You'll see the movie, hear the soundtrack, read at least one of the books and just might drop a week's pay on the sundry merchandising. But your financial commitment to Disney's "Toy Story" is incomplete until you explore the fun house.
Totally Toy Story, a multimedia fun house located next door to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, where the film opens on Wednesday, is an extravagant tribute to the movie, certainly. Spread out over three floors with a plethora of activities and three different shows employing more than 100 live performers, the attraction has its pleasures but it stops short of being an indispensable part of the grand "Toy Story" experience.
The big question is whether it's worth taking younger or more placid children, or those with short attention spans. The film-and-fun-house combo is a solid 3 1/2 hours of ear-piercing and eye-popping bursts of noise and light, which will certainly tax some children (heck, it easily taxes adults). Danielle, the 5-year-old with whom I attended, seemed a little overwhelmed by all the sound and fury, and it didn't seem all that crowded during a recent Saturday morning test run.
Ultimately, however, there's no question at all. It's like kids eating a bag of Oreos in one sitting--it may not be good for them, and they may not even enjoy it all that much in retrospect, but they absolutely insist on doing it.
Hamm's Theatre boasts the cleverest touches--movie posters reimagined in a porcine universe (the best was "Hammdhi," which was just the "Gandhi" poster with a porker's face covering Ben Kingsley's) and offers the usual theme-park-style musical revue. The Green Army Men's production number was the best, if only because of the realization that these grown men hopping around and reciting nursery rhymes did so of their own free will.
Woody's Roundup features live musicians and country line-dancing lessons (Woody the cowboy wanders randomly about the premises, not just in this room). Buzz's Galaxy is hands-down the most cacophonous room, with outer-space action figure Buzz Light-year kicking up his heels onstage, as well as a couple of arcade-style games (like the film's Whack-A-Alien) and a motion-simulator ride. One woman abandoned her panicky child in the motion-simulator line to sneak in a couple of extra games of Whack-A-Alien; the child's wails lifted the room's noise level a few more decibels.
The Green Army Men Room is a great idea--you're strapped onto a green base and must hop around just like the perennially cheesy toys. But for an obstacle course, it's surprisingly obstacle-free.
For younger kids, Mr. Potato Head's Playroom offers crayons and paper and Etch-A-Sketches on which kids can be creative, but so do most families' homes. Totally Interactive is a brazen ad for the movie's sundry computer games kids will soon be clamoring for.
At nearly every turn, there's food for sale. Pizza Planet Cafe is the largest food outlet, but when we got there, Danielle wrinkled up her nose and said, "This place doesn't smell good."
In the end, Danielle conceded she had fun--"it's a fun house, that's what you do," she observed reasonably--but she seemed infinitely happier splashing through puddles and chasing pigeons in a nearby parking lot.
* Totally Toy Story runs Wednesday-Jan. 1 adjacent to the El Capitan Theatre, 6838 Hollywood Blvd., (800) DISNEY6. Tickets (including movie) are $20 adults, $15 children and seniors and $30 VIP seating.