Riding with Woody and Buzz

Pixar's Roger Gould and Walt Disney Imagineering's Sue Bryan unveil Toy Story Mania!

June 16, 2008
By Ellen Wolff
AnimationWorldNetwork

The 3D movie Toy Story has evolved into the "4D" ride experience Toy Story Mania! at Disney's Hollywood Studios and California Adventure in Disneyland. Unless noted, all images © Disney.

When Pixar co-founder and Disney creative chief John Lasseter was growing up in Southern California, one of his early jobs was on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. Decades later, the medium of 3D computer animation that Lasseter pioneered by directing the 1995 movie Toy Story has evolved into a "4D" ride experience called Toy Story Mania! Opening at both Disney's Hollywood Studios (at Florida's Disney World) and at California Adventure in Disneyland, the new ride represents yet another platform for the film franchise's animated characters, including Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head and Little Bo Peep.
It's the first time that the Toy Story characters have been presented in 3D stereo, according to Roger Gould, Pixar Animation Studios' Creative Director for Theme Parks. "The great thing about these characters is that they were built in three dimensions, so bringing them into stereo made them look phenomenal. When John Lasseter started seeing them, he flipped out. But there were a lot of things to tweak. At Pixar we pay a lot of attention to the eyes of our characters. People instantly look at the eyes. It's where we expect to see expression and life. The focus of where a character is looking lets you know what they're thinking about. Stereo has some strange properties about the way you track eye lines, and of course we wanted our guests to sense that these characters were looking directly at them. So we spent a lot of time running across our theater with our stereo glasses on, looking at our test animation and asking 'Did it feel like they're looking at you?'"

Walt Disney Imagineering developed a five-foot-tall audio-animatronic version of Mr. Potato Head to be the carnival barker that welcomes visitors to the midway.

The Experience
From the minute guests arrive at Toy Story Mania!, the focus is on interacting with the characters. Walt Disney Imagineering developed a five-foot-tall audio-animatronic version of Mr. Potato Head to be the carnival barker that welcomes visitors to the midway. "Mr. Potato Head is the size of an adult human," notes Gould. "So everything around you tells you you're toy sized." Inside, the attraction looks like a recreation of the bedroom in Toy Story, where the toys owned by the boy Andy come alive when nobody is watching. Gould adds, "When you're in Andy's room everything is giant scale. It's that simple -- the toys are big, so you are therefore small. That was our conceit. There is no announcement of 'Let the shrink-down procedure begin… '"
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