June 2019

What's New in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Author: Justin Jarrett | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Every trip to Walt Disney World comes with a mix of magical anticipation and anxiety-ridden trepidation, especially when young kids are in tow, and those competing emotions ramp up even more when a new attraction opens.

As Disney devotees, my family braved the opening weekend crowds last summer to check out the new Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and both the magic and the anxiety lived up to our expectations.
Two new attractions, a new quick-service dining option, and some of Disney’s finest “imagineering” to date bring Andy’s backyard to life, adding even more fun to what was already our family’s favorite of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World.

The concept—namely that guests are “shrunk down” to toy size upon entering Andy’s backyard (for the uninitiated, Andy is the toy owner from the Toy Story franchise)—is nothing new to regular visitors to Hollywood Studios. That was the idea behind the popular Toy Story Mania attraction—an interactive ride-through a 4D arcade game in which passengers compete against one another in carnival-style games like ring toss and target shooting. Toy Story Land expands that theme from one attraction to 11 acres of glorious fun, giving visitors the sensation that they’re walking around in a world created by Andy’s imaginative play, complete with massive Tinker Toys and blocks, as well as Christmas lights strung throughout the area.

Attractions
The star of Toy Story Land, as evidenced by the wait times, is the new Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster, and it immediately claimed a place among our family’s favorite Disney attractions. Visiting on opening weekend, we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we might not get to ride Slinky Dog Dash, recognizing that wait times would be well over an hour. After seeing the ride in person, we decided we couldn’t wait and chose to brave a two-hour wait in the name of new adventures. (Pro tip: Download the “Heads Up” smartphone app for a fun way to pass the time in long lines. If you check in at a Disney park, you can get a free Disney deck that’s appropriate for even the youngest players.)

This was a big leap for our family, because as (now former) annual pass holders and master FastPass manipulators, we are not long-line-waiters. Nonetheless, we found Slinky Dog Dash worth the wait. The newest coaster can’t match the sheer thrills offered across the park at Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, but it’s a whole lot of fun—and with a height requirement of only 38 inches, it’s a much-needed addition to the list of attractions the whole family can enjoy at Hollywood Studios. In fact, our five-year-old rated it the most fun coaster she can ride at Walt Disney World (she’s excluded from Space Mountain, Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, and Expedition Everest—the three coasters that still rank ahead of Slinky Dog for our eight-year-old son). As thrills go, it slots just below Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and just above Seven Dwarves Mine Train, but the overall experience (including the cuteness factor) moves it even higher up the list.

First off, you’re sitting aboard the adorable Slinky Dog, and ostensibly riding a coaster built by Andy himself. Slinky Dog shoots out of the gate and around a corner before hitting his first big drop, whooshing past the crowds entering Toy Story Land. At the midway point, the ride comes to a stop and begins backing up for another launch, which sends riders hurtling up the ride’s biggest hill, seemingly launching into space before cresting the hill and heading into a series of smaller humps. The ride finishes off with a fun twist as Wheezy the penguin serenades you with “You’ve Got A Friend in Me” as you glide back into the station.

We had so much fun on our first ride that we immediately got back in line. Luckily, it was nearly time for the park to close, and the Fantasmic show had attracted much of the crowd, so we were able to get back through the line in less than 30 minutes.

Less popular, and less thrilling, is the new Alien Swirling Saucers ride, which is reminiscent of the carnival favorite, the Scrambler. Although Alien Swirling Saucers did not earn an immediate spot among our family’s favorites, it was enjoyable and another nice addition for smaller kids who previously didn’t have many options at Hollywood Studios.

Even Toy Story Mania got an upgrade, with a second track and a new entrance and exit that build on the experience of being “toy-sized” and hanging out in Andy’s room.

Dining
The biggest letdown to Toy Story Land is the inclusion of only one dining option (adding a Pizza Planet would have been a stroke of genius, but the park already includes PizzeRizzo for quick service pizza and Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano for table service Italian), but Woody’s Lunch Box is a nice addition to Hollywood Studios.

The biggest perk is that Woody’s Lunch Box is one of few options in the parks offering hot breakfast. If you’re staying off-property or trying to make it to the park for rope-drop, you might not have time to grab breakfast at the hotel, and this gives you a chance to beat the crowds to ride Slinky Dog Dash before settling in for breakfast.

The menu is kid-friendly to the point that it could have been created by a child with culinary chops. The Chocolate-Hazelnut Lunch Box Tart is a Pop Tart on steroids, covered in maple fondant and candied bacon, and the S’more French Toast Sandwich and Banana Split Yogurt Parfait could serve as breakfast or dessert.

There are plenty of more traditional options like the BBQ Brisket Melt, Smoked Turkey Sandwich, and Grilled Three-Cheese Sandwich, as well as the inventive “Totchos”—tater tots coated with chili, shredded cheese and queso with tomatoes and corn chips, finished with sour cream and a sprinkle of green onions.

Woody’s Lunch Box also serves a full complement of Joffrey’s coffee drinks, as well as alcoholic beverages for the big kids. One bummer: all the seating is outdoors, so there’s no respite from the Florida heat here.

Character encounters
This is where Toy Story Land really shines. All your Toy Story favorites can be seen meandering around Andy’s backyard—including Woody and Jessie, Buzz Lightyear, and the green army men, who march through Toy Story Land playing drums—and stop to interact with visitors and pose for photos.

We feared the heavy character presence might be exclusive to opening weekend, but we were pleased to learn otherwise on subsequent visits. Fortunately, the crowds and the anxiety that comes with them did subside somewhat on our return visits.

In all, Toy Story Land is an excellent addition to Walt Disney World’s already impressive roster and a must-do on your next visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. 

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