A Visit to Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

This past weekend I went to Walt Disney World and got my first look at the new sections of Hollywood Studios. It was a lot of fun! I just wanted to highlight everything that’s new in the park.

On the way in

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There’s a new gondola system called the Skyliner which brings guest from certain resorts to certain parks. It was neat to see the system operating, and it seemed to move smooth and quickly. I wasn’t staying somewhere where I could take the Skyliner, but I had also heard about recent issues they were having a few months ago, so I wouldn’t have been too eager to hop on board anyway. (Not yet, at least. Perhaps in the future.)

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In the first section of the park, which is based off of 1940’s Hollywood, you see “cast members” (what Disney calls all of their employees) there was this funny thing where cast members would find people who were sitting around looking on their phones, and look over their shoulders and like it was some amazing out-of-this-world for technology (which, for someone in the 1940’s, it would be). It was just very funny to watch.

We were there mere days before Disney+ went live and there were a few ads for the Mandalorian. And they were, of course, selling Mandalorian merch.

Toy Story Land

Did I buy a Pizza Planet T-Shirt on this trip, specifically to take a picture in Toy Story Land? You bet!

In June of last year, a section of the parked themed to the Toy Story movies opened. There’s a funny detail about these new parks is that  everyone just kind of calls them by a standard name like “Star Wars-land” or “Avatarland” when actually the name is usually something more official like “Galaxy’s Edge” or “the World of Pandora.” Meanwhile, Toy Story Land is actually just Toy Story Land.

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The idea behind Toy Story Land is delightful – you’re supposed to be the size of a toy, walking through Andy’s room. You walk past buildings that are built from Lincoln Logs and Kinex and building blocks, etc.

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And it being the beginning of November, we got to see this part of the park (and pretty much all of Walt Disney World) decorated for Christmas. It’s a very happy time down there.

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There are three rides in Toy Story Land; Toy Story Midway Mania (which was already there), Slinky-dog Coaster, and Aliens Spinning Sacuers. The wait times for Slinky-Dog and even the saucers were pretty long.

We did ride Midway Mania, though, and that’s a great ride. It’s a shooting gallery like Magic Kingdom’s Buzz Lightyear ride. It also has a great function where it will tell you the highest score in your group, the highest score of the day, and the highest of the month.

My name being Andrew, I’ve never really gone by the nickname Andy – I just don’t see myself as an Andy, but that definitely did not stop me from taking a picture with this sign on the way out of Mania:

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Toy Story Land isn’t mind-blowing. The rides are good, but perhaps not amazing. While Toy Story Mania is an exceptional shooting gallery ride, Slinky Dog Dash seems just to be a good roller coaster, and Alien Swirling Saucers just seems to be a good scrambler ride. But for someone, like me, who has been watching Toy Story for literally as far back as he can remember, seeing it realized in this section of Hollywood Studios was an absolute delight.

Galaxy’s Edge

Currently Hollywood Studios’ biggest draw, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opened in Orlando and Anaheim earlier this year. It puts visitors in Black Spire Outpost, on the planet Baatu. The Outpost is currently being fought over by the Resistance and the First Order. Moreso than other parts of any Disney Park, Galaxy’s Edge really puts you in the middle of an ongoing story with vibrant characters.

One thing I do love about Galaxy’s Edge is just how deeply immersed you can get in the story, and just how alive the story feels. We saw Chewbacca walk out of a building at one point, and he kept moving despite people asking him to stop and talk.

But then he saw stormtroopers coming down the street, so he immediately turned and walked in the opposite direction. The park gives a good sense of how these two conflicting factions fit into the same space.

Another neat moment with Chewbacca was when he first came out and my dad loudly asked “Where’s Han Solo?” And he didn’t necessarily ask this to Chewie specifically, but Chewbacca turned to look at him and touched his heart, perhaps meaning to say “he’s always with me in spirit,” or “I miss him still.” It was really quite a cute moment.

We also encountered Rey, who was moving through another part of Galaxy’s Edge!

Probably the biggest attraction in Galaxy’s Edge is the Millenium Falcon Ride called Smuggler’s Run. The premise of the ride is – you guessed it – you’re a smuggler on the Millenium Falcon For those familiar with other Disney attractions, this ride is a simulator like Star Tours or Mission Space, but the ride will prompt it’s ride to press buttons as they start flashing.

