Cars Land Review, pt 2: The Rides of Cars Land

This is a multi-part review of Disney’s California Adventure’s latest addition, related to the PIXAR film, CARS.

( For Pt 1, The Theming of Cars Land, click here )

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When Disney’s California Adventure opened in 2001, one thing a number of visitors said the new park was lacking, were rides. While several rides were available in the park, it seemed that the management was looking into making DCA more of a destination spot for teenagers and older visitors (with plenty of disposable income).

New rides and refurbishments were added to California Adventure over the next 11 years of its operations. With the opening of Cars Land in June of 2012, the new themed area also ‘came standard’ with 3 new rides. In this second segment of our 3-part review, we’ll take a gander at each of them.

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Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree

The Story: At the entrance of Radiator Springs, lies Mater’s Towing & Salvage yard. However, in the wake of Radiator Springs receiving more traffic in recent years, Mater has decided to find a way to entertain many of the town’s guests. His solution? A junkyard jamboree, in which a number of little baby tractors and their tractor-trailers do a little square-dance inside of the junkyard. Nearby, a jukebox made up of old car parts plays the square-dance songs, of which Mater sings each one.

The Ride: Two yards in the junkyard each feature 3 circular turntables, on which the baby tractors move around on. As they go around the circles, their trailers ‘whip and whirl’ around. The ride lasts around 2 minutes, and is based on the square-dance songs that Mater sings.

The Theming:Unlike the rather unkempt look of the junk yard in Cars, it appears Mater has tried to make his place more presentable. The leaning shack in which Mater makes his home is there, and there are a number of rusty car parts on the premises. For the crowds, large shaded ‘sheds’ have been installed, with fans inside to keep air circulating for the crowds.

One of the most fun areas of the queue is after you first enter. Along one wall, are mementos from the adventures Mater had from the Cars Toons shorts, Mater’s Tall Tales.

The junkyard’s jukebox is also a way for Mater to have a presence in the ride, without him actually being there. The songs Mater sings are randomized, with a special ‘easter egg’ song that pops up in the rotation once every hour. 5 of the songs are also included on the exclusive Music of Cars Land CD (which can be found in Sarge’s Surplus Hut at Cars Land).

The Verdict: If you don’t like being whipped and whirled around, then this ride isn’t for you (I saw a couple 3-4 year-olds who didn’t seem to be having fun). However, the unpredictability of the trailer moving around did put a smile on my face. I think it also helps if you ride with more than just one person (I had to hold onto the front safety bar so as not to be slammed into the sides). This is a nice ‘couples’ ride, or maybe a 3-person experience if the riders are small enough). It’s a fun little mini-thrill with a cute little theme.

I was a little disappointed to see that the baby tractors in the ride had stationary rear wheels, but as the ride starts going, you soon could care less about that. As well, using 3 rotating platforms helps make the ride more fun, instead of the standard ‘figure eight’ that could easily have been used.

A nice little side-attraction is that near the entrance to the ride, there’s a small baby tractor you can take photos with.

As of my writing this article, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, with its short-but-sweet 2 minute running time, makes it a ride that has very few long lines during the day. Some people have said that you can take your time and experience the ride later, and I’d have to agree with them. I rode the ride a second time around 8 pm one evening, and got on in less than 10 minutes. Dad-gum!

Final Grade: B

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Luigi’s Flying Tires

The Story: Much like Mater, Luigi and Guido have decided to also welcome new guests to town. Out behind the Casa Della Tires, Luigi has spruced up his garden and tire storage yard. Supposedly, a special variety of the Fettucine Alfredo tire has the uncanny ability to float on a cushion of air, and Luigi and Guido invite guests to enjoy themselves by jumping onto these special tires, and floating on a cushion of air. The special event is dubbed The Festival of the Flying Tires.

The Ride: Guests are invited to climb aboard the 2-seater flying tires, and as they rise off the ground, guests move their bodies in the direction they wish to ‘fly,’ and the tires will follow suit.As you ride, Italian-style music plays over the speakers, as everyone makes their tires ‘dance on air.’

The Theming:The queue area that leads you through Luigi’s Casa Della Tires and into the rear of the store is quite a treat. Railings in the queue are capped by small tires, and we get plenty of familiar visual reminders from the film series. These include the tire showroom, and the tryout mirrors (complete with simulated roadway to see how your new tires will look once they hit the pavement!).

As we leave the main showroom, we find ourselves back near Luigi’s office, with several display cases showing mementos that Luigi and Guido have collected both in Radiator Springs, and from going around the world during Lightning McQueen’s entry to the World Grand Prix in Cars 2. The display items are quite plentiful, and unless the line is moving really, really, really slow, it’ll take you a few trips back to see them all.

Once you make your way outside, you’ll find the garden is decorated with hubcaps, pennants, and plenty of Italian-style decor. There’s even a sculpture of the Italian race car Francesco Bernoulli on display in the garden.

