Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) is making big bets on Pixar this month. Incredibles 2 shattered the box office record for an animated film during an opening weekend two weeks ago. Pixar Pier opened at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim over the weekend, retheming the park's boardwalk pier to franchises of the computer animation powerhouse. The next big step comes this weekend, when Toy Story Land opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.
Back-to-back-to-back weekends of big bets on Pixar is making this a June to remember, and it also comes during the same run that Disney tapped new animation chiefs to replace John Lasseter, the former Pixar CEO who stepped down after a pattern of alleged misconduct. Sizing up the three Pixar-fueled weekends of debuts, a strong case can be made that the biggest weekend is the one that is yet to come. Incredibles 2's record-setting showing makes a third installment a no-brainer, but audiences had to wait 14 years for the sequel. Pixar Pier is generating healthy reviews, but it's just a modest makeover of an existing section of Disney's California Adventure. Toy Story Land, opening on June 30, will be so much more.
To infinity and beyond
Toy Story Land is an 11-acre expansion richly themed to Pixar's first full-length feature film. It introduces two new family-friendly rides, a big deal for a park with just four actual rides at the moment. Toy Story Land is about more than just boosting its rides by 50%. Disney's Hollywood Studios is Disney World's least visited park. It was the only Disney park worldwide to experience a dip in attendance, according to Themed Entertainment Association. It needs an infusion, and this is the first of three big moves that will dramatically reshape the Disney's Hollywood Studios experience. Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge open next year.
Toy Story Land will be about more than just the two new rides and new ways to experience existing attractions. There's a new counter-service restaurant to check out, and new areas to explore. Disney's going to make a killing in new merchandise, and you know photographers will be all over Toy Story Land to sell snapshots of families set against the themed backdrops. Disney and Central Florida need a hit after rivals have either opened new attractions to uninspiring reviews or stumbled into a delayed summer debut. With Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge now officially set to open in the late fall of next year, there's a lot riding on Toy Story Land to carry this summer and perhaps next summer, too.
Toy Story Land is going to bring huge crowds to Disney's Hollywood Studios this weekend. Keeping them coming after that will mean everything.