New Buzz at Disney
Jun 27 2008 By Kate Whiting
Visitors will be wowed by the 4D Toy Story Mania! ride at US resorts
When you next catch yourself stargazing, you might be surprised to know that there's a 12-inch Buzz Lightyear up there somewhere, orbiting the earth in the international space station.
The star of Disney's Toy Story films finally realised his dreams of going "to infinity and beyond", when he blasted into the skies on NASA's latest Discovery mission.
Buzz, named after the second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin, is scheduled to return in the autumn to a Disney ticker tape parade.
His very special voyage was timed to coincide with the launch - back down on earth - of Toy Story Mania!, an exciting new ride at the two US Disney resorts.
This 4D ride has already opened at Walt Disney World in Florida and at Disneyland, California.
If you're among the thousands of Brits heading to the Disney resorts this summer and autumn, prepare to be wowed - as the ride 'shrinks' children of all ages down to the size of the famous Toy Story characters.
It's already had the seal of approval from Peter Andre and Katie Price who visited for their latest TV show, but I couldn't resist the temptation to see what all the fuss was about.
The ride, based at Disney's Hollywood Studios, is built to look as though it's in Pixar's studios - the brains behind hits like Finding Nemo and soon-to-be-released WALL-E. Inside, it's like walking into a toybox - Andy's from Toy Story to be exact - complete with huge playing cards, children's drawings, crayons, alphabet blocks and dominoes.
As you trickle through the queue, you come face-to-face with a giant moving, talking Mr Potato Head - Disney's most complicated animatronic ever built.
Mr P invites you to "step right up and see what's inside", before detaching his own ear. He apparently has more lines of dialogue than any other animatronic and he tells all eager riders: "It's a ride that's a game. It's a game that's a ride."
Toy Story Mania! is just that - you climb into a cart with a friend, don a pair of 3D specs and immediately enter Andy's new fairground toy - in which all the Toy Story characters have a part.
Each rider has a special spring-action shooter and after a 3D Woody has given you a practice run with some plates, you can go crazy firing at a never-ending series of stalls to score points against your co-rider.
Little Bo Peep has inflatable sheep and clouds, which spray water at you when you hit them with darts (hence the 4D special effects boast), while the Little Green Men become the targets in a special game of Hoopla.
The ride is the culmination of three years' work by Disney's usually secretive creative team - known as Imagineers - and uses more than 150 computers.
It was also the first time the Imagineers had to wear 3D glasses to direct the artwork. Sue Bryan, the lead game designer on Toy Story Mania!, says: "The biggest challenge was overlaying the many, many levels of technology - you can shoot up to eight times a second!"
Toy Story, Pixar's first feature-length film, was released in 1995, with sequel in 1999 and Toy Story 3 is slated for 2010.
The loveable characters, including Woody and Buzz, have become ingrained in modern culture, the imagineers thought they would be perfect for the ride of the future.
Making the impossible possible is what imagineering is all about.
As Walt Disney himself once said: "It's kind of fun to do the impossible!"