At night, the lights strung overhead illuminate the ‘festival,’ and make it quite a sight.

The Verdict: When this ride was announced as being an homage to Tomorrowland’s Flying Saucers ride, many Disney fans cheered (myself included!). Having seen video of people on the single-occupant flying saucers from Disneyland footage, I too was excited to give these a try. Though much like Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, the Flying Tires don’t feel right unless you have 2-3 people in your tire.

Word is that many first-timers were unclear how to fly their tires, even with numerous signs leading up to the ride. One remedy was a small queue before you get on, in which a Cast Member and a volunteer, tell about how to use your body to steer. I raised my hand to volunteer, and was rewarded for my bravery:

Ta-Da! I’ve earned my wings (in sticker form)!

Strangely enough, the tutorial was done when I went on the ride in the morning one day, but when I went on it during another evening, there was no tutorial.

I almost equate the ride to being like bumper boats, but on air. A big problem is that due to the size and amount of tires, there can be small bottlenecks of people here and there. The controls were also updated in the last month or so, with the exclusion of a spin-control, and plans are to remove 20-pounds of unneeded material from underneath the tires, which should help make them easier to steer (how this will affect the ride, we haven’t heard yet).

To up the ‘fun factor’ during the first few months, 4-foot beachballs with Italian flag colors were added, and this seemed to make the ride more fun, as people were trying to smoosh the balls with their tires, or catch and throw them. One time, my tire and another person’s caused one of the balls to fly about 12 feet in the air!

A week or so after my visit, reports were coming in that the beachballs were removed, as a way to help the ride’s loading time (which often stretched to an hour).

A lot of people have considered the flying tires the ‘dud’ of Cars Land, but I think the ride just needs some more fine-tuning to it. After all, Disneyland was not a great success when it was first opened. If the lines are short enough, I’d recommend getting on, as it has a nice team/family feel to it, and the queue experience helps with my final grade below.

Final Grade: B

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Radiator Springs Racers

The Story: The denizens of Radiator Springs (in association with the Racing Sports Network), are hosting a big race in and around town, and you are one of the big race-day participants!

The Ride:You and 5 other passengers are seated in an open-top vehicle. You’ll drive through Ornament Valley, make your way into town to prepare, and then go hood-to-hood with another car, vying for first place!

The Theming: The queue areas in Disney attractions are often known for their attention-to-detail, and with Racers, we have one of the most eye-opening queues that winds its way through the outdoor setting.

As you make your way through one of three different lines (there are separate lines for single-riders, Fastpass riders, and stand-by riders), you are treated to some really intricate theming. Racers zoom over 2 bridges above you, but as we get closer to the rock-work of Ornament Valley, we come across a new site: some of the first buildings constructed after Radiator Springs was founded! We find Stanley’s Oasis, and even the fabled springs that the town was named after, water bubbling from a radiator-like rock-cropping. A fun game that I and alot of people played, was trying to toss a coin into the bubbling water on top (someone even threw a dollar bill into the water!).

Loading up inside the Comfy Caverns Motor Court, a historical part of Radiator Springs.

Eventually, you make your way into an exposed side of the nearby mountain range, where you come across the Comfy Caverns Motor Court. This will serve as the loading area for the vehicles. Once you’re safety belt is secure, and Sheriff gives you the safety spiel, you’re on your way.

Much like in Cars, the first leg of your journey takes you on a picturesque sight-seeing tour around Ornament Valley, even viewing the spectacular waterfall that took Lightning McQueen’s breath away (right before Sally snatched it away a few seconds later).

Before you know it, you’ve entered into a cave, where you then encounter several familiar faces, before making your way into Radiator Springs, where your car is spruced up for the big race. You can either get some new white wall tires from Luigi’s, or a new paint job from Ramone’s. You’ll then get a little pep talk from Doc Hudson (done up in his Fabulous Hudson Hornet decals!), before Luigi and Guido drop the starting flag-

-and you’re off at speeds up to 40 miles an hour, racing through the hills! You’ll take banked turns, power over hills, and much more, as you attempt to win the big race! Who will win? Well, you’ll need to hop in a car to find out for yourself.

The Verdict: One thing that alot of Disneyland fans have decried, has been the lack of a big E-Ticket attraction installed on the resort grounds. The last time the park had such a ride open, was in 1995, with Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye in Adventureland. This is one of my family’s favorite attractions, and I still recall the 3-hour lines that stretched into Frontierland that summer of 1995.

While I held Indy at the top of my list, Radiator Springs Racers is one of those theme park attractions that just ups the ante in a whole new way, and has knocked Indy to #2 on my list! This is the kind of ride that if you go into it without knowing a thing, I guarantee you’ll come out in an amazed state of shock and awe.

What helps is that the theming for the ride extends all the way out to the tips of Radiator Springs, insulating you in the world of the ride before you even get into the line. Such a feat has not been done so well in the American parks until this ride!

