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Disney opens Cars Land to its annual passholders

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Published: June 10, 2012 at 3:21 PM

Disney is letting the public have its first look at the final stages in its $1-billion expansion and makeover of Disney California Adventure theme park. Today, we'll take a look around Cars Land.

Cars Land
Annual passholder preview day crowd at Cars Land. AP-holders could visit Cars Land for a morning or afternoon this weekend for an extra $50 charge.

Cars Land faithfully recreates the town of Radiator Springs, the setting for much of the first Cars film, where Lightning McQueen gets stranded on his way to the Piston Cup final, only to learn some lessons about friendship while he's there.

Lightning McQueen

You'll see Lightning, along with other Cars characters, driving the streets, greeting guests throughout the day. But let's not dawdle too long out on Route 66. Let's take a look at each of the rides and restaurants in the new land. I'll have more details and full reviews, plus additional photos and video, after Cars Land's media preview day this Thursday. In the meantime, you can follow the links below to submit your own ratings and reviews for these Cars Land attractions, if you were among the preview crowds this week.

Radiator Springs Racers is the centerpiece attraction in Cars Land, a high-speed race through the desert-scene Ornament Valley.

Radiator Springs Racers

You'll want to pick up a Fastpass from the machine located next to A Bug's Land on your way into the park, to avoid what promises to be an hours-long wait when this ride opens to the public, starting Friday, June 15.

Inside the queue, you'll find Stanley's Oasis, home of the Original Radiator Spring (and the source of the town's name).

Stanley's Oasis

I was among the first to board the ride this morning, only to have the ride stop just as we entered the main show building. The work lights came up, and Disney cast members evacuated the car in front of us. But after working on the car ahead, the cast members retreated off stage, dimmed the lights and allowed us to continue.

Work lights on

Within moments, we were flying through Ornament Valley.

Racing through Ornament Valley

Around the bend

And crossing the finish line.

Crossing the finish line

Lightning McQueen and Mater congratulate the racers at the end of the ride. (And the cast members at unload allowed us to ride again, since our first journey was interrupted.)

Lightning McQueen and Mater

Luigi's Flying Tires is a unique attraction where riders float on air in giant tires around Luigi's back yard.

Outside Luigi's Flying Tires

I don't want to get into too much opinion here, but I absolutely loved this ride. And I found making the tire move around the giant "air hockey"-like platform to be a snap. It's just basic geometry.

Riding Luigi's Flying Tires

Did you ever stick your hand outside a car window, or in front of a fan? Do your remember how, if you tilt your hand in one direction, the rushing air pushed your hand in that direction? The same principle's at work here. Your tire is floating on a cushion of air. If you lean your body weight to one side, it will create an angle underneath your tire that the air coming up from the ground will push against, pushing you in that direction.

But if you lean too hard, the edge of the tire will hit the ground, and the friction between the tire and ground will stop you immediately. You've got to find the right balance to ride the air. I think this will be much easier for single riders, since you won't have to coordinate with anyone else. I got the hang of this almost instantly, and enjoyed making my tire spin, bump into and avoid other tires, and even race around the platform a bit.


One of the many "planters" inside Cars Land

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is a classic "whip" ride.

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

You ride behind Mater's tow trucks, which will whip you around the junkyard, as Mater serenades you with several original songs, written and recorded for the ride.

Riding Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

The action on this ride surprised me. It's quick, you move from side to side quite a bit, and the songs are fun.

Now, on to the food. The Cozy Cone Motel serves snacks and light meals in five different giant roadside cones. Cone 1 serves churros bites. Cone 2 offers soft-serve ice cream and root beer floats. Cone 3 has bread cones with scramble eggs for breakfast, and chicken verde or chili con queso for lunch and dinner. Cone 4 serves pretzel bites and "Red's Apple Freeze," a frozen drink. Cone 5 offers two different flavored popcorns daily.

Cozy Cone Motel

Since it was early, and I needed breakfast, I chose the bacon and scrambled egg cone, with cheddar cheese sauce ($6.49)

The bacon was pretty much just a garnish, a single thin and crispy slice. The scrambled eggs were covered in a thick, though not very sharp, cheddar sauce. The bread cones at the Cozy Cone tasted like a pretzel bread (without salt) - firm and not doughy. The people in front of me chose the salsa verde-sauced scrambled eggs, and I'd wished I'd gotten that instead.

For the grown-ups, Cone 3 also serves a pomegranate limeade with vodka. Yep, the booze flows in Cars Land, with speciality beers and hard liquor available in the land. Throw in the huge amount of neon that will illuminate Cars Land each night, and this place has the potential to seem more like a club than a kiddie land.

