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Playing it cool in the Florida sunshine

Time:2018-08-06 21:54Turbochargers information Click:

cool Florida Playing Sunshine

The door to my blissfully air-conditioned room in Animal Kingdom Lodge closes behind me with a soft, contented sigh and, without warning, I begin to cry. At first, it’s a single, fat, salty tear of joy snaking down my cheek.

Then, as I stare outside at the sun-rippled savannah – a moving tableau of Thomson’s gazelles, zebras, white-bearded wildebeest and elegant giraffes – more than 30 years of pent-up excitement spills out of me in glorious, gushing sobs. At 44 years young, I have finally answered the siren song of Walt Disney World in Florida.

The tsunami of euphoria with an undercurrent of jet lag takes me by surprise and I laugh at myself to nonchalant glances from guinea fowl foraging in parched grass beneath my balcony. The birds have clearly witnessed this middle-aged delirium before.

My tears dry quickly in the sizzle of the Orlando summer, but waves of primal, boyish wonder continue to crest and gleefully crash as I play big in the newly opened Toy Story Land at nearby Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This whimsical 11-acre playground is the largest expansion in the theme park’s 29-year history and has been designed with unfettered imaginations to reduce visitors to the size of action figures in a child’s backyard.

Damon Smith catching a ball at the entrance to Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World in Florida (Damon Smith/PA)

Towers of colourful wooden blocks are scattered throughout a landscape of playset trees and toy shrubs, along with dominoes, board-game pieces, crayons, playing cards and Scrabble letter tiles. Benches are bolted together with building set joints in the shadow of a 10-foot tall rubber ball.

Platoons of green plastic soldiers proudly patrol – ten-hut! – to the percussive rhythm of their drums while cowboy Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story films meet and greet with an energy that defies the choking humidity.

The centrepiece is Slinky Dog Dash, an 18-passenger roller coaster constructed in eye-catching red, blue, yellow and orange, which slaloms at surprising speed around precarious stacks of Jenga tiles, one topped by Rex the dinosaur nervously stringing up a garland of twinkling fairy lights. It is Disney’s first ride with a second launch at its midpoint, slingshotting us over camelback humps and around a whoop-inducing final turn before a farewell serenade of You’ve Got A Friend In Me from Wheezy the penguin, who swings as he sings atop a wireless radio-controlled car box.

Designers’ obsessive attention to detail is jaw-dropping – a fading $19.95 price sticker from Al’s Toy Barn on Rex’s cardboard box, alphabet blocks spelling out F-U-N, the seemingly random 231986 1011971 bar code on a Dash & Dodge Mega Coaster Kit box as we exit the ride, which represents the dates that Toy Story creator Pixar Animation Studios was founded and Walt Disney World opened its pearly gates to a wide-eyed public.

Life is a rollercoaster #ToyStoryLand #SeizeTheHoliday

A post shared by Damon Smith (@damonsmithonfilm) on Jun 28, 2018 at 7:36am PDT

Nearby, the Alien Swirling Saucers attraction – the creative love child of tea cups and waltzers – ushers us through an entrance flanked by robot guards and into rocket ships piloted by cute, green extra-terrestrials with three googly eyes. The 22 craft spin and whirl with increasing velocity, altering orbits on circular tracks beneath an omnipotent Claw to an energetic soundtrack of Toy Story jingles.

Ride queues in Toy Story Land can be long, so take advantage of the Fastpass+ system to pre-book timed one-hour slots up to 60 days in advance of your arrival in Florida, if you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel.

The newly-launched Play Disney Parks mobile app, which is free to download, sweetens the bitter pill of inevitable waits in blazing sunshine. Location-based games activate with the swipe of a sweaty finger, or you can listen to music and answer Disney trivia. Wi-Fi coverage is impressive, so you shouldn’t incur roaming charges.

The interactive 4D dark ride Toy Story Mania! – which opened in 2008 and draws sizeable crowds – has been expanded and now boasts a candy-striped marquee entrance in Toy Story Land. Weaving through a waiting area festooned with View-Master discs, crayon drawings and childhood ephemera, we tug furiously on the pull-string of our spring-action guns to compete in a raucous eight minutes of digital carnival mayhem.

Shoot down the moon #ToyStoryLand #SeizeTheHoliday

A post shared by Damon Smith (@damonsmithonfilm) on Jun 29, 2018 at 8:33am PDT

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