. As you pass through under the Standby and FastPass signs, look immediately to the left and right. You will notice that it is meant to look as if it was made from corrugated cardboard. Take a peek next time – check out the hollow spaces between the “sheets.”
Time to Play
Once the tour part of the event was complete, we had the opportunity to “PLAY BIG” for awhile. We took a fast ride on Slinky Dog Dash, a spin on Alien Swirling Saucers and then headed over to Toy Story Mania for some friendly competition.
Just before we headed over to the last attraction, I had the opportunity to chat with Brandon, one of the two Walt Disney World Ambassadors accompanying us that morning. Brandon has been working with the Walt Disney Company for about twelve years, having started off as an intern in Entertainment while attending UCF as a theater major. He worked his way up and through the ranks and now represents the company and Cast Members when special groups, dignitaries and the like visit the Resort. To me, that’s quite an honor (and quite a pin to wear!!)
Brandon graciously offered to ride with me and even teach me a few tricks in the process that could potentially increase any point earnings. As we made our way through the FastPass queue, we talked a little about blogging and its integral role in the world of public relations. Brandon’s wife works in this field within the Walt Disney Company herself, so he is quite familiar with the art and benefits of writing, blogging and social media promotion.
Oh, the Toy Story Mania secrets? Well, I’m still debating whether or not I want to share any of those with anyone yet…….hee hee.
Time for Breakfast
Playtime was finally over and it was time to make our way to breakfast at the Hollywood Brown Derby. As a part of the event, we were being treated to a Woody’s Lunchbox inspired meal full of delicious, sweet and unique tastes.
When we arrived, we were greeted with smiles and a drink choice – mimosas or a nonalcoholic option. After choosing our beverage, we were then directed to find a seat in the center of the restaurant, as we had the entire venue to ourselves for a period of time. I had the fortune of enjoying breakfast with a Disney College Program student, a gentleman who works with the National Weather Service and a well known presence in the Disney blogging world (I was even following him before the event!).
Breakfast looked stupendous. We were dining off a buffet that consisted of the following:
- Scrambled eggs
- Western omelettes
- Potato barrels
- Sausage (? with onions)
- S’more French Toast sandwiches,
- Raspberry and chocolate hazelnut lunch box tarts.
- Nitro-fried cereal (with granola, chocolate chips and marshmallows).
It was bountiful, filling and absolutely delicious! No one could possibly have left hungry.
Leaving with Some Pixie Dust
Just as we were putting the final words in the event tab page, Tyler shared with us some of the goodies they were sending home with us. As this was my first D23 event, I had no idea what to expect, except that we were told we would be going home with a customized matted print.
Tyler showed us the print, which showcased all the Toy Story characters in a frame that looked just like an Etch-A-Sketch. We were also taking home a customized Toy Story Land lunchbox that was designed specifically for this particular event.
I LOVE THEM BOTH!!!
As an extra added bonus, we were met on the way out by several Cast Members from the Club 33 group! YES!! Club 33 is coming to Walt Disney World®!!!! As we picked up our commemorative gifts, we walked through the side door and were greeted by Cast Members in classy black shirts and pants who were elegantly handing out the smoothest pieces of dark chocolate I have ever tasted in my life. It certainly helped that they held the “33” emblem on them, which meant I really didn’t want to it eat….but it was melting in my Florida hot hand.
So I enjoyed it….immensely. I think the “33” made them taste just a little “richer.”
To wrap things up….
I learned a great deal during this tour ~ more than I could have imagined and certainly more than I could share here. It was an early morning, but well worth the personal time we were given and the attention that was paid to us by all the Cast Members involved in this event. A huge thanks to Tyler, Kelly, Hannah, Jessica, Art, Brandon, Ken and all the Cast Members at Hollywood Brown Derby.
This may have been my first D23 event, but it will CERTAINLY not be my last! Until next time….
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