Monday June 11th, 2012. I got to go to the preview for Cars Land, the new land they just completed at Disney California Adventure that opens this Friday June 15th, 2012. This is the latest of a great many updates Disney has done to revitalize and expand the DCA park. My one sentence review would be simply this. Mission Accomplished!
But that would be a totally boring review.
I do need to warn you. This is a rather long one and may contain spoilers, such as they are. However, at the end of the day, I would rather give you guys as much detail as I can than not enough. So here we go.
I have to say I was very heavily impressed at the level of detail they achieved. It is literally like you walked into the town of Radiator Springs. They apparently brought in Imagineers from all around the world, from all the parks to work on this one. They have pulled off nothing short of a masterpiece with this one. It is nice to see that even decades after Walt’s passing, the Imagineers still care and that the company Walt Disney built is still committed to bringing their “A Game”. Despite some stumbles along the way.
They have outdone themselves with this new land. As you go through the stone arch and into the valley of Radiator Springs you are greeted by the lofty spires of Cadillac Ridge. Ok , this is where I have to admit to my periodic denseness. At first I didn’t get it. I thought “Cadillac Ridge” ok its Cars Land, of course they would name it that. Then one of the people we were there with pointed out the shapes of the formations jutting out of the tops of the ridge. Doh! Ok I get it now. It just adds still more to the level or creativity of this new land.
As you walk a little further in on the right you see some of the track for Radiator Springs Racers. This ride is by far the star attraction of this new land. More on that later. We continued around the curve to come to the main crossroads of the town. The level of detail was even down to the main drag being made to look freshly paved while the “side street” we were on looked old and in need of some care. On our right was Ramone’s Body Shop, on our left was Flo’s V8 Cafe. Across the street from Ramone’s was Luigi’s Casa Della Tires. Which is the location of the first ride we went on, Luigi’s Floating Tires. If you turn right at the cross roads you can see the City Hall and the statue of the founder of Radiator Springs “Stanley”. Continue to the right from there and you enter the queue for Radiator Springs Racers.
If you turn left at the cross roads you see the Radiator Springs Curios shop across the street from Flo’s then down the street a little bit you see the Cozy Cone Motel on the right directly across the street from Sarge’s Supply Shack. A little further down you have Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree on the right and Filmore’s Taste In shop on the left next door to Sarge’s. Past that is the edge of Cars Land leading back into the main portion of DCA. If you don’t turn at the crossroads and continue on you will see the exit area of Luigi’s Floating Tires and then it empties out near the Bug’s life area and behind the Hollywood Backlot area next to the south side of Tower of Terror.
Visually the whole place is stunning. It literally feels like you walked into the movie Cars. They had two characters from the film rolling around. Mater and Lighning McQueen “Kachow!”. They are animated in that there are parts that move with engine noises. Lightning’s body shifts as we revs as if there is alot of torque under the hood. Mater’s engine rattles a bit. The eyes look around a bit. The mouths are static though. However, they do talk. When they are roaming around the town they pull up in front of the Cozy Cone and park for photo ops. People can come up and pose with either of the vehicles and they talk a little bit. It’s all stock phrases though. No actual conversation per se. Still they look great and they are clearly pretty advanced as roaming characters go.
Before I go into the rides let’s talk about the shops. In Ramones you can buy clothing and apparel. Shirts, hats, some knick knacks. But the true star here, for me anyway, wasn’t even the merchandise. It was, again, the level of detail. All the pin striping in this shop, and there is a ton of it, is hand done. They brought in world famous pin stripping experts from the automotive world to do this work. The decor alone is a work of art. Then you have the custom fixtures. All vehicle themed of course. I took several pictures which you can see in my Flickr set I link at the end of this review.
Moving on to Flo’s V8 Cafe. This is one of the two food vendors in the new land. It’s very ’50s/’60s diner in the fare they serve as well as the decor. lots of neon and smooth curves. Baby blues and sea foam greens are the main color scheme as well as that gaudy pink that somehow works well here. In one side of the seating area for Flo’s its supposed to be the clinic where Doc Hudson had his practice. You can see his degrees, the eye chart and various other decorations. On the other side of the Cafe is the other indoor seating area which is all about Flo’s past as the lead singer of “Flo and the Motorama Mamas”. You see several gold records and album covers hung on the walls and more of the beautiful pipe sculptures made from chromed exhaust pipes. I didn’t sample the food here as I ended up getting my food from the other food server in the area but I am told it was good. They have Apple Cheddar Pie as well as a Rhubarb Berry pie that our compatriots ordered and stated they loved.
The other food service vending area is at the Cozy Cone. It is set up like a mini food court. Mostly snack type food. Churros, Chili served in a bread cone (which I ordered) as well as popcorn, Ice cream and another place in DCA that you can get “leaded” drinks. They have a Vodka Pomegranate Limeade for the adults if they desire it.
Sarges Supply Shack is primarily Toys. Cars and Cars 2 toys. Fillmore’s Taste In is a place to get more healthy fare. Fruit, juice etc. The Radiator Springs Curios is a general souvenirs shop. Not specifically Cars themed stock wise but decorated nicely. It is also the location of the Cars Land Pin selection for you pin traders out there.
Now on to the rides.
