Disneyland Resort will be unveiling Cars Land this week at the Disney California Adventure theme park, and an advance look at the new “land” promises to give visitors an immersive, nostalgic trip down Route 66 - or, at least, Pixar‘s charming version of the region as portrayed in Cars, Pixar’s seventh animated feature.
In Cars Land, the little town of Radiator Springs and the mighty Cadillac Mountain Range (which by both forced perspective and actual monumental scale seems to envelope the small town) are brought to life in astonishing detail, bringing a location from a Pixar film to life in the real world for the first time – a feat that amazes both because of the skill of Disney’s Imagineers in replicating the film’s look, and also because of the original detail that was obviously placed into the film in the first place.
A stroll through Radiator Springs on Route 66 reveals the southwest in an entirely new way. A curio shop sells snowglobes, postcards and license plate frames, and Flo’s V8 Cafe sells pork loin smothered in Coca-Cola Barbecue Sauce. If you just want to snack, the Cozy Cone will sell everything from cones of subtly flavored popcorn (think sweet and spicy, or dill pickle flavors, for example) to chili con queso supplied in – you guessed it – an edible cone. The Cozy Cone also serves up specialty drinks, both alcoholic and non, and you can even drink them out of a souvenir traffic cone.
The hotly anticipated “Radiator Springs Racers” is a thrilling new ride which is set inside of the mountain range behind Radiator Springs. On the way to “Racers,” guests make a quick visit to Stanley’s Oasis, a roadside stop commemorating the natural spring discovered decades ago by the old Stanley Steamer as he journeyed west. Stanley’s discovery led to the eventual founding of Radiator Springs, and guests are treated to this bit of back story as they make their way through the queue to ride “Racers.”
“Racers,” based on technology used at Walt Disney World in the “Test Track” at Epcot, is a rollicking ride that takes six passengers at a time on a slot-car adventure through Radiator Springs as they meet their favorite characters from Cars while avoiding obstacles and preparing for a big race. Finally, in the climax of the attraction, two racers stop side by side, revving their engines, and with the wave of a flag, the race is on! While not as heart-stopping as a roller coaster or as breathtaking as the park’s “Tower of Terror,” “Racers” has Pixar’s magical world and the all-encompassing Cadillac Mountain Range going for it, propelling this family-friendly adventure to the list of Disneyland Resort’s don’t-miss attractions.
“Luigi’s Flying Tires,” another heavily-themed ride, doesn’t fare as well. The queue, which winds through a beautifully appointed tire showroom in which Pixar in-jokes abound, is a joy to behold. But the attraction itself leaves something to be desired – that something being a memorable experience. After a longer-than-average wait (since the ride’s capacity is so small), most guests will find the flying tires, which are essentially giant inner tubes hovering over a bed of air blasting out of the surface of the arena, difficult to control and, even when operated correctly, somewhat lethargic. It wouldn’t be surprising for this attraction to be replaced with standard-issue bumper cars in the near future, which would be a more thrilling experience (especially since the park’s other version of bumper cars, in the other Pixar-themed land based on “A Bug’s Life,” also suffers from design flaws that restrict the potential thrill of banging into other vehicles.)
“Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree,” on the other hand, is a trailer full of clanky fun. Riders get twirled and whipped around while being pulled by tractors, all to the funky country rhythms of tunes belted out by Mater himself. If the thought of Disneyland’s Mad Tea Party makes your head swim, you might try the slightly milder “Jamboree.” It might be just the ticket – and the queue provides more entertaining Pixar in-jokes and lovably trashy decor.
Disney’s Imagineers haven’t forgotten the resort traditionalists, and have included the expected “hidden Mickeys” throughout Radiator Springs. One clever homage to the mouse can be found overhead, and others may be found in window displays… but those are all of the hints you’ll find here.
One last tip – if you have the option, try entering Cars Land for your first time by going through the Pacific Wharf dining area to the rear entrance. The grandeur of the Cadillac Mountain Range is simply breathtaking, and you’ll wonder, “How did they ever manage to create this place?”