As a rule, entertainment conglomerates do not like to be humiliated. So after the fiasco of Disney Interactive’s Lion King Activity Center — a CD-ROM that had thousands of frustrated parents swamping tech-support lines with woeful tales of nonfunctioning sound cards and video freeze-ups — it was a foregone conclusion that Disney’s Animated Storybook: Toy Story would be an impeccable piece of programming, the software equivalent of a deluxe-room upgrade at Disney World’s Grand Floridian.
True to its title, this disc recasts last fall’s hit movie as an interactive page-turner for kids, with gentle narration by Hamm the Pig. All the familiar scenes are included, augmented by the kinds of point-and-click activities that will keep tots happily humming away while their parents tune up the car or write mortgage checks. In the first chapter, for instance, kids have to return all the toys to their proper positions before their owner, Andy, returns to his room. Later, there’s an ingenious scene in which tykes arrange these same playthings in a Rube Goldberg-esque pattern, in order to launch Buzz Lightyear out the window. (Jim Hanks, by the way, steps in for brother Tom as the voice of Woody. We’re willing to bet that the unidentified voice of Buzz does not belong to any relative of Tim Allen’s.)
The most remarkable thing about the disc, though, is the animation. Most CD-ROM movie adaptations present scenes from the original flick in a truncated, non-interactive manner that can be mildly off-putting for both kids and adults. But the sequences in Animated Storybook (which so closely mirror those in the film) have an immediate, you-are-there quality. And that, in itself, is as neat a trick as any attraction at Disney World. A