Cars Land's main restaurant is Flo's V8 Cafe.

Flo's V8 Cafe

Look up when you enter Flo's to see the light fixture mounted inside the "air filter" rotunda. The light display changes color every few moments.

Inside Flo's

I was amused by the inscription on the back of the many cans of "Quality Oil" stacked in front of Flo's, too.

Quality Oil can at Flo's

Flo's is a counter-service restaurant, serving roasted meats with vegetable sides, salads and vegetarian casserole, in addition to those speciality beers and wines by the glass. For dessert, Flo's offers milkshakes, as well as individual pies, including apple/Cheddar, and chocolate Mud pies.


Inside Flo's

I opted for the citrus-marinated roast turkey breast, sliced thinly and served with turkey gravy, cranberry sauce and a roll. For my two sides, I picked the mashed potatoes and a roasted corn medley. ($11.49)

Citrus-marinated roast turkey breast

This is old-fashioned diner food, just like I've had in several family-run joints on the real Route 66 over the years. (But tastier!) Yet one family next to me in line just had to complain that they couldn't get hamburgers at Flo's.


Check out the giant rear-view mirror, mounted above the back dining room at Flo's.

Just kill me now. Let every other freakin' theme park on the planet have their cliche, 50's burger joints. Thank goodness Disney's trying for something better with Cars Land. I'll get into more detail later this week, but Cars Land abounds with such touches where Disney could easily have opted for the conventional, but instead chose to try something quite a bit more ambitious. To me, that's something to celebrate - and not to complain about.

Cars Land opens to the public on Friday, June 15. Tomorrow, I'll write about Disney California Adventure's new Buena Vista Street.

Readers' Opinions

From 166.248.96.134 on June 10, 2012 at 4:51 PM
Thank you for sharing your experience at cars land Robert. I can't say if I'll enjoy cars land ,but I'm definitely way more excited than when they announced it. Radiators spring racers is definitely going to be the most crowded attraction in a few weeks. Does anyone think if cars land should brought to be orlando or kept exclusively in Anaheim ? I personally feel it should be kept in Disneyland . Can someone do a discussion about how dhws can be expanded ? ( Favorite Disney park and it irritates me that it doesn't have enough attractions , if not good ones)
From Jonah Sirota on June 10, 2012 at 7:32 PM
'Cars Land abounds with such touches where Disney could easily have opted for the conventional, but instead chose to try something quite a bit more ambitious. To me, that's something to celebrate - and not to complain about.'

Amen! Is it just me, or does Disney seem to be getting it right a whole lot more often these days?

From Eric Malone on June 10, 2012 at 7:52 PM
Thanks for the preview there. I'd love to visit sometime, but I don't see it happening.
From Russell Overland on June 10, 2012 at 8:11 PM
Disney never stops amazing me when it comes to the smallest detail. While standing in line at the Junkyard Jamboree I happened to look down to notice the chains in the Que the knobs at the poles were radiator caps!! Oh Disney thank you for always doing it above and beyond.
From Dominick D on June 10, 2012 at 8:30 PM
RSR and the rest of the land looks absolutely amazing. I'm hoping I can get to SoCal next year!
From Andrew Swanson on June 11, 2012 at 2:20 AM
Robert--

I'm curious for your opinion. Now that Cars Land is open, along with the other additions and improvements over the last five years is DCA at the same level of quality as DisneySEA?

What do you think, having visited Tokyo recently?

From 81.70.136.4 on June 11, 2012 at 3:49 AM
After Disney went for the cheap and ugly they corrected it nicely. Makes me wonder why they didn't do it right away.
So now up to fix Epcot and the Walt Disney Studios that are both in need of some 500 million dollar overhaul.
From Sylvain Comeau on June 11, 2012 at 7:11 AM
Nice to hear that someone likes Luigi's ride. It's been getting lots of negative comments on other sites.
From 75.89.233.134 on June 11, 2012 at 8:47 AM
I think Cars Land and ESPECIALLY Radiator Springs the ride should be brought to Hollywood Studios because I think it could use a family friendly E-ticket other than Toy Story Mania. It is the park with the lowest attendence.

However, I think if they brought Radiator Springs over they should alter it a little so that each coasts version differs slightly and still is unique to that park. But alter it in a way that just makes it different / unique to that park..... not give us half a version of it..... like the way Disney CA got the abbriviated version of Tower of Terror.

From 205.225.207.163 on June 11, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Looks nice but CA Adventure will need at least another themed land/ area to make it a full day visit.
From Tyler Stover on June 11, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Sounds great! I've seen a lot of predictions out there that the flying tires would be a flop, so I'm happy to see someone was able to make it work. I'll have to make sure to give it a shot soon in case not enough people figure it out and they go they way of the flying saucers.

