Disney Interactive knows how to throw a party for their fans. In the second annual Toy Box Summit, this time held at Disneyland’s California Adventure, the company brought fans from all around the world to play with the new Star Wars characters and creations two weeks before the newest iteration of their hit toys-to-life game, Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition, hits store shelves. The fans, coined “master artists,” won the chance to take the trip to Anaheim for the Summit and D23 Expo simply by creating the best Toy Boxes possible, as voted on by fans and those in the company alike.
Things were a little different for the second year, as this time instead of individual Toy Boxes, the master artists were placed onto teams collaborating on a single assigned planetary body from the Star Wars universe.
“In Disney Infinity 2.0, collaboration became such an important part of the community,” explained Patrick Efird (aka Papa Echo), one of the Toy Box artists hired by Disney Interactive as a full-time employee after the first version of the game debuted. “People who never met in person until this Summit had met up online and built Toy Boxes together. So we felt like we had to make it collaborative. Last year was more every man for himself, but the passion for collaboration and having Star Wars meant we had to do something special for it.”
The focus, Efird told StarWars.com, shifted a bit with this version of the game as well. Continuing to build on the idea of using Disney Infinity to make your own stories with your favorite characters from across the Disney family, he found the competitors this year immediately took to the new “creativitoys” that allow for more in-depth stories.
“It’s all about storytelling. We had people trying to let players relive the epic moments from the movies right away: the trench run, speeder chase through the forest,” Efird said of the Toy Boxes fans created in one marathon 17-hour overnight session. “Then we had people making their own twists on things, like the Battle of Hoth from the Empire’s perspective, which was a lot of fun to see. Then we had some that did sort of a ‘choose your own path’ with moral choices; do you go to the dark side or maintain the ways of the Jedi? It’s all really fun.”
Lauren Anderson, a.k.a. MightyGitis, made her second trip to the Summit, having participated in the first one in 2014. She won the fan vote of that contest for her world based on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy star Groot — a world of trees. Wouldn’t you know, this time around, she was assigned to a team of creators who got Endor as their theme. She said the second time around went smoother, and not just because she was “more prepared to stay up all night.”
“This year was a totally different beast because we did teams instead of individual Toy Boxes, and they assigned us a theme. That takes the doubt and decision-making out of it. I didn’t have to sit here and think, ‘what am I going to build?’ because they assigned us our planet from the Star Wars universe. My team was Endor, and I was very excited about that because I love to build forests!”
She admitted that she spent some time kicking Ewoks, who are present in the game as Townspeople before and during the creation of her Ewok village (other members of her team worked on the speeder chase and the shield deactivation in the bunker), but also admitted to loving them in at least one context.
“The best part about Star Wars coming to Disney Infinity is probably the combat that they’ve given us. We were really excited because we discovered midway through the night that Leia has a power where she summons a bunch of Ewoks, and they attack the enemy. It was amazing. We were very excited to see that,” Anderson said.
While it may have been “hard not to just sit and play instead of build,” her team had stiff competition from creators both seasoned and brand new. Noel del Pilar, a.k.a. Sonicphoto, came from Puerto Rico to attend his first Toy Box Summit, having only started submitting and featuring Toy Boxes in the weekly competitions “about five months ago.”
“To be here with the new game, and Star Wars, my favorite franchise, was really exciting,” Pilar said. “We heard so many rumors that Star Wars was coming. It’s so amazing that they’re doing all the stories like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the original trilogy.” The first two characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens were also revealed at the D23 Expo, adding Finn and Rey to the mix for a three-era span of storytelling.
What was even better than playing with the new Star Wars sets?
“It’s really amazing that finally all the Toy Box creators get to see each other,” Pilar said with a smile. “We’ve been in contact on social media or through the console chat, but to finally meet them and work together is really good. I’ve been on a really good team; we help each other out a lot.”
Of course, after the Toy Boxes were put on display and the awards dished out, there’s still plenty to look forward to. Pilar can’t wait to “create my own Star Wars Toy Boxes,” something he’ll focus on for the first few months of release. Efird’s work will continue, though this was “a bucket list item to be able to say that you worked in the Star Wars universe, and were able to work on a Star Wars game with such amazing characters.”
Ultimately, Anderson gives credit to Disney for embracing the community.
“When it started out, they weren’t interacting as much,” she explained. “As the year progressed, they started to show up on Twitter to talk to us, they created Toy Box TV to celebrate the Boxes, and they’ve been really amazing about celebrating and supporting the people in the community and give us a reason to keep creating the new content we create for them.”
Lucas Siegel is a freelance journalist and writer with over a decade of comic book, movie, TV, and video game reporting. A lifelong Star Wars fan, the galaxy far, far away shares time in his brain with Disney, superheroes, and Chicago sports. When he and his wife aren’t at Disney Parks, they’re watching Disney movies, their favorite The Clone Wars episodes, or playing Disney Infinity — you get the idea. He currently contributes to ComicBook.com and other outlets.