"Toy Story" Musical Debuts on Disney Wonder

January 8, 2008

Cruisers will have a "toy's-eye view" of scenes from Disney-Pixar's beloved "Toy Story" this spring when Disney Cruise Line debuts its newest stage spectacular, "Toy Story -- The Musical," aboard Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder.

Disney Creative Entertainment has been working hard at their Toronto rehearsal facility, turning the Academy Award-nominated film into musical theater. In December, Disney invited a handful of journalists to a sneak peak, which included a look at the costumes in development and a run-through of the musical to date.

Video: Watch behind-the-scenes footage of the rehearsals in Toronto!

While the show retains much of the humor and heart of this rivals-turned-friends story, several elements are different. The team assembled created costumes, set designs and a whole new musical score to transport guests into the whimsical world of Buzz and Woody.

Since the film version of "Toy Story" is largely told from the toy's perspective, costume and set designers faced several challenges. In a nutshell, they needed life-sized toy characters that could move with ease, convey emotion, and yet be small enough to fit with several other cast members on the ship's stage (as well as store compactly in the limited set storage area).

The result: Disney's designers came up with a combination of articulated puppets and inflatable costumes for large characters like the four-foot-wide piggybank, Hamm, and the nearly nine-foot-tall tyrannosaurus, Rex, both of which can collapse for storage in a small space. The designers discovered the material has the added benefit of making the anxiety prone dinosaur Rex quiver with ease. Mr. Potato Head has a different set of perks. He conveys feelings with moveable eyebrows and eyelids, feet that shuffle and pink ears that pop out when he's alarmed.

As for the musical part of the show, the composer included Randy Newman's Oscar nominated song "You've Got a Friend in Me," along with eight new songs that Indie-rock duo, GrooveLily, created to convey key parts of the story through song.

And of course, what would "Toy Story" be without Woody and Buzz? The voices of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks are so synonymous with those characters that I have to admit I was skeptical about Disney's ability to transport us into the story without them. I needn't have worried. A few minutes and one song into the run-through, I was convinced the actor was Woody incarnate, right down to the puppy-dog brown eyes and touch of aw-shucks demeanor. And he's got a fabulous voice too.

According to Disney executives, the show will be exclusive to Disney Wonder as part of the company's efforts to offer ship specific entertainment for guests that sail both of Disney's ships.

This is the second time Disney's Creative Entertainment division has taken a Pixar feature film and adapted it for the stage. In early 2007, "Finding Nemo -- The Musical," debuted at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando.

"Toy Story -- The Musical" will replace "Hercules -- A Muse-ical" in Disney Wonder's stage show lineup, which already includes the "Golden Mickeys" and the award-winning "Disney Dreams," on three-night sailings. Four-night sailings will include a variety performance, or movie, in Walt Disney Theatre.

Stay tuned; we'll report on the show's ship debut in April.

--by Christine Koubek, Cruise Critic contributor