John Lasseter was a former Disneyland ride operator, and one can see how his experiences at Disneyland and as a person who worked for both Walt Disney Feature Animation & PIXAR, shaped this attraction. The ride is also one of the first I’ve seen, that follows a 3-act ‘story’ structure. This helps get you into the groove of the ride, and builds up your excitement before you eventually get to the race.

The interior dark-ride portion of the ride is truly incredible, with over 20 audio-animatronic vehicles based off of the Cars characters. Each uses multiple techniques to make the characters come to life. It’s one thing to make animatronic figures of humans, but full-size vehicles are another matter entirely, and here, the results made me feel like a kid again!

While I was at the Disneyland Resort, I rode Racers 7 times. Using the single-rider lines, my 40-45 minute wait times were usually helped along by chatting with guests and families in line. Several of them, when they found out I was going on the ride again, seemed to grow more excited. On the way out after the race, I’d see the guests who I talked with, and upon asking how they liked the ride, all of them excitedly told me that they enjoyed the experience. One family of 5 loved it so much, that they immediately got back into the single-rider line after the race! A couple I talked to were surprised that the ride vehicles had a top speed of 40 mph. To them, the cars seemed to go much faster.

When I visited the park in early August of 2012, the Fastpasses for Racers were often gone an hour or so after the park opened, and the regular stand-by line had wait-times of up to 2 hours! Some are predicting that over the course of the ride’s first year, the crowds will start to die down, and a more manageable wait time will be on hand (I could easily see this ride hitting average wait times of 45-60 minutes, much like popular rides like Indiana Jones and Space Mountain).

Rumor currently circulating online, is that the company wants to find a way to transplant Racers down to Walt Disney World. Personally, I say leave the ride as a California exclusive. Each park needs a major attraction to get people to visit. Besides, Walt Disney World has had plenty of ‘toys’ on their property over the years, that it’s time that the Anaheim parks had something bright and shiny to entice guests.

Doc Hudson (aka Paul Newman) lives on inside “Radiator Springs Racers,”serving as your crew chief in the big race.

We truly have a winner on our hands here, Ladies and Gentlecars. If you do make it to Disney’s California Adventure, you owe it to yourself to go on Radiator Springs Racers at least once. I’ll leave it to you if you deem it worthy enough to hop back on right afterwards.

I’d also recommend taking a ride after dark. The illuminated rock work of Ornament Valley is quite striking at night.

Final Grade: A+

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Even with two B-grade rides and an A+ ride, Cars Land has plenty of stuff that will surely keep attracting people to Radiator Springs. In a way, Cars Land improves over the the last Disneyland expansion I recall: 1993’s Mickey’s Toontown.

Mickey’s Toontown gave us a wonderful representation of the place where Mickey and his friends lived, but was often short on attractions for everybody. Alot of the places to visit (such as Goofy’s Bounce House, and Chip n’ Dale’s Treehouse), were more kid-friendly than family-friendly. In fact, there were only two ‘rides’ in Toontown one could go on as a family: Roger Rabbit’s Car-Toon Spin, and Gadget’s Go-Coaster.

A still from the Cars Toons short, “Time-Travel Mater.”

One fun little thing that was done for the opening of Cars Land, was the creation of a special Mater’s Tall Tale short, in which Lightning McQueen and Mater travel back in time, and meet the town’s founder, Stanley. The short almost serves as an unofficial travelogue as to what you may encounter, with the majority of things being what you’ll experience when you ride Radiator Springs Racers!

If you visit California Adventure at the time of this posting (September 2012), you can see the short running on a loop in the Blue Sky Cellar right near the entrance of Cars Land. The cases and walls are lined with concept art and models of the creation of the new land as well. (By the way, if you go and see a a couple guys named Marc or Stevens, tell them Michael says “Hi”)

Even though this was in the case as you made your way through Luigi’s Casa Della Tires, I decided to save this as my closing image. A fun little reference to Disney’s films, in the form of a town film festival. The host names on the poster are vehicle variations on PIXAR Producers Darla K Anderson (producer of CARS), and Denise Ream (producer of CARS 2).

( For Part 3, The Eateries of Cars Land, click here )

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About MWH1980

Growing up in the state of Iowa, one would assume I'd be enamored with pigs and corn. Well, I wasn't. Instead, I grew fascinated by many things that were entertainment-related. Things like movies, animation, toys, books, and many more kept my attention. This blog I hope to use to express myself regarding my varied obsessions. (P.S. There's no Photoshop involved in that Gravatar-I really am holding an Oscar)

2 responses to “Cars Land Review, pt 2: The Rides of Cars Land”

  1. Atlanta Junk Cars says :

    That movie always gave me an odd feeling, only because there was one character was completely scrapped out, the towing truck.

    -David Enabulele

    Like

    • MWH1980 says :

      Well, Mater wasn’t the only one that was showing signs of wear and tear.

      There was the tent of Rust-Eze fans, not to mention the little car named Fred, who kept losing his front bumper.

      Like

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