A Different look at Disney...

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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 Studios"

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 rides.

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 the past.

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.

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2008 Kevin Yee

A Different look at Disney...
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