Rootin' Tootin' Shootin’
Toy Story Midway Mania brings carnival games to the virtual world.
Toy Story Midway Mania is a 3D attraction that moves 360° as riders play carnival style video games. It was the first ride to be built simultaneously at Disneyland and Disney World: opening in Hollywood Studios on May 31, 2008 and then in Paradise Pier on June 17, 2008. The Imagineers behind the attraction, Kevin Rafferty and Robert Coltrin, were looking to add more rides to California Adventure, and came up with the story while walking around Paradise Pier. To get even more inspired, they visited the Los Angeles County Fair to play games and see how the booths were run. The premise of the ride is that you get shrunk down to the size of a toy to play a set of classic carnival games that Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang have put together.
When riders enter the queue, they move through Andy’s room with giant board games, card games, Lincoln Logs, Viewfinders, and crayons. It’s bright and full of primary colors that entice the eye. Eventually, guests will come face to face with a 6-foot-tall Mr. Potato Head. He was the most advanced audio-animatronic at the time, as imagineers created more lifelike movements so Mr. Potato Head could better interact with the guests. Don Rickles, the voice of Mr. Potato Head, recorded the most lines out of any voice actor for an animatronic to date for a more realistic variety of speech.
Guests then pick up a set of 3D glasses to put on once they board the ride vehicle. The boarding area uses forced perspective to make you feel like you’re on the floor of Andy’s bedroom. Massive, multi-colored Christmas lights hang from other toys to give a fun glow to the area. Guests board the ride vehicle in groups of two or three. The vehicle itself is just a bench with a tall back that sits back to back with another bench. Each side can fit two adults, or two adults and one small child. The cast members then instruct you to put on your 3D glasses, and check your lap bars for the jerky motions ahead!
The vehicles spin all the way around and stop at a practice screen. Here, guests use their shooter, which has a ball on a string and not a button on a handle. The shooter itself moves up and down and left and right. By pulling the string and retracting it, it shoots virtual objects on the screen. In the practice round, Woody and Buzz hold up red and white targets and you "throw pies” with your shooter to practice your accuracy.
There are over 150 computers working at the same time to track the movements of the players, the ride vehicles, and the video games on the screen. Imagineers also had to wear 3D glasses while painting the interior of the ride so it would look clear and not distorted while riders wore their 3D glasses.
The ride continues to spin and move guests to different screens depicting the game booths. The spinning and constant change of direction is meant to disorient players and add a level of difficulty.
There are five Midway games each hosted by different Toy Story characters:
Hamm & Eggs where Hamm and Buttercup invite you to knock down barnyard animal targets using hard boiled eggs
Rex & Trixie's Dino Darts where our favorite dinos have you launch darts to pop balloons in front of a volcano
Green Army Men Shoot Camp where the army men instruct you to throw baseballs to break plates at their firing range
Buzz Lightyear's Flying Tossers where Buzz Lightyear has you ring the Little Green Alien Men so their rockets launch
Woody's Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Gallery where riders hit mine-cart targets with suction-cup darts
The ride uses a combination of wind blasts and squirting water to keep you fully immersed in the games. There are also Easter eggs within each game that are worth more points. Here’s some hints on where to find them:
First Game: Look for a small rat on top of the barn
Second Game: Look for five balloons in the upper right hand corner
Third Game: Look for the plates in the upper corners
Fourth Game: You have to ring all the Green Alien Men for the higher-valued targets
Fifth Game: In the Wild West town, hit as many 500 point targets as you can. In the mine cart scene, look for a bat above the mine carts
After guests receive their final scores from the toys at the “ticketing” screens, they can view the scores for best in vehicle, the best that hour, that day, and that month, before offloading. This encourages guests to come back and try to beat the high score.
The ride opened before the release of Toy Story 3 in 2010, so once the movie came out, the ride went under refurbishment to add in all of Bonnie’s toys: So Ham and Eggs was originally hosted by Ham and Rex, and Rex and Trixie’s Dino Darts was originally Bo Peep’s Baaa-loon Pop.
In 2012, a newer version of the ride opened at Tokyo DisneySea, and in 2015, plans for Toy Story Land were announced at the D23 fan convention. This expansion would essentially take over the “backstage” and “behind the scenes” tour area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and add in a new entrance to Midway Mania. Toy Story Land, which opened in 2018, is set in Andy’s Backyard, and has a quick-service restaurant, Woody’s Lunchbox, and two other attractions, Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers. Overall, it’s a much more fitting contextual design than Pixar Place, where Midway Mania was located before.
Toy Story Midway Mania was an upgraded version of Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin/Astro Blasters and a precursor to WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure which just opened at Avenger’s Campus in June 2021.
Toy Story Midway Mania is a cute ride that embraces the feeling of playing games at your local summer carnival. When my entire family goes to Disney, it’s a ride that all of us will go on, which makes for a special moment. It also brings out the inner kid in all of us, and if that’s not what Disney is about, I don’t know what is.