When you wind around the tall hedges and enter Toy Story Land, the new 11-acre park expansion at Disney World's Hollywood Studios, your sense of scale is immediately scrambled.
You're greeted by a 20-foot-tall statue of Woody, then find a massive footstep stretched across the curving pathway, a footprint that would be a size 240 if any sneakerhead took the time to measure it. A massive lunchbox serves as the storefront for an outdoor cafe, where Baybel cheese wheels double as tables and chairs. Popsicle sticks are stacked neatly into benches. Animal crackers are the size of real animals. It's all meant to immerse the visitor in the experience, to convey what it might be like to be a toy in a suburban backyard, minus threats like careless landscapers and aggressive dogs.
For longtime fans of the seminal Pixar franchise, there are even more details to hunt down at the new park — including some additions to the canon of the story, conceived in tandem by Disney's Imagineers and Pixar's creative team. As you'll see in the photos below, Toy Story Land, which opened on Saturday, adds wrinkles to the backstories of several characters, including Rex the dinosaur and Wheezy the squeaking penguin. Those new details are really for the eagle-eyed fan, who pores over every sign in the park; the new origin stories for those characters, for example, are revealed on "price tags" included as decoration on the queue for one of the new rides.
"In order to believe that this backyard is real, you have to pay attention to packaging and instructions, especially if we're introducing a toy that doesn't exist in the real world," Ryan Wineinger, an Imagineer and one of the park's creative directors, says in a new episode of The Fandom Files. "If we're introducing a new toy or a toy that we know Andy has in his own hometown, like Rex, of course it could've come from Al's Toy Barn. And Poor Wheezy, his squeaker doesn't last very long, 'cause we all know that Al is looking to save a buck, buck, buck, right? So his toys come out maybe a little shoddy. Pixar becomes an active part of that process in inventing these histories for them."
Toy Story Land is the largest expansion in park history, though it'll soon surrender its record to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, the immersive area being built next door to the Pixar cove. Both are evidence of Disney's increased emphasis on immersive entertainment, a trend that has heralded in a new era in theme park development. As Matt Roseboom and Banks Lee of Attractions Magazine told The Fandom Files later in this new episode, the field has never been more competitive, driving massive expansions from Disney, Universal Studios, and even the struggling Sea World, which will be adding a Sesame Street-themed area to its Orlando resort.
Toy Story Land includes two new rides: a roller coaster called Slinky Dog Dash and the more gentle Alien Spinning Saucers, both of which combine old characters with new toys created for the park. You can get an up-close look at them — and the Easter eggs they have for fans — in the photos below.