Stage Review

Cool moves, effects give ‘Toy Story 3’ its buzz

Jessie, Woody, and Buzz Lightyear in Disney on Ice’s “Toy Story 3.’’ Jessie, Woody, and Buzz Lightyear in Disney on Ice’s “Toy Story 3.’’ (Feld Entertainment/Disney On Ice)
By Terry Byrne
Globe Correspondent / February 21, 2011

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You have to hand it to The Mouse. Disney has mastered the art of reconstituting its popular movies and characters into various forms. Disney on Ice’s “Toy Story 3’’ is the latest incarnation, and although it’s not a show I would recommend attending without a child, it does manage to create some “wow’’ moments for parents as well as kids.

With “Toy Story 3’’ as the frame, this show incorporates highlights from each of the three films — including Buzz Lightyear’s conviction that Star Command was about to call him back to outer space, and Jessie the cowgirl’s rescue by Sheriff Woody. With longtime Disney creative director and writer Jerry Bilik putting the pieces together, the audience shifts easily back to the basic plotline of “Toy Story 3’’: Andy, the owner of the toys, is headed off to college and instead of storing his toys in the attic, they are accidentally thrown away; the toys end up at Sunnyside Daycare to be played with by some fearsome children (embodied on the ice by giant puppets), imprisoned by the leader of the toys, Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, and then freed by Sheriff Woody.

But really, the success of this show comes from the creative team’s understanding that the story line is simply an opportunity for some truly spectacular skating, enhanced by beautiful costumes and impressive special effects.

Choreographer Cindy Stuart has a resume that includes a long list of Olympic skaters’ routines to her credit. While her figure skaters, working both individually and in pairs, make sit spins, split jumps, double Axels, and even a backflip look easy, Stuart also knows how to show off her ensemble to greatest advantage. Standout production numbers include a precision routine with Andy’s Army men; a hilarious number with the alien toys, in which the skaters start out on their knees to give the impression of tiny toys; a band of Barbies for a workout number; and one of the most elaborate ice dancing routines for a hoedown at “Woody’s Roundup.’’ Stuart also gives nearly all of the main characters a little solo or duet time, with Barbie and Ken’s duet from “Dream Weaver’’ and “Let the Sunshine In’’ featuring some amazing lifts.

The show’s special effects include some jaw-dropping aerial entrances and exits, as well as some low-tech gags for Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. Costume designer Scott Lane has created a colorful look true to the Disney characters that also features skates that look like Barbie heels, cowboy boots, and sneakers. But he’s really outdone it with wigs that are hilariously similar to the dolls, including Barbie’s high ponytail and Ken’s perfectly plastic coif.

Daniel, my 6-year-old companion, was pleased that his favorite character, Zurg, was featured in a battle with his archenemy Buzz Lightyear (complete with exciting explosions), and said the show was “just like the movie, but different.’’

That’s the beauty of this Disney on Ice show: it offers enough references to the film to make a 6-year-old’s eyes widen while offering enough spectacle to entertain the parents.

Terry Byrne can be reached at

DISNEY ON ICE: Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3 Directed by: Patty Vincent

Creative director and writer, Jerry Bilik. Choreography, Cindy Stuart. Costumes, Scott Lane. Scenic design, Joe Stewart. Lighting, Alex Reardon. Video design, Nestor Correa.

At: TD Garden, through Feb. 27. Tickets: $22-$97. 800-745-3000,