The Dark Ride Goes to a New Level!

Toy Story Mania takes the dark-ride concept to the next level with an immersive and interactive experience that only Disney can deliver. Call it the theme park ride for the Wii generation.

If Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters represented an evolutionary hyperspace leap forward, Toy Story Mania symbolizes the revolutionary next generation — the dark ride version 2.0.

After a preview ride this week, I only had one problem with Toy Story Mania: the all-consuming game prevents me from sitting back and simply enjoying the scenery. I have to play. For me, the game has already proven so addictive as to cause TSM (a.k.a. Mania Elbow) — a form of repetitive stress injury brought on by repeated tugging on the spring-action shooter. I find myself constantly shaking my sore wrist after each round of play.

Opening June 17 at Disney’s California Adventure, the $80-million D-Ticket Toy Story Mania takes riders through a carnival midway hosted by the movie’s animated characters — Buzz, Woody, Jessie, Rex and Hamm.

Wearing 3-D glasses, riders on the five-minute drive-through video game compete against one another by firing virtual darts, pies and eggs during virtual games of chance.

Is Toy Story Mania the best ride at California Adventure? Absolutely. It plays to Disney’s storytelling strength and surpasses Tower of Terror and Soarin’ Over California on my all-time favorites list.

Are there better rides across the way at Disneyland? Absolutely. I still prefer Indiana Jones Adventure and Haunted Mansion for a completely immersive experience.

But Toy Story Mania is an excellent benchmark for DCA going forward as the planned $1.1-billion expansion unfolds over the next five years. Here’s hoping Disney’s Imagineers keep the bar set high and strive to outdo their Toy Story Mania success.

— Brady MacDonald, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

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