The skill of misdirection is in The Walt Disney Company’s arsenal of magic tricks. The company has convinced every pop culture fan that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has only one major update in progress. That’s obviously Star Wars Land, whose every news tidbit, image, and video demands attention on the internet.
As the media feeds the frenzied, a second land quietly evolves. It’s growing in stature from a single Place to a complete Land. Let’s take this opportunity to look at the Turning Point that Disney is hiding in plain sight: the addition of Toy Story Land.
It started with a carnival game
The original themed park in question is, of course, Pixar Place. Built to resemble the actual Pixar Studios in Emeryville, California, this location opened in 2008. Back then, its only attraction was an immediate hit.
Toy Story Midway Mania! has become one of the most popular rides at all three parks where it resides: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Tokyo DisneySea, and Disney California Adventure. Its demand at Hollywood Studios has remained so intense over the years that Disney eventually added a third ride track in 2016, eight years after its opening.
The appeal of Toy Story Midway Mania! is the elegance of its simplicity. Anyone who can pull on a cord repeatedly is capable of scoring lots of points in this game. It’s a marvelous marriage of old-time amusement games and high-tech computer electronics. Many guests don’t appreciate that Imagineers consider this attraction as one of the most technologically complex at any of the parks. Theme park tourists simply like to compete for the highest score.
That’s the genius of Pixar Place. It’s a very small section of a half-day park. It doesn’t have a store or restaurant of note. It’s just one terrific ride and a few interactive events. The best of them is when the toy soldiers from Toy Story walk around, interacting with guests. The cast members who portray these roles are among the best costumed employees at drawing huge smiles out of park visitors. It’s simple fun AND pure joy.
Pixar Place mirrors Pixar Studios in this way. It has no greater ambitions and doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. The themed land does one thing, and it does that thing brilliantly. Pixar Place is modest, humble, and endearing.