That egg cone looks a bit disappointing, but I would gladly pay $12 for that turkey meal at Disneyland. Disney CANNOT do burgers right, but if you must then Taste Pilot's is a short walk away. I'm thinking Flos could be a new favorite.

We didn't win the chance to preview Carsland and didn't feel like paying extra, so we're just going to get there very early on a Saturday (when all other APs are blocked out) and give it a shot with the masses. From what I see here, I'm sure it will be worth the hassle.

From rick stevens on June 11, 2012 at 12:29 PM
They finally brought back the UFO's! I loved that ride as a kid. Is there still a big arm that comes out to collect the riders and bring them back to the start?
From 199.46.200.232 on June 11, 2012 at 12:47 PM
I went to the Saturday morning session. I thought at first after waiting in line with the other sea of people, that I had wasted my $50. Well, after exploring the entire four hours; it was well worth it! The detail put into Carsland was incredible. There was so much to take in. First ride, Mater's Junkyard (as everyone else headed for Radiator Springs). It was a fun quirky ride, only negative, got yelled at from a CM for taking a picture of my grandson on the ride, even though another CM helped another couple and took a picture of them. Oh well, I guess different trainers. Next ride Luigi's Flying Tires: this is were I was a bit negative, the wait line took forever, it was really slow. As we got closer, I could see why it took so long - I noticed quite a few single riders in a tire and they were just sitting there - come on at least you can lean and appear like you were having a fun time! For me, my daughter and grandson, we had a BLAST and laughed so hard! We got that leaning down pat and we were flying across and grabbing beach balls, and tossing them at other riders. Too bad it was only a minute and a half ride.

We decided to take in a bit of the cuisine and went over to the Cozy Cone Hotel (no lines at this point), tried the pretzel bites and had to buy one of those cone cups. Pretzel bites were tasty, not doughy, and the cone drink cup was a cute concept. Had breakfast at Flo's, it was okay. I think I'd rather have the lunch/dinner menu (will try next time). I didn't care for the eggs, kinda reminded me of mass produced camp eggs (half real/half powdered). The bacon was cooked just right and the fruit was fresh, biscuit was hard as was the waffles. The tamale was ok too, it was mostly masa.

Final ride; Radiator Springs. They have a single rider lane - YEA!! My grandson didn't meet the height requirement. That was the best line ever. No wait time, my daughter and I switched off, she had to wait less then two minutes and I got right on, so got to ride it a few times - this ride was fast and alot to look at; another great ride at DLR.

With the three rides rode; we strolled up and down Route 66 and browsed. Got pictures with some of the CMs in their new costumes. It was a great morning.

Headed over to Buena Vista Street and WOW, they really made over this area. Loved everything about it and how they captured the era.

I'm happy that Disney gave us the option of purchasing passes to preview before the general public. Well worth it.

From TH Creative on June 11, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Personal Wish List is now complete!

Disney Animal Kingdom
Avatar

Magic Kingdom Park
Adventureland / Frontierland / Tomorrowland NextGen gags in public areas
Jungle Cruise Revamp
20K simulator to replace Tomorrowland Speedway.

Epcot
Brazil to World Showcase

Disney Hollywood Studios
Cars Land

From 143.116.116.91 on June 11, 2012 at 2:24 PM
Robert. Thanks for another great review. Are those tractors in 'Maters tow ride?
From M. Ryan Traylor on June 11, 2012 at 3:02 PM
I'll make comment brief here since I'll have a trip report posted of my BGE/W to DCA weekend.

I LOVED Luigi Flying tires. It's a ride that disappeared long before I could go to theme parks. As Robert has pointed out, understand physics and you can handle this ride. And the cast members at the attraction instruct you in efficient detail on how to move about.

From Robert Niles on June 11, 2012 at 3:15 PM
Whaddya mean DCA isn't a full day visit? If the expected crowds show up after the 15th, just once through the queues at RSR and the Tires alone might be a "full day visit." ;^)
From 167.167.40.2 on June 11, 2012 at 6:09 PM
I was going to wait until fall to check this out, not I think I'm just going to brave the crowds and go now. And DCA is a full day park, lol!!
From Brandon Mendoza on June 12, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Seriously, DCA is now a fully fledged full-day park with the new land. Not everything about DLR is rides/ attractions. Just being IN Carsland is fantastic. You are completely in another world.

Now if they would just do this for Agrabah, "a small provincial French town", and the Pridelands... I think I might be able to die happy! Just kidding, but I do love the concept of dropping guests completely into other lands and not so chopped up. Sure, it takes a lot of real estate, but totally worth it!

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