An animatronic figure with an estimated $1 million price tag will sing songs and interact with guests as they wait. Employees dressed as “Toy Story” characters will stroll among the crowds.
“There’s an erosion of patience,” said Bruce Vaughn, the chief creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s development group. “People’s tolerance for lines is decreasing at a rapid rate.”
Mr. Rasulo said that younger visitors, in particular, expect customized entertainment. So Toy Story Mania’s computers will accommodate riders of various skill levels.
“Guests are pretty much no longer interested in being passive viewers,” Mr. Rasulo said.
Modern visitors expect much more. Mr. Potato Head — with help from a dozen video cameras, several computers, an unseen ride operator and a $1 million budget — will be able to make his mouth form words, a first for Disney animatronics.
The comedian Don Rickles, whose gravelly voice brought the character to life in the films, was hired to record 750 words and four songs. The hidden ride operator, armed with a computer and cameras that scan the crowd, will then choose phrases based on the actions and appearance of people standing in front of it. (“Hey, you in the red baseball hat.”)
The goal was to make the character so perfect that it looked as if it had just stepped out of the movies. Pixar executives tightly monitored every detail and helped direct Mr. Rickles. At a recent taping, the Pixar team put him through his paces.
“Let’s put a little more chuckle in that line,” said Roger Gould, Pixar’s creative director, sitting in a recording studio as 10 other executives and engineers took notes and adjusted instruments.
Mr. Rickles complied, repeating a line that would play if the ride stopped unexpectedly. “Folks, we’re having a little delay here,” he said. “For your safety, please stay seated inside the game tram.”
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