Walt Disney World
got a little bit happier on June 30 with the grand opening of the long-awaited Toy Story Land
Based on the hit movies, the new area of Disney's Hollywood Studios
shrinks visitors down to the size of toys in Andy's toybox walking among giant Tinker Toys, Rubik's Cubes, Christmas light strings and other colorful, scaled-up playthings. The conceit of Toy Story Land is that visitors are toys coming awake after Andy has been called away by his mother. The Main attraction, the Slinky Dog Dash, is a kid-friendly roller coaster built to Andy's hand-drawn specs (in large-than-life crayon on loose-leaf paper) with his Dash & Dodge Mega Coaster Play Kit.
Tim Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear, opened the park, which features plenty of the movie's main characters -- Sherriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear, of course, but the Green Army Men will be encountered by all visitors, too -- as well as the three-eyed intergalactic space travelers in the second major ride, Alien Swirling Saucers. The existing Toy Story Mania! Ride, featuring an arcade shooting gallery, rounds out the attractions.
Then there is the really quite good food available at Woody's Lunch Box. The style is take-it-with-you foods Andy's mother would feed him -- think grilled beef brisket and cheese sandwiches, soda floats and toaster pastries -- but elevated with really good, fresh ingredients.
While the current focus in Toy Story Land is day guests, meeting planners can use the new land for inspiration, says Amy Pfeiffer, director, convention sales & services, of Walt Disney World Resort. "There are so many creative elements of Toy Story Land that can be incorporated into meeting and event spaces -- from giant building blocks and brightly colored toy boxes to Instagram-worthy food and beverage items," she says. "Meeting planners can even surprise attendees with a visit from one of their favorite characters from the 'Toy Story' films."
That's not all that's happening in Disney's Hollywood Studios, of course. Last year was Pandora - The World of Avatar and coming in 2019, the highly anticipated, 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land will arrive. That will be set in the remote Black Spire Outpost, a large settlement. If the new Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire virtual reality experience is any indication, it will be amazing. And work is under way on an immersive new Star Wars-themed hotel.
More current on the hotel front is the new 545-room guest tower being added to Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
, which will have a rooftop restaurant and lounge and add a boardroom and several other meeting spaces to the resort's current 220,000 square feet of event space. That will also open in the summer of 2019. The rooms are also being redesigned, including features for meetings guests like new desk space. Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resort
is adding 28,000 square feet to its convention center, bringing it up to nearly 100,000 square feet. That includes a divisible new 16,000-square-foot ballroom. It has also renovated 1,190 guest rooms.
Another new addition is the Minnie Van Service, a new way to get people around the resort. The red and white polka-dotted vans can be summoned by the Lyft app -- although only from within Walt Disney World.
"Meeting planners can also provide attendees with specially priced theme park tickets so they can explore the new Toy Story Land and Disney's Hollywood Studios after meetings wrap for the day," Pfeiffer says.