Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (a.k.a. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast or Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, depending on the park) are a series of Tomorrowland shooting dark rides based on the Disney/Pixar film Toy Story 2 at Disney Parks around the world. Although each ride may have a different name (as seen on the infobox to the right), all share the same plot and major characters. As each form of the attraction appeared, new technology has allowed the guest to better interact with the ride and even connect with personal computer users.
The attractions use a third-generation Omnimover system, and are combination of a shooting gallery and a dark ride. The first ride featured laser guns that were not movable, but later versions featured the guns that are held in a holster and movable with the exception of a cord to keep them in the vehicle after the ride has ended. In 2005, the Walt Disney Company premiered a home version of the ride in the form of an internet video game that allows users to connect with guests at the parks. The scores of each guest from the dark ride are tallied with the internet gamer and increase the points won. There is also an attraction at Walt Disney World Resort's DisneyQuest with the name "Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters", where players ride and control cars while shooting balls at each other. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin was named the 2004 Disney Magazine Reader's Choice Award winner for Best Magic Kingdom Park Attraction for Young Kids.
Mattel, having just transferred its sponsorship from the It's a Small World attraction thus in turn making that attraction sponsorless in nearby Fantasyland originally sponsored the Walt Disney World attraction from its opening to 1999 when all references to Mattel were removed from the attraction. The Disney World version has been without sponsorship ever since.
The back story of the ride revolves around the attempts of Evil Emperor Zurg (voiced by Andrew Stanton, and Thurl Ravenscroft in Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin attraction) to steal the batteries (known as "crystallic fusion cells") used to power the space vehicles of the "Little Green Men." (voiced by Jeff Pidgeon and Debi Derryberry) Participants are "Star Command" raw recruits sent to defeat Zurg. The queue area is awash in the chartreuse, white, and bright blue hues of Buzz Lightyear himself (voiced by Pat Fraley, who does voice for all Buzz Lightyear attractions). Since Buzz Lightyear is a toy, the attraction is cleverly scaled to give the illusion that one has just been reduced to the size of an action figure, featuring such detail as giant, exposed Philips screw heads and an explanation of the interactive phase of the ride that resembles a toy's instruction sheet, only on a gigantic scale. An Audio-Animatronic Buzz Lightyear figure and giant Etch-a-Sketch (Disneyland) and/or Viewmaster (Disney World) provide explanation of the "mission" to destroy Zurg's secret weapon with your blasters. While his body is audio-animatronic, Buzz's face is actually a screen with a projection of computer animation, allowing better lipsync and more expressive features, making him look like a more realistic representation of the character from the films.
"Astro Blasters" and "Space Ranger Spin" are equal parts shooting gallery and dark ride. Visitors board an Omnimover space vehicle featuring two laser pistols and a joystick. The pistols are used to shoot laser beams at targets of varying point values. Targets that are hit while lit up will produce much higher scores. A digital readout on the dashboard shows the player's score. The joystick allows full 360-degree rotation of the vehicle to assist in aiming. During the ride, if the ride slows down or completely stops (this is a result of either a handicapped guest or a ride breakdown) during the ride, this allows for "bonus points" as the pistols and targets do not turn off. There are 4 different shaped targets which are worth different amounts of points: round (100 points), square (1,000 points), diamond (5,000 points), and triangle (10,000 points).
At the conclusion of the ride, the digital score flashes L1, L2, ... L7 displaying the ranking or level achieved for the below scores:
Level 1 Star Cadet: 0 – 1,000
Level 2 Space Ace: 1,001 – 10,000
Level 3 Planetary Pilot: 10,001 – 100,000
Level 4 Space Scout: 100,001 – 300,000
Level 5 Ranger 1st Class: 300,001 – 600,000
Level 6 Cosmic Commando: 600,001 – 999,998
Level 7 Galactic Hero: 999,999
At one point in the attraction, each visitor is photographed during game play and, at "Astro Blasters", has the option of sending an electronic postcard via e-mail at the exit queue. "Astro Blaster's" photos include the player's score. If the score is in the top 100 highest of the day, the player's ranking is also included in the photo. The Top 10 players' scores are shown on the scoreboard at the exit queue, along with 3 letters that the person chooses to identify themselves. The top person gets their face posted on the screen. The Disneyland version once featured at-home play tied directly to the attraction itself via the Internet, however this is disabled.
