Disneyland President George Kalogridis described the changes still to come at the California Adventure, including the debut of the new entrance turnstiles, the Buena Vista Street entrance plaza and the Carthay Circle Theater, which will occupy the place once held by the Sun Sphere. The Carthay Circle was theater where Walt Disney's first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, debuted in the 1920s. California Adventure's Carthay Circle will house a new table-service restaurant and lounge, Kalogridis said, putting to rest rumors that a new Club 33-style private club might go into that space.
Next up, Disney Imagineers Kathy Magnum and Kevin Rafferty talked the crowd through the construction progress in Cars Land. As they spoke, a live video feed from the top of the Tower of Terror panned across the land, shooting close-ups of the construction that were displayed on a video screen. (So you're going to see pictures of a picture here.)
Today's event took place at what will become one of two entrances into Cars Land. The main entrance will stand across from the Blue Sky Cellar, where the Lightning McQueen and Mater meet-'n-greet now stands. Visitors entering Cars Land at that point will walk up Route 66 on their way to Ornament Valley and the land's iconic Radiator Springs Racers ride.
The other entrance, where we sat today, will welcome visitors entering from Pacific Wharf. They walk along the cross street to Route 66, then on to the various attractions and shops in the new land.
Magnum and Rafferty described some of the coming features in the land, as the camera showed them under construction.
The Cozy Cone won't be a motel, as it was in the movie. Now, Sally's property will be a snack food court, selling as sorts of "cone" food, inkling "popcorn" and "chili cone carne," among other groan-inducing puns.
The main restaurant in Cars Land will be Flo's V8 Cafe. There, you'll find "comfort food," inspired by many mom-'n-pop diners along Route 66. (Think Roadfood, I suspect.) Magnum mentioned mac n' cheese as one menu item, and both mentioned that the restaurant will offer pie, the food the two said Imagineers overindulged in on their research trip across the remains of Route 66.
The cafe, which is built to look like a giant air filter, also will provide a backstory for Flo, who they said used to be a Motown-style singer, and whose gold records you'll see on the wall in the cafe. The cafe also will house Doc Hudson's Museum, providing additional backstory on the character voiced in the film by the late Paul Newman.
Luigi's Flying Tires will run in the backyard of the Luigi's tire shop. Here, the story is that Luigi's fired up the air compressors to allow visitors to "fly" on floating tires, levitated by the compressed air.
Finally, the two talked us through Radiator Springs Racers. Visitors will encounter several of the Cars characters, including Lightning McQueen, Mater and Doc Hudson, in the queue for the attraction. Then it's off to the track, where Luigi and Guido will wave the flag as you race against another car of visitors.
Radiator Springs Racers will run on a similar ride system to Test Track at Epcot in Florida. Except that this ride will dispense with all that indoor faux ride testing in favor of just that exhilarating speed run outside, with dips and several turns through Ornament Valley, making this more a thrill ride experience than Test Track.
But there are some surprises at the end of the ride, too. "We have a really wonderful part of Ornament Valley, which is a natural wonder called Tailight Caverns," Rafferty said. "It's filled with stalag-lights [I don't know if he meant "stalactites" or if Disney's coining a new term for those spire-like features in its Ornament Valley caves], which are designed in the style of old '50s-style cars, and in that scene, you come back from the race and we're going to create different ride profiles so that you cross the finish lines at different times. You may get a different one each time you go."
So what exactly does he mean by "multiple ride profiles"? Rafferty wouldn't say, insisting that people would have to ride to find out. But it seems that a welcome back from Lightning McQueen and Mater will be part of the end of every ride.
As I left, I did capture a couple of other shots of the construction. Here's the ornament arch under which visitors will enter from Pacific Wharf:
And here's a close-up of the Radiator Springs Racers track, with Ornament Valley in the background.
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