Disney invited the Traveling Mom and Traveling Dad crew down to Toy Story Land’s grand opening at the end of June, so I got to check out the latest addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a guest of Disney. Overall, I loved Toy Story Land and cannot wait to take my kids there. I found the theming charming, the rides enjoyable, and the food wonderful.
That being said, Disney didn’t hit a home run like Pandora – I’d give Toy Story Land a solid B+. I covered a lot of my impressions of Toy Story Land on the Disney Deciphered podcast. Here I’ll just share six things you need to know here. Hop on over and listen to the podcast if you haven’t yet and please subscribe! Here I’ll be focused mostly on families with young kids, since that’s more the target demographic of the land. But hey, I think adults will enjoy it a lot too.
1. The Toy Story Land theming is a ton of fun
I find it improbable for any family to walk around Toy Story Land without gigantic smiles on their face. From Woody greeting you at the entrance, to the look of the Slinky Dog coaster, to even small details like the benches and the bathrooms, the theming of Toy Story Land is top notch. While you shouldn’t expect it to be immersive like Pandora in Animal Kingdom, it looks and feels great.
The concept behind the land is that you’ve been shrunk down to the size of a toy and are wandering around Andy’s backyard. Slinky Dog Coaster ostensibly is a coaster of Andy’s own creation (you can see his blueprints in the queue), the restaurant is a lunchbox left in the backyard, etc.
But forget all that, because if you pull the string too hard the concept falls apart a little bit. What matters is the land is adorned with bright, beautiful colors and references to toys that both you and your kids will recognize. You can choose to nitpick or you can just enjoy the fun and carefree land Disney Imagineers designed. I chose to do the latter and smiled all the way home.
2. The attractions are fun for kids AND adults
If I’m being honest, I didn’t have very high expectations for the rides. Obviously, Toy Story Mania already existed and I knew it would remain one of the best rides at Hollywood Studios, but I wasn’t too enamored with the idea of being spun around on Alien Swirling Saucers. As for Slinky Dog Dash? I figured it would be a 32 second kiddie coaster like the Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
While Slinky Dog Dash undoubtedly should be classified as a “family” coaster, in terms of length and thrills it blows Barnstormer out of the water. There are moments on the ride that will make you smile and shout while giving you more thrills than you might expect. It’s about the same level as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in terms of thrills. I personally prefer Slinky Dog Dash to 7DMT and the lines are shorter too. Both rides should leave you with big smiles on you and your kids’ faces.
Alien Swirling Saucers won’t be for everyone, it’s sort of like a scrambler ride. The soundtrack is great and the ride is more fun when you are slamming into your loved ones as you swirl around! I don’t love that sort of ride but the theming and music definitely hits the spot.
Toy Story Mania, of course, remains a classic ride. The queue has been totally redone with some fun, interactive exhibits for your kids in line. You can also meet various Toy Story characters around Toy Story Land, though none of the meet and greets are indoors. More on that later.
3. Make it a point to visit at night
After Disney successfully converted Animal Kingdom to a nighttime park with the amazing experience of Pandora at night, you just knew they’d want to replicate that success with Toy Story Land. They did. The night experience at Toy Story Land is spectacular.
The Christmas lights adorning the backyard come to life at night and give the whole land a warm, friendly glow. But Slinky Dog Dash at night transforms into a different experience altogether. The way the track lights up and with a beautiful view of the Tower in the distance makes a great ride even better. People have complained about the sightlines on the ride. While I understand that, I’d take a view of Tower of Terror at night over a fully contained land any day.
Do yourself a favor and check out Toy Story Land at night.
4. The food is great (if you can find a seat)
Toy Story Land has only one quick service restaurant, Woody’s Lunchbox. I really enjoyed the food there, especially the brisket sandwich and the totchos (tater tot nachos with chili and cheese on them).
Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of tables and everything is outdoors. The restaurant seems a little too small for the land. That’s all they had the real estate for, but I do wish there were more service counters and tables.
5. Bring lots of sun protection
Speaking of the lunch tables, the umbrellas at these tables are about as good as it gets in terms of sun protection. There’s no getting around it: there’s not enough shade in Toy Story Land. The pavement at Hollywood Studios makes everything feel hot and the umbrellas set up around Toy Story Land don’t do much to alleviate that. Make sure you bring lots of sun protection and stay hydrated, because it gets pretty brutal out there.
6. The best is yet to come
OK, so this last one is a bit of a cheat. But when visiting Toy Story Land, it’s tough not to see the mountains of Batuu literally looming in the distance. Batuu is the fictional location of Disney’s new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, opening in 2019. And it looks great.
Toy Story Land will be one of the exits of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and I can’t help but think Disney is allowing guests to see the land as it’s being built to build up hype. To put it in perspective: Pandora is a fully immersive land based on a movie nobody cares about. Toy Story Land is a beautiful, but not quite immersive land based on a movie everyone loves.
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge will be an immersive land based on movies everyone loves. I cannot wait to see what Disney has in store.
Overall, I’d give Toy Story Land a solid B+ as a new addition to the theme parks. I really enjoyed it and would definitely visit every time I’m in Hollywood Studios with my kids. Truth be told, I’d probably visit even without the kids, for Slinky Dog Dash alone. Still, the small restaurant and lack of shade keep the land from being a solid A. I love Toy Story Land, but it’s not going to be a perfect experience. Just an incredibly good one.
Have you visited Toy Story Land yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Also, feel free to check out my impressions of Toy Story Land live from the media event on my podcast Disney Deciphered below.
Disclosure: Walt Disney World hosted me at the Toy Story Land media preview event, providing tickets, accommodations, and other complimentary experiences. My family extended our trip to Disney World for several days at our own expense. All opinions are my own.