The installation at the Magic Kingdom utilises an existing ride system by Arrow Development. The remaining installations use an omnimover system by Sansei Yusoki.
The layout and systems of the ride date all the way back to 1972. This space was originally home to If You Had Wings, an aviation themed ride sponsored by Eastern Airlines. Eastern Airlines dropped sponsorship of the ride for financial reasons in early June 1987. All Eastern themes were moved, and the ride was renamed If You Could Fly. If You Could Fly closed down in January 1989.
Six months after If You Had Wings/If You Could Fly closed down, the ride reopened as a completely redressed ride called Delta Dreamflight, sponsored by Delta Air Lines. Delta sponsored the attraction until January 1996, when, due to financial reasons and sponsorship of the 1996 Summer Olympics, they withdrew their sponsorship. The ride was renamed simply Dreamflight until June 1996 when the ride became known as Take Flight. Take Flight closed in January 1998 to be transformed into Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, which opened ten months later. Space Ranger Spin thus has a combination of the elements of its predecessors and all new scenes (the speed tunnel is the original speed tunnel from If You Had Wings and Delta Dreamflight).
Tomorrowland Transit Authority dioramas
The installation of Space Ranger Spin also impacted the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which runs through the south show building. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority, or TTA as it is often called for short, had opened in 1975 as the WEDway PeopleMover. At that time, If You Had Wings was the attraction occupying the south show building. Three diorama windows were also positioned on the track: two on the right and one of the left. These allowed the Mexico, Jamaica, and Trinidad scenes to be visible to riders on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in such a way as to hide all projectors, lights and other show support equipment.
The diorama windows were altered once more when If You Had Wings was transformed into Delta Dreamflight. This was done because the windows no longer correctly lined up with show scenes. The first window was replaced with backlit panels depicting the ride's barnstormer scene. Window two looked into the Parisian Excursion scene, from a viewpoint which heavily distorted the tableau's forced perspective. The third window would have had TTA riders looking directly into an extremely bright light and so was completely obscured with plywood and black fabric.
When the ride transitioned yet again into the current attraction of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in 1998, the first window was refitted with the diorama of the hair salon, and the second left open to look into the new attraction, though concern was expressed over the fact that this view allows TTA riders to look directly into banks of high-powered blacklights. At one point during Space Ranger Spin, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the TTA passing through the building.
Disneyland's version of the ride is called Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, like the Magic Kingdom version, also uses infrastructure from previous attractions. The space the ride takes up was first occupied by the Circle-Vision 360° theater. The space was transformed in 1997 when Tomorrowland received a major makeover, and the Circle-Vision theater became part of the queue line for the infamous Rocket Rods. However, the Rocket Rods were prone to breakdowns, and ran from 1998 to 2000. After closing, the queue line stood empty for several years until Astro Blasters opened in 2005. Astro Blasters occupies the space formerly used by the Rocket Rods' queue. A key difference between Astro Blasters and Space Ranger Spin is that in Astro Blasters, the laser guns can be removed from their mounts to allow for more accurate shooting (similar to Men in Black: Alien Attack), while in Space Ranger Spin, they cannot be removed from their mounts and have limited movement. Also a point of interest is that Zurg's machine is actually taken from the Walt Disney World version, only half-destroyed, implying that this version is a sequel to the original.
At Disneyland Paris, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast replaced the Circle-Vision 360° production Le Visionarium, which closed in 2004. This version of the ride is much like the Disneyland version, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, except for the presence of a tribute to Le Visionarium: When you are in the robot attack scene at the beginning, if you look beneath the left arm of the Box-O-Bot, you might be able to see 9-Eye (the Circumvisual Photodroid from Le Visionarium) hiding there. However, it is an easy to miss tribute.
The most recent version of this attraction is called Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue. It is more heavily based on the opening scene of Toy Story 2, taking place on the planet where Zurg has his lair set up, and featuring the same style of robots as in the film.