We will describe them in the order I rode them, which happens to coincide with their fun level. We started off with Luigi’s Floating Tires. The queuing area for this has tons of stuff to look at. Check out my photo set linked at the end of the article for details. There are so many bits you could go on the ride over ten times and still catch stuff you missed. It is focused around Luigi and Guido’s adventures in the racing world and Luigi’s obsession with racing and racers. You get a peak at Luigi’s office then move to the outside portion of the queue. The ride itself is a variation of the old UFO Saucers that used to be in the main Disneyland park back in the ’60s. Only this time the air is coming from the ground up instead of the vehicle forcing air down to the ground to sustain its lift. There are about two dozen of the actual floating tire vehicle things and just as many giant beach balls. Yes, I said beach balls. Why did they put in beach balls you ask? It is actually very practical. The way you steer the little tire vehicles is by leaning them. Lean to the left it starts floating to the left. Lean to the right it goes right and so on. Well they explain the basics of this to you before you get on however alot of people really don’t get it. So apparently some Imagineer had the brainstorm “Why not throw a bunch of beach balls out there as well. People will instinctively try and get them,” and they do! I watched all the groups before ours try and chase the beach balls around the ride zone. The balls help people steer the vehicles. I also noted , with surprise, that the beach balls don’t get blown out and away from the zone like you might think they would. They sit quite nicely at ground level while the air is rushing up from the ground through the over 2,700 little holes in the ground that the air is forced through. I asked one of the attendants how it worked and he told me. He is the one who explained the difference between this and the UFO Ride from the ’60s. He also apparently worked for the park back then as well and at one point worked on said UFO ride. Which means this guy has been working at the park almost since it opened. Talk about dedication. He was a hoot to talk to.
I would give Luigi’s Floating Racers a 7 out of 10. It’s fun but it isn’t a show stopper.
The next ride we went on was Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. There are a lot of really neat little details in the queuing area for this one as well. There is even a Tractor Calf you can “pet” at Mater’s Petting Zoo right at the entrance to the ride. I didn’t get to see most of the details due to the fact that the line for this one was so short we went almost straight on to the ride from the front entrance. There was no wait. Now at first glance this looks like a variation on the Teacups from Alice in Wonderland at the main park. Yes you go around a circle, well three circles actually, but that is where the similarity ends.
This isn’t your standard happy go pukey ride. On Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree you ride in a cart attached to the end of a baby tractor (like the ones from the movie.) It swings to the right and left with springs and shock absorbers. The tractors go in a circle around three giant discs on the ground. As you come to the edge of one of the other discs your tractor switches off to that disc and follows it around. Think of it as tracing a giant figure 8 with an extra loop. That’s not the really fun part of this ride. The fun part is that as you switch off and go around the edge the inertia swings your little cart to the side and back as you go around. Trust me you pick up some pretty serious inertia going around this thing. A lot more than you would think or expect. It was really fun.
My grade for Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is 8.5. Surprisingly fun for such a seemingly simple concept.
Now those rides are fun but the third and final ride in Cars Land, Radiator Springs Racers, is the show stealer! For those of you familiar with the Florida parks. It is the answer to the question, “What would happen if Test Track had a love child with a classic style “Dark Ride”.
Again, the Imagineers pulled out all the stops on this one. The aesthetics of the ride itself. The queuing area has lots of little flourishes and stuff to keep it interesting as you wait the hour plus to get on the ride. I would strongly recommend that you don’t just automatically fast pass this one. It is worth going through the queue on this one at least once. There are hundreds if not thousands of little details that make it worthwhile. You even pass the actual Radiator Springs Spring…which is a radiator…of sorts.
When you finally get to the boarding area you get into your car. Each of the cars hold up to 6 riders. You start out single laning it. You drive around the area of Radiator Springs taking in the views then you go inside. This begins the dark ride portion. You pull into the outskirts of Radiator springs and there are audio animatronic versions of several key characters from the Cars movies. You even get to do some “Tractor Tippin’ “. You then pull into the town where you interact with Sally and Lightning then Sarge and Filmore as well as other characters before going into one of two options. This is where the ride converts from one lane to two. Setting up the racing portion. If you go to the left you go into Luigi’s and he gives you new white walls. If you go to the right you end up in Ramone’s for a new paint job. Once you come out of which ever option you end up in, you pass Doc Hudson who prepares you for the race. Then you queue up against another vehicle with riders in the other lane. Luigi counts you down drops the flag and the race is on. At this point the ride gets really fast. This is the Test Track portion of the hybrid. At the end of the race you come back around to the loading area and there is a photo buy option if you want to get the picture they took somewhere along the way.
In my mind, this was by far the best part of the whole attraction. Which is really saying something considering how impressed I had been with the whole new land. The quality of the animatronics and effects was top notch, though I found the decision to use projection over practical for some of the mouths a bit confusing but it works well either way.
My grade for Radiator Springs Racers 10 out of 10. It is a quality ride through and through.
My only regret for the day was that I wasn’t able to see it after dark this trip because our preview time was 1p to 5p but I will go back and get night shots after it opens to the world on June 15th, 2012.
For the first new land in almost 10 years, I have to say, Disney, you did good here. Please keep this level of dedication and enthusiasm for the rest of the parks and keep Walt’s dream alive. Walt Disney said that the parks would never be complete because they would constantly change and adjust to the times. For the first time in a long time, I think they are going down the right path and finally giving the California parks some of the love they have needed for a long time. Definitely check out the new Cars Land area of Disney California Adventure. You won’t be disappointed.
Please check out my Flicker set for this Preview. Also many of the details I described above are viewable there. You can find the set Here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7771119@N03/sets/72157630052597379/ .
Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment below.
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