Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
The opening of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (BLAB) marked a return to the past, of sorts, for Tomorrowland. That section of the park had been in decline for a number of years, and a former management team's plan to turn all of Tomorrowland's attractions into restaurants or unused space had met with great public disapproval (the uproar was so large, in fact, that management was forced to cancel the demolition of the Space Mountain building and recreate the already-scrapped roller coaster). The building in which BLAB was constructed -- formerly the home of Circlevision, The Amazing Large Glass Telephone Booths of Tomorrow, and an attraction called Rocked Rod's Q that we, unfortunately, have no information on -- had stood empty for years, aside from a small science exhibit highlighting the fascinating properties of the vacuum of space. This would be the first step toward a renewed Tomorrowland.
BLAB reflects Disneyland's past in other ways, too. The ride vehicles themselves are recycled from the old Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction. They had stood in storage for years before being sold on eBay in 2001, and it was found to be more cost effective to reclaim the vehicles from their purchasers through hostile legal means than to build a new Omnimover system.
The ride also reflects Walt Disney's original vision of innocent childhood fun in its inclusion of guns. Guns had been part of Disneyland since its inception. In the old days, there were daily staged bank robberies on Main Street, the Golden Horseshoe Review had a gun-firing comic, the Jungle Cruise skippers fired pistols at anything that moved, kids could fire real rifles from the fort on Tom Sawyer Island, armed buccaneers manned the pirate ship restaurant in Fantasyland, the Monsanto House of the Future Featuring Futuristic Things You'll Be Able to Buy in the Future had an automated defense system that had to be seen to be believed, and there was a shooting gallery in every section of the park. With that in mind, BLAB was designed to be the first attraction in which guests are actually invited to shoot at things during their adventure.
Upon entering BLAB, guests are greeted by a large animatronic Buzz Lightyear (actually a Buzz costume from the old Club Buzz stage show in which has been installed the Eisner figure from the dreadful -- and misleadingly named -- Hall of Disney Presidents, now closed). Buzz tells guests how to operate the weapons on the "space ships" they will soon be commanding, and reassures youngsters that it's okay to shoot at things so long as they're "bad guys" or it's all in fun.
Guests then enter their two-person Omnimover vehicles. Each vehicle is equipped with a control stick that gives guests 180 degrees of control over the vehicle's roll and pitch, and 360 degrees of yaw. The vehicles each also have two "space guns" and a digital counter to keep guest's score as they blow things away during the ride.
The guns themselves are high-energy concentrated microwave emitters, capable of turning bread to toast at 100 paces. They come equipped with laser sites for lethal accuracy, and guests are invited to fire them at a wide variety of 3D and plywood targets, each of which is worth a certain number of points. Targets are shaped like evil space creatures, Disney Princesses, and even Emperor Zurg himself!
The ride's simple plot follows Buzz Lightyear and his band of Space Rangers on a quest to defeat the evil Emperor Zurg (Buzz's dad). The Freudian implications of guests armed with guns and joysticks helping a toy fight its father are not explored. The story's climax is a big surprise and we won't spill it here, save for telling you that Zurg wins and everyone dies.
After exiting the ride, guests are shown their final score and invited to see how high they are ranked by Star Command. A Status Board lists ranges of scores and ranks, ranging from "Galactic Hero" at the top to "Dreamworks Employee" at the bottom. Guests may then use one of the massively overcrowded computer stations to e-mail Disneyland advertising to their friends and family for a nominal ($10) charge.
On feature that makes BLAB unique among Disneyland attractions is its connection to the World Wide Web. Guests who do not have the wealth required to actually visit Disneyland can connect to the ride through a Web browser (available at most public libraries for those who can not afford a computer) and get a little taste of what it would be like if Daddy could keep a job and Mommy wasn't a lush and they could all visit Disneyland as one big, happy family.
If the "guns on a ride" concept proves to be a success -- and early indications are that it certainly will -- Disneyland will go forward with a plan to install a similar system on "it's a small world."
Trivia: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters officially opened on St. Patrick's day, because there are so many little green men in it. Advertising invited guests to come to the park for "Space Patrick's Day."
Trivia: The tubes in Emperor Zurg's gun were fashioned from pipes from Captain Nemo's pipe organ as seen in the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a sly reference to another Pixar film, Finding Nemo.
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