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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: Pizza PlaNOT

4 March 2012

I've always stated before that one of the best parts of Dining in Walt Disney World is the chance to have a thematic dining experience. Though the food may be wonderful or just okay, the environment makes up for it, making you have that magical Disney experience. Some dining locations excel in the thematic experience; as we have seen in the 50's Prime Time Caf' at Disney's Hollywood Studios, most guests come for the fun and novelty of the experience and the food isn't too bad. Other locations fit the area and simply serve as a place to dine and earns extra points with guests for fitting in so well (example: Flame Tree Barbeque). Unfortunately, some locations try very hard to create a unique experience, but in the end falter and seem like a feeble attempt at a unique Disney dining experience. With that said, let's head to Disney's Hollywood Studios and check out Toy Story Pizza Planet.


The inside lobby makes you feel you're in the movie, right?


Well, the entrance already ruined that chance to have that feeling.

Before the success of Toy Story, what existed in this space? According to my online research, the building labeled the 'Metropolitan Department of Water and Power' was previously home to movie prop exhibits. An old park map from the early 1990s shows at one time it was the 'Rocketeer Gallery' featuring props from the film. In addition to the Rocketeer, other films featured included Honey I Blew Up the Kid (you can now see the Big Bunny plush in One Man's Dream), Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. According to a November 12, 1993 Orlando Sentinel article, the Nightmare Before Christmas exhibit displayed 65 stop motion puppets and 20 miniature sets. Later it was called 'the Studio Showcase,' which is actually now relocated to the end of the Studio Backlot Tour and houses AFI's movie villains exhibit. After the move, it became the Studio Arcarde, and finally morphed into the Pizza Planet we know today.

Pizza Planet opened shortly after the film was released in 1995. Props from the floats of the Toy Story Parade decorated the 'Metropolitan Dept' building, in valiant, though overall feeble attempts at turning a preexisting building into the Pizza Planet restaurant from the film. For some unknown reasons, the larger than life Toy Story characters are now missing from the fa'ade.

One can still find favorite Toy Story character throughout the interior of the building. The walls are painted with Pizza Planet things, and the arcade from the pre-existing Studio Arcade survives to serve under the new title. One cool feature is they went as far as to theme an ATM. Check out the pictures below for more fun finds about Pizza Planet:

Buzz Lightyear stands on a flat rocketship, though if you noticed on the sides, you see bedposts and the Cowboy bed sheets from Andy's room, and cardboard rocket wings he has added.


The starry mural above the registers and pick up counter feature some thematic pizza constellations and even a hidden Mickey!


This ATM looks like its straight from the Galactic Alliance space base


The Pizza Planet delivery truck is seen flying down the street by the large mural background of the arcade

Before I continue my rant about how the obvious theme still lacks in many respects, let's take a look at the food. Pizza Planet naturally serves the standard Disney pizza. You can find this pizza at Pizzafari in Animal Kingdom and Pinnochio's Village Haus in the Magic Kingdom. The quality is perhaps a step up from school cafeteria pizza, being massed produced and probably shipped in half made for convenience. Though for many, this is what makes it great! My old roommate and I would get cravings for Pizza and end up here for that old school lunchroom cafeteria pizza. It's nothing terrible, but it's no Via Napoli either.


Okay I know this is an empty plate, but in my excitement and hunger for pizza, I ate mine too fast to remember to take a picture.

Though I unfortunately do not have a picture, the pizzas at the Disney counter service restaurants are quite well portioned. Individually sized, they are just enough and sometimes too much for one person to eat. I usually get the Kids Picks meal because though the pizza is a bit small, you also get a drink and two sides! What a deal. If you're really hungry, just buy two. I am a strong proponent of saving money and eating more through Disney's Kids Picks meals. And why not, everyone feels like a kid at Disney World!


Pizza Planet has two floors and outdoor dining areas


The arcade takes up most of the first floor

Though the food isn't half bad and most likely is the same quality that would be served in the Pizza Planet in the film world, I am a bit disappointed with Disney. The movie builds the place to be a busy arcade, family fun restaurant modeled after the popular eateries that were popping up in America at the time. I can only imagine kids watching the movie then going to visit the Pizza Planet at the park, hoping to play whack-a-alien, Black hole, and see the Claw. Where's the Alien Slime? Where are the fun boxes and soda cups that can easily disguise a spaceman action figure or cowboy doll? This is Walt Disney World and though I should be realistic, the real deal is that Disney usually goes all for it with theming. I'm no engineer, but how difficult would it be to convert a standard claw machine to resemble a rocket ship in the television show? The arcade is filled with arcade games that you can find anywhere, it would've been nice for the Imagineers to at least design one found in the film.

The Toy Story overlay may have been a last minute way to promote the movie and rebrand an otherwise generic arcade in the park, but still, after 17 years, one would hope gradual attempts to make this a more permanent change would have come to fruition by now. Pizza Planet is a great place to bring the family, but guests have an idea of what they expect to see based on a film and it seems that Disney has not yet managed to achieve the full potential a Pizza Planet themed restaurant could be.

 

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