Walt Disney World Honors Buzz Lightyear with Hero’s Welcome (Photos, Video)

Buzz Lightyear parades down Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom in a ticker-tape parade (Kent Phillips, photographer)LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2009) – Disney Parks and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) today celebrated Buzz Lightyear’s cosmic achievement as the longest tenured crew member in space with a ticker-tape parade down Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.  Some of Buzz’s new friends, including astronaut Buzz Aldrin and International Space Station Expedition 18 astronaut Michael Fincke, attended.

After living his dream of space travel, Buzz Lightyear returned to Earth aboard Space Shuttle Discovery STS-128 on Sept. 11, following more than 15 months of dedicated service onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The 12-inch-tall action star flew to space as part of an education initiative between Disney Parks and NASA to encourage students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Buzz’s historic space flight is a great example of spreading the excitement of space exploration to students around the world,” said NASA’s Assistant Administrator for Education, Dr. Joyce Winterton.  “We hope that our space station crews and Buzz will spark student interest in the International Space Station and its scientific potential.”

“We can’t thank our partners at NASA enough for bringing Buzz Lightyear home from space to his family, friends and fans here at Disney Parks – after all, this was his dream come true,” said Duncan Wardle, vice president, Disney Parks.  “He was certainly missed and deserves a hero’s welcome!”

Coinciding with the celebratory parade, NASA announced two new student contests and conducted special educational experiences in the park, including fun and informative discussions with NASA astronauts.

The ISS Student Experiment Competition challenges students in 5th-8th grade to devise experiments to be conducted aboard the space station.  The winning 12 experiments will be performed by future station crew members and videotaped for the winning schools.  More information on the competition is available at www.NASA.gov/BuzzonISS.com.

pollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses Oct. 2, 2009 at the Magic Kingdom with the 12-inch-tall Buzz Lightyear toy that spent 15 months in space onboard the International Space Station (ISS). (Garth Vaughan/Disney)Disney Parks and NASA today also launched an online Mission Patch Design Challenge that will run from Oct. 2-Nov. 6.  Students ages 6-12 will have the opportunity to design a mission patch to commemorate Buzz’s return aboard shuttle Discovery and his accomplishment of being the longest-serving toy in space.  The student with the most creative mission patch and 100-word essay will win a trip to Walt Disney World Resort and a VIP tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  More information on the Mission Patch Design Challenge is available at DisneyParks.com/buzz.

NASA and Disney today also launched a new online game as part of the Space Ranger Education Series, both at http://www.nasa.gov/kidsclub.  The series includes fun, educational games for students, as well as materials for educators to download and integrate into their classroom curriculum.

Buzz Lightyear is the intrepid space ranger toy from the Disney•Pixar films “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.”  Originally released in 1995, “Toy Story” was the first fully computer-animated feature film, which earned director John Lasseter a Special Achievement Award (Oscar®) from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Both films chronicle the comedic adventures of a group of toys that come to life when humans aren’t watching. Buzz is one of the beloved toys of child-owner Andy, along with the rest of Andy’s toy gang, including the likeable cowboy Woody, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex, Slinky Dog, Hamm, Jessie the cowgirl and Bullseye the horse.

Buzz isn’t just returning home. He returns to the big screen alongside Woody and the rest of the gang, this time in Disney Digital 3D™.  Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” 3-D double feature hits theaters today (Oct. 2) for a limited two-week engagement.  The Disney Digital 3Dä “Toy Story” celebration culminates next summer in a brand new adventure starring Buzz and Woody: “Toy Story 3” – in theaters June 18, 2010.

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