Creating a ride takes years, Imagineers and a bit of chaos
There are some Imagineers who want to take you to infinity and beyond. And they’ve spent the last two years figuring out just how to get you there on the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters attraction through story, technology and design.
Designing this ride was a multiyear project involving more than 150 creative specialists and engineers with a couple of common goals — expand parts of the hit film “Toy Story 2” in order to create a fun, family-friendly interactive attraction and, of course, defeat evil Emperor Zurg.
Disneyland would not release budget estimates for the ride, the fourth Buzz Lightyear attraction to go into one of the Disneyland parks.
“That made it a little easier … because it had been placed in a few parks first. But we still made improvements and tweaks depending on what new technologies were available to us that might have not been around when the first Buzz Lightyear ride was done,” says Chrissy Allen, a Walt Disney Imagineering show producer. Allen was responsible for leading the giant team of innovators working on the Astro Blasters.
The ride will feature interactive elements that have never been part of a Disneyland attraction. Visitors will be able to email pictures taken of them, free of charge, at the end of the attraction. Eventually, people will be able to play the game at home alongside park patrons by logging on to a Disneyland Web site.
But cutting-edge technology aside, all Mouse House ride creation begins with story development. “That’s what will connect people to the ride,” Allen says. “Everything really has to be in the service of story, otherwise, no one will remember the attraction and want to come back to it.”
On Astro Blasters, Imagineers decided to put riders in the middle of a fight between Buzz and Zurg — a classic good-vs.-evil story told through a 3-D experience — where they’re able to fire on attackers and score points when they hit their targets.
“It really is its own unique story after the Imagineers are done with it,” Allen says. “We have writers and illustrators and designers. There’s a lot of give and take between everyone and those initial meetings are usually really intense.
“Sometimes the writers write what’s drawn and sometimes the illustrators draw out what’s written down. There isn’t a set way to do this because you’re working with a group of really talented, motivated people so the process is very organic.”
Then the story is broken down into “scenes” in the ride — like scenes in a movie — that are used to take the rider through the experience. Astro Blasters needed 10 to tell the story that was developed.
“We had designers in every imaginable area come in and work on this ride,” Allen says. “You need people to come in and work with color and lighting and characters. There were also electronics issues for this ride because the targets had to be able to speak back and forth with the shooters used by the guests so their scores could be calculated.”
“On a ride like (Astro Blasters) you bring in ride engineers early because you’re in a little spaceship-shaped car throughout the ride but each ride varies depending on what’s involved,” says David Durham, Walt Disney Imagineering director of concept integration.
Once guests ride the attraction, the fine-tuning will continue. “The rides really do evolve with our audiences so that tweaking continues for the life of the ride at the park,” Allen says.
“Imagineering is really a state of mind and if you have the right state of mind and you get together with a lot of other really creative people then you come out with things like this ride.”