Polygon rides the Buzz Lightyear ride

We might never get to explore the vast expanses of the galaxy like epic Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear, but what we do have are fond memories of shooting bad guys at the Buzz Lightyear attraction in Disney theme parks across the world.

There is — or was — a version of a Buzz Lightyear shooting dark ride in all Disney parks worldwide (though, the version in Hong Kong Disneyland was replaced by an Ant-Man ride in 2019). The first ever iteration opened in 1998 in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, in the Tomorrowland area of the park, and is also the only one called Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. The other versions have names like Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

Whatever the name, the premise remains the same: You load up in pairs into a little car and blast away at targets with a laser gun thing. How does it work? Disney magic! Your score then gets tabulated and displayed on your ride photo. If you didn’t perform well, you’re just a Star Cadet; only real MVPs get the title of Galactic Hero. It’s a ride and it’s a game and most of all — it’s a competition.

In celebration of Lightyear premiering in theaters, some Polygon staffers decided to dig up some old ride photos and reminisce about blasting away aliens with their loved ones.

Petrana Radulovic

Photo: Petrana Radulovic/Polygon

This is from my high school band field trip almost 10 years ago. I was not in band at the time, but they had an extra spot on the bus, so I paid for my own ticket so I could join my best friends for one last hurrah. Ah, the memories!

Anyway, my best friend and I naturally had to ride the Buzz Lightyear ride together, which ended up with me getting a disappointing score. Turns out, to win at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, you gotta commit as hard as my friend here.

My friend would like to add that her face is her reaction when she “saw they made Buzz Lightyear hot.”

Pete Volk

two blurry figures illuminated only by lasers from plastic guns, floating in the vast expanse of space

Photo: Pete Volk/Polygon

My partner Tristan and I went to Disneyland shortly after getting married — we had a small ceremony near where we live, but traveled to Los Angeles after to celebrate with my family. This was the one part of the trip where we were able to celebrate alone, and as much as I love my family, it was wonderful.

Why did Disneyland give us such an avant-garde photo, blurry with tons of shadow? I do not know. But our laser gun form is impeccable.

Chelsea Stark

two masked figures concentrating on the targets at buzz lightyear space ranger spin; one with pink hair looks directly at the camera

Photo: Chelsea Stark/Polygon

Is this my killer face? No. I look mildly shocked by Zurg, tbh. Shoutout to my friend Abby, who outgunned me and looks cool under pressure. Hopefully I will be more ready for intergalactic battle next time.

Susana Polo

two figures on the buzz lightyear ride, one gleefully smiling and the other taking it So Seriously. the serious one has the higher score

Photo: Susana Polo/Polygon

On a 2015 trip to Disney with some friends and my brother, I made sure to take pictures of the Buzz Lightyear ride queue to send to our dad, a big fan of Toy Story who had made Pixar releases into family movie night events. But the best picture was at the ride photo kiosk, where I was caught looking like the happy kid on the packaging of an off-brand Super Soaker, and my brother has done a full flip into Master Gamer Mode. But then I guess that’s why he’s the Galactic Hero and I’m just a Star Cadet.

Samit Sarkar

two figures on the buzz lightyear ride, the older woman looks up to the stars, clearly inspired; the younger woman is concentrated

Photo: Samit Sarkar/Polygon

I used to think I was pretty good at video games, but then my wife and I did Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin together… and she kicked my ass. Aside from her own lifetime of playing video games, her skills probably come from the years of practice she had playing things like Space Ranger Spin with her mother, who has since passed but was one of the most competitive people I’ve ever known. (My wife posted this photo on Facebook in 2012 with the caption “serious business.”)

Lightyear is out in theaters now.

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