With Pixar Fest now in full flow, the excitement keeps growing for the official opening of Pixar Pier and all of the new experiences it will bring. We’ll have new boardwalk games, an updated Ferris Wheel (or the Pixar Pal-A-Round, as it has somehow been named), and the Incredicoaster. All of these new things have me super excited to get back to Disney California Adventure, but for now, it’s time to take a little trip into the past to learn about another Pixar area in the park.
Opening on June 15th, 2012, Cars Land opened on the former footprint of the Timon parking lot, an area that had been slated for future growth since the opening of Disney California Adventure. The area also took over the Bountiful Valley Farm (which I was very distraught about at the time because they had amazing mozzarella sticks there). Cars Land was the headlining addition of the $1.1 billion expansion to Disney California Adventure that also gave us Buena Vista Street and an updated Paradise Pier.
The idea for Cars Land was actually conceived before the film Cars was even released, as a way to bring more guests to the park. However, they hadn’t quite moved forward with actual construction when Cars was released, so the idea was restructured to bring the characters from the film to life (and provide a great synergy opportunity).
One major element of the original Cars Land that made its way into the land at Disney California Adventure was Radiator Springs Racers. The photo above gives you a small glimpse of what the original attraction looked like, but if you watch the video below, you can see that the Imagineers spared no expense when it came to the attraction’s realization.
Radiator Springs Racers cost over $200 million, nearly one-fifth of the entire expansion budget, but it was worth every penny. When the attraction first opened, it routinely sported lines of over five hours, and even today it consistently has the longest wait time in the entire resort, rarely dipping under an hour.
But man, it is so worth the wait time. Utilizing the moving motion simulator system that was popularized by Test Track at Epcot, the technology is still so impressive today.
What makes this attraction so special is that it combines a traditional dark ride with a thrill ride in a way that few Disney attractions ever have. Your journey begins with a tour through Radiator Springs, and you get a chance to see all of your favorite characters up close and personal. All of the cars are life-sized and incredibly detailed animatronics that never cease to amaze me no matter how many times I ride the attraction. Along the way, the characters keep talking about a big race that you’ll be a part of in the future, and eventually this hope comes to fruition as you either visit Luigi for some new tires or Ramone for a new paint job. Decked out in your new attire, it is finally race time, and you are paired up against another car of guests.
With that, the dark ride portion of the attraction ends as your car rushes outside with a quick burst of acceleration. The thrill ride has begun, and I really like that you get the chance to go outside because the rush of air going through your hair combined with the sense of competition is a feeling unlike anything else. I just can’t help but have a huge smile on my face each time I ride this attraction. I’m definitely not doing it justice through my description, so if you have never had the chance to ride it yourself, it is a can’t miss attraction whenever you may visit Disneyland in the future.
Now Radiators Springs Racers is truly one of the greatest attractions Disney has ever created, but it is not all that Cars Land has to offer. One of the other options for guests is called Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, a new take on the classic spinning attraction (i.e. Mad Tea Party).
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the attraction because I do not do well with spinning, but I do appreciate that it tried to bring something new to the attraction’s genre.
Interestingly enough, even though the land has barely been around for six years, it already has an extinct attraction in Luigi’s Flying Tires. But today is all about what is there now, which just happens to be a huge improvement in Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters.
The first trackless Disney attraction in the American parks, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is a fun little attraction. Seeing these cars move all around with no apparent guidance is just really cool, and I almost enjoy watching more than actually being on the attraction.
But that isn’t to say I don’t like riding the Roadsters. The attraction actually whips you around a bit, so it is really fun to just let yourself give into the motion of the ride as you go on this Italian dance with Luigi. The attraction fits the land really well, and it is easily updatable during the holiday season because new songs can always be played.
This past year, Cars Land got to become part of the Halloween fun at the Disneyland Resort. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to see everything, but from what I heard, it looked fantastic and was a very welcome addition to the park. They even did Halloween overlays to Luigi’s and Mater’s, which I really appreciate that they would put in the effort to even change these simple attractions.
Additionally, Disney has been going all out with Cars Land at Christmastime for years now. The Christmas decorations there are always fantastic and never cease to bring me joy. Cars Land at night is already a sight to behold, so adding in the Christmas spirit makes it super special.
Cars Land is general is one of the most immersive lands ever built. When you walk down the street, you truly feel like you are in the middle of the film, pretty impressive for a film all about cars, not people. Overall, I would have to say that Cars Land is my favorite land in California Adventure. It has done so much to shape the feel of the park and transform it into a full day experience. Even if the Cars franchise is not one of Pixar’s most beloved, it certainly has a home in California Adventure.
That brings today’s journey to a close, but keep an eye out for more looks at Pixar attractions currently in the parks.
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.