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Disney's Toy Story carnival ride adds video game touches

June 17, 2008 | 10:24 am
Visitors on Disney's Toy Story Midway Mania ride

Since opening in 2001, Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim hasn't exactly unseated Disneyland as SoCal's must-visit theme park. So Walt Disney is giving the place a $1.1 billion overhaul, including rides that feature some of the interactive elements of video games. Opening today is Toy Story Midway Mania, which lets riders wearing 3-D glasses interact with characters from the Pixar movie as they play Buzz Lightyear's ring toss, Woody's Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Gallery and Bo Peep's dart throw.

Brady MacDonald at our travel blog calls it the best game at California Adventure. Although not as good as some of the Disneyland's finest, he says, he was so into Toy Story Mania that he got a repetitive stress injury (he dubbed it Mania Elbow) from pulling the trigger.

But analysts that Dawn Chmielewski interviewed aren't sure this growing trend of video-game-inspired theme park rides will lead to big bucks. She writes:

Toy Story Midway Mania illustrates the extent to which theme park operators are employing technology to pry a generation of media-saturated kids and adults loose from their computer screens and through the turnstiles. Universal Studios has its Men in Black Alien Attack in Florida, in which guests zap space aliens as they chase them through the streets of New York. Disneyland also has its earlier "Toy Story"-inspired space ride, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, in which players team up to battle the evil Emperor Zurg.

Park operators are walking a tightrope, however, in trying to develop rides that provide the kind of individualized experience that gamers covet -- in which they're competing against each other and influencing the action -- while also appealing to non-gamers who want a more traditional, non-interactive experience.

Read the full story for more details, including how animators created the ride, how the computers synchronize the action and why Disney thinks it will be a hit.

-- Chris Gaither

Photo: Visitors Amy and Chris Katscher from Santa Maria, Calif., prepare to shoot at digital screens during the new Toy Story Midway Mania ride at Disney's California Adventure Park. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times