Perhaps you clicked the link to see today's review of
the brand new Toy Story Midway Mania (so far, only open in Disney's Hollywood
Studios and even then, only for annual passholders and DVC members) with dismay,
because the title made it sound like the ride is a dud. Or perhaps you came
tingling with anticipation, gratified that the ride doesn't measure up
(obviously, that would be a different kind of web surfer than the first guy!)
Both camps need to know, however, that the title of
today's article doesn't imply a poor grade. Instead, it's a reflection of this
ride's considerable success. I say Toy Story Midway Mania is a D+, but that
doesn't mean only a few steps removed from failure (the F grade). Rather, it
means that the ride is but a sliver away from being an E-ticket attraction. It's
a solid "D ticket" attraction: well planned, charmingly created, thrillingly
executed, and thoroughly enjoyable in its overall effect. This is the kind of
ride you exit beaming, determined to ride it again the same day. Since I
couldn't call it an E-ticket ride without more physical thrills or even more
in-depth atmosphere like Pirates of the Caribbean, I had to settle for a D+. A
word of caution: today's review is full of spoilers!
Brickwork everywhere at the new "Pixar
One of my first reactions upon exiting the ride was
that it seemed out of place at Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS). Originally, I
thought that might be because it seemed the theme of this ride was so out of
place – after all, it was made for DCA, not DHS, and the carnival and midway
theme would fit in better there. What would the carnival have to do with a
studio? My reaction to the inconsistency of the theme included some forgiveness.
Though I felt the theme didn't fit, I forgave the lapse, since it was so good.
Upon reflection, though, even that minor criticism
isn't warranted. The mixture of toybox and midway (you'll see what I mean later)
wasn't just a jumble of ideas. As usual, my wife spotted the connection before I
did. There is in fact a connected theme to this ride. We are toys, this line is
the toybox, the toys are putting on a carnival (this explains the presence of
Mr. Potato Head as the carnival barker), and Andy has gotten a new game that
includes midway mini-games, so we are test-playing them.
OK, maybe the words "Pixar
Studios" does imply some connection with movies,
but it's not us pretending to film one. I do hope they will add more Pixar
The FastPass machines are
highly themed, but what impresses me are the
individual lines and the exit gates. Chaos at the machines will be a thing of
In retrospect, what is incongruous is that this ride is
too good for DHS. Like Tower of Terror, it goes without the whole stupid "we're
just a studio and this is a fake filming!" storyline. As a result, both Tower
and Midway Mania feel like "parachute" rides just dropped into foreign territory
and left standing where they floated down. One advantage of DHS (especially with
its new name) is that they can simply celebrate movies without pretending to
create them any more).
Across the way, the toys tell us we've got a
friend in them.
Granted, there is very little story to Toy Story Midway
Mania (TSMM) beyond what's already been explained. We show up, we play the
games, we see our score. There is no development, no particular plot once the
ride starts. I do have some forgiveness for this, however. Legendary Imagineer
Marc Davis, the guy largely responsible for the original Pirates of the
Caribbean and such classics as Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland, was more
fond of ambiance and atmosphere than of actual storytelling. He showed us
vignettes that didn't tie together; the setting alone was enough. In recent
years, the trend has been toward a definitive plot, but in some ways I liked the
Davis approach better, and TSMM hews closer to the Davis formula.
A jumble of toys.