The evolution of a
is a roller-coaster
ride all its own
COPYRIGH T © DISNE Y/PIXAR.
MR. POTATO HEAD © 2008 HASBRO.
ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
from the Walt Disney Imagineering offices in
Glendale, California, where more than 140
disciplines, including architecture, ride engineering and writing, are represented. “Then
there was the big challenge of pitching the idea
to management. Before we knew it, we were in
[president and CEO of The Walt Disney
Company] Bob Iger’s office.”
By Stephanie E. Ponder
REMEMBER ANDY, the child owner of
Woody and Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story
and Toy Story 2 Imagine that he’s away
and his toys, including Bo Peep, Hamm,
Rex and the Green Army Men, have taken
over his classic midway game set—think ring
toss, balloon pop and shoot out the star. Mr.
Potato Head is even set up as a carnival barker,
welcoming everyone to play.
That’s the premise behind Disney’s newest
attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania!, which
lets guests take control to create a unique ride
experience every time.
After donning 3-D glasses and boarding
their vehicles, guests are “shrunk” to the size of
a toy as they zip past and are dwarfed by board
games and a set of building blocks. The vehicles spin and race from game to game as each
player launches virtual projectiles—such as
darts and rings—from spring-loaded shooters.
After a pie-toss practice round, the first two
games are Hamm n’ Eggs (where you throw
rubber eggs) and Bo Peep’s Baaa-loon Pop, followed by the Green Army Men Shoot Camp,
where Sarge yells, “I am not your mother. You
have permission to break those plates!”
Kevin Rafferty, one of the Disney
Imagineers responsible for creating Toy
Story Midway Mania!, poses with a friend.
From there the vehicles spin and rush to
Buzz Lightyear’s Flying Tossers, where little
green aliens serve as targets for the ring toss.
The last stop is Woody’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’
Gallery, before players’ final scores are tallied.
Visitors to Disneyland and Walt Disney
World can ride through 3-D virtual midway games in Toy Story Midway Mania!
COPYRIGHT © DISNEY/PIXAR.
A handful of factors led to the game’s creation, but it was a stroll along the boardwalk at
Disney’s California Adventure Park that
inspired Kevin Rafferty, one of the Imagineers
behind Toy Story Midway Mania!, and his colleagues to ask, What if you could ride through
a midway game?
As Rafferty thought about the elements he
wanted—color, fun and whimsy—the Toy
Story characters came to mind. “Once we had
the big idea we turned to the team for help
with the details,” Rafferty tells The Connection
Making it real
Once the attraction got the green light,
the ride took three years from idea to comple-
tion, with half of that time dedicated to play
testing. Because Toy Story Midway Mania! is
a virtual reproduction of traditional midway
games, it was important to the designers that
all of the projectiles behave as they would in
the real world. Darts that miss their target
stick to the wall, while rings that don’t catch
on the little green men bounce off and around
other objects. To add a fourth dimension,
players are squirted with water if they
bust a water balloon or get a blast of
wind if an air balloon is popped.
Another challenge for Rafferty and
his colleagues was making sure that kids
of all ages enjoy the attraction. It had to
be intuitive enough for young children
and their grandparents, but challenging
enough for video-game-savvy teens. While it’s
enough for most players to try to beat their
partners, teens can look for the hidden aspects
of the game—such as changing weather or
releasing a bee-shaped balloon in Bo Peep’s
Lastly, Rafferty says that the most attractive rides are the ones that are the most repeatable. “It’s something that we particularly want
to do for annual-pass holders,” he says. “In this
game you can score, try to best yourself or beat
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A dose of magic
According to Rafferty, Mr. Potato Head is
his favorite part. Don Rickles, the voice of the
character in the films, recorded more than 800
lines of dialogue, allowing Mr. Potato Head to
interact with an audience. He not only recognizes birthday buttons and knows when the
crowd is ignoring his requests, he’s also the first
Audio-Animatronics character to be able to
remove a body part, his ear, and put it back on.
Mr. Potato Head is part of a Disney initiative to bring more characters to life—adding
another layer of interaction to a Disney experience. “I love that little bit of magic ... when
everything from the outside world goes away,”
says Rafferty. “We respect our audience and
want to provide a fun experience that we, as
Imagineers, would enjoy as well.” C