And it’s actually thrilling. Unlike Mission Space, there are consequences to how effectively you respond to the buttons going off. Mission Space doesn’t change, regardless of whether or not you press the buttons. But on smuggler’s Run, If you respond quickly, and manage to press all the buttons in a timely manner, the ride will be smooth. If you’re not paying attention and hit the buttons after a second, the ride will be… not smooth.

I had figured we wouldn’t ride this one, since the wait was about eighty minues when we were in the park, but when I arrived I found out that they had an option for a single-rider line (meaning you can’t ride with the people you walk in with, and you are paired with larger groups). The single rider line, from the time we entered the building to the time we left the ride, took just half an hour. I will admit that this is one ride where you’d probably prefer to go in with a large group who can cooperate, but getting to experience it, even as an individual rider, was awesome.

On my ride, I was riding with a family who clearly did not have a great handle on the controls, and we crashed a lot. Of course, we still made it to the end, but it was very bumpy. I would have to warn anyone who gets nauseous easily, this is probably not the ride for you, so be careful.

But other than that, it was really cool being on the Millenium Falcon. They’ve gone to great lengths to replicate the set design of the movies.

 

Galaxy’s Edge also has these plastic soda bottles that are shaped like the Thermal Detonator that Leia almost uses in Return of the Jedi. There had been a TSA ban on bringing these items through airport security, but it appears that that’s been overturned. The stuff in the bottles is just regular Coca-Cola, Sprite, etc. There is also the “Blue Milk,” which is supposed to resemble what Luke, Uncle Owen, and Aunt Beru drink in A New Hope. I didn’t have it because I don’t particularly drink milk in the first place, but my brother-in-law did, and he said that it tasted more like Pina Colada mix.

And I didn’t get a chance to talk to a lot of the cast members, but apparently a lot of them get very into building detailed backstories. The one moment I did have like that was when I purchased the thermal-detonator coke bottle, the guy ringing me up said “Six credits,” which was almost cool enough to distract me from the fact that I was paying six dollars for a bottle of soda.

While waiting for a Star Wars themed stage show to start, they had a poll asking people what their weapon of choice in the Star Wars universe would be, and I was watching as Lightsaber had a handy lead and then lost in a landslide to Electrostaff, what the “TRAITOR!” Stormtrooper uses.

I do kind of wish we had spent more time there, but Galaxy’s Edge seemed to live up to my astronomical proportions. Only the one ride is open, with another opening after the release of Rise of Skywalker, but there’s enough to do and see – and get immersed in – in the rest of the land. Galaxy’s Edge manages to be a complete experience without having so many “things to do” per se. Between Galaxy’s Edge, one begins to see the benefit of focusing on atmosphere over attractions.

Rise of Skywalker Merch…

This is more of a general Star Wars thing rather than Galaxy’s Edge, but on the last day of our trip we went to Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) where they sell a lot of Disney merchandise. I noticed that there was a surprising amount of Knights of Ren merchandise. That probably indicates something about the role they’ll play in Rise of Skywalker – in theory, you’d think that they’ll have a much-increased presence, but I find myself doubting that.

My guess is that they’ll get one considerable fight scene with Rey and the new Jedi she’s been training, but they won’t last longer than that. I doubt that they’ll have any real plot significance or depth of character. I can’t really explain why I think that, it just feels true to experience; think about how often characters like Boba Fett or Captain Phasma are used in advertising versus how much impact they have on the movie at large.

Like, just imagine getting your Knights of Ren t-shirt and then watching them get killed after not even ten minutes of screen time. That’ll be an experience someone has.

Frozen II Exclusive Look

At Walt Disney Presents, we got to see a clip from Frozen II. We’re probably not allowed to say too much about what we saw in the preview, but it looks really good! We heard one of the new songs called “Into the Unknown,” which sounded great. I hadn’t been too excited to see this movie, but y’know whaat, after this, I’d consider going to see it. It looks awesome!

Conclusion

I tried to think of some bow to tie on my weekend in Disney World, but it’s hard to put into words. People go to Disney World because it gives them a chance to step inside these stories that they love. I’ll likely never fly a spaceship, but I can ride Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run, and that can make everyday life feel a little less everyday.

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