It's the high profile attraction that's supposed to begin the reboot of Disney's California Adventure as well as help rebrand Disney - MGM Studios. Which is why WDI really doesn't need anything to be going wrong with "Toy Story Mania" right about now.
And yet that's the word that's coming out of Glendale. That some of the test subjects that the Imagineers recently ran through a mock-up of this new interactive ride-game experience experienced mild dizziness and nausea. Reportedly because the CG images that will be projected inside of "Toy Story Mania" appeared blurry to people who wear prescription lens underneath their 3D glasses.
You see, that's the real problem with this hi-tech dark ride. That the Imagineers aren't planning on building the usual assortment of dimensional sets along the ride track for "Toy Story Mania" to help set the stage for this show. But -- rather -- 90% of the show elements that guests will experience as they move through this ride space will be created via digital projection.
To explain: Once you get beyond "Toy Story Mania" 's elaborately themed load / off-load area, the usual dimensional sets will gradually give way to long stretches of corridor that are basically empty. With walls that are covered with special reflective material.
As your ride vehicle moves along these empty corridors, animated footage that's been specially prepared for "Toy Story Mania" by Pixar's own artists will then be digitally projected onto the walls. Which -- thanks to the special 3D glasses that each rider will be wearing as they move through this environment -- will then give the impression that all of the empty space along this ride track is filled with these fully dimensional characters, sets and effects.
And for most people who have been through WDI's "Toy Story Mania" mock-up, the finished effect is supposed to be simply stunning. It really does give the impression that these really-for-real CG versions of Woody, Jessie and Hamm are right there in front of you, egging you on as you try your hand at revamped versions of classic midway games.
Copyright 2007 Walt Disney Enterprises
But as the test subjects who wore their own glasses as they rode through this mock-up ... Well, the movement of the "Toy Story Mania" ride vehicle combined with viewing this digitally projected footage through a mix of prescription lens & 3D glasses left several people feeling dizzy & disoriented. With some of them reporting mild nausea after they exited their ride vehicle.
Now let me be frank here, folks. No one at Walt Disney Imagineering is actually panicking over this particular development. Given that we're still more than a year out from the official opening of both versions of "Toy Story Mania" ... The belief in Glendale is that there's still plenty of time left to find the cause of this problem and then engineer a fix. And after all, this is why WDI actually run test subjects through mock-ups of proposed attractions. To identify possible problem areas.
But -- that said -- the Imagineers really need "Toy Story Mania" to be a huge success. Not just because of the crucial role that this new attraction is supposed to play in the relaunch of DCA as well as the retheming of MGM. But -- rather -- because of the huge break-through that the Disney theme parks could make if the public were to actually embrace this new technology.
Imagine (if you will) a special Halloween or Christmas edition of "Toy Story Mania" that could be created not with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of new sets & props that it would then take several weeks to install. But -- rather -- with a few quick strokes of a keyboard. Which would tell the computers that program all of the digital projectors inside of this show building to swap out the usual sequences that they project in favor of new Halloween-themed and/or holiday-based midway games.
Or -- better yet -- how would you like to see all-new set of midway games featuring the characters from "Toy Story 3" appear in "Toy Story Mania" on the very day that this highly anticipated Pixar sequel hits theaters in 2010. With this change happening virtually overnight because of the versatility of this new technology.
Never mind that -- if successful -- "Toy Story Mania" could be Disney's next big franchisable attraction. An interactive dark ride with huge rerideability that could then be dropped into every Disney resort around the globe.
Tht's the long range plan, folks. Provided -- of course -- that the public goes crazy for the first two versions of "Toy Story Mania" when they open at DCA & MGM in 2008.
Which is why Imagineering is now focusing its attention of determining the cause of this dizziness & nausea that only a handful of test subjects have experienced. So that next year's launch of Disney's new would-be theme park franchise will go as smoothly as possible.
A few people have mentioned it; I'll just say it again:
Is this simply Disney's answer to the eight-year-old Spider-Man attraction at Universal Orlando? It doesn't feel like a huge leap forward. Maybe I'm missing something.
Once again, it seems Disney is following, rather than leading. It continues to amuse me that 40 years after Pirates of the Caribbean and 25 years after EPCOT opened, Disney can't understand that the rides that have TRULY stood the test of time, the ones that DEFINE the Disney theme-park experience, are the immersive, ride-through attractions filed with "real" Audio-Animatronic figures, not merely projections on a wall.
Universal has two terrific attractions with high repeatability factors in Men In Black and Jurassic Park, both of which just happen to be based on "real" environments and Animatronic figures.
People still queue up for hours for The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, they still regard Spaceship Earth as one of EPCOT's premiere attractions, and though it's incredibly poorly maintained they still line up (sometimes for more than an hour) to experience the Great Movie Ride.
Yet, as another reader pointed out, Star Tours is usually empty, and it's not tough to see It's Tough to be a Bug.
Gosh, I could add two plus two when I was four. ;-)
This comes across to me as cheap.
What makes Toy Story Mania different from Spiderman? If it was just a ride through your lack of enthusiasm would be expected. However, TSM has an interactive element missing from Spiderman. Each rider on TSM will have a 'cannon' that 'shoots' at items on the screen, ala Buzz Lightyear. But this is not a laser-hits-sensor type system. Think of it more in line with the new Wiimote controls. You point it and you see a projection on the screen of what you are shooting and where it hits, with the inherent results. Sometimes you shoot marshmallos, sometimes you shoot water balloons, all depending on the gallery you are shooting in. And it has been released their will be a handicapping system that will allow 'older' riders to better compete with 'younger' (and presumably more savvy) companions. I think this is a very interesting and exciting technology that Disney will be the first to utilize. Don't be so dismissive of it yet.
Moonliner - I agree. We shouldn't dismiss anything until we see the finished product.
I guess my dissappointment stems from A) the technology trumpeted as the NEW & EXCITING part of the ride when it is not exciting nor new - in my mind, and B) the whole storyline that we are privy to seems lame to the Nth degree.
When I first heard of ToT. I was not thrilled with the technology (free fall - eh?) but the whole concept of the haunted hotel as well as everything leading up to the drop caught my attention.
Mission to MArs, just the opposite. A quick trip to mars? eh - did that at Disneyland years earlier, no big deal. But to do it in technology that actual recreats space flight! That is cool.
This new "blockbuster" ride is (to me at least) just a cross between Spiderman and Buzz Lightyear with a flimsy story slapped around it.
They shoulda moved the Country Bears over to Grizzly Peak instead.
And yes, I agree with those who are skeptical about how often they will change the projections on this ride. Star Tours has really soured me on that prospect. But I will wait and see.
I sense a Catch-22 in the making. If the ride turns out to be popular, then the attitude of the suits will be "Why bother to spend the money to update? It's popular as it is!" And then, as soon as it gets stale and needs updating, the suits will say, "Why spend money on an attraction that no one rides anymore."
Isn't that kind of what happened with Star Tours? Or am I just being cynical about all this.