Cars Land, one year later: It's getting a little rusty in here
Written by Robert Niles
So how is Cars Land holding up, one year after its wildly popular debut at Disney California Adventure theme park?
Yesterday, I took my wife to the Disneyland Resort, to see Cars Land for the first time. I've been in the parks multiple times since Cars Land opened last June, but hadn't really lingered in the new land, or ridden its centerpiece attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, since last summer. So I was looking forward to revisiting the area, too.
Cars Land, as well as the rest of the Disneyland Resort, remains wildly popular. We arrived at the Mickey and Friends parking garage at 10am to find every toll plaza entry lane filled, all the way back out of the structure. We would need another 45 minutes to get in, park, ride the tram over to the parks and go through the bag check, before getting into California Adventure.
This is why we tell people to get an early start on their theme park days!
Cars Land looks as good as ever, and my wife kept talking about the impressive setting, from the massive rock work surrounding Radiator Springs to the seemingly minor details that enliven the queues. We found the food at Flo's V8 Cafe as tasty as I remembered it from last year, making quick work of the roasted turkey and pork platters. We both especially liked the roasted corn, though we agreed that the turkey gravy was a bit on the salty side. (My wife wondered if she could just order it on the side next time.)
The roast pork loin plate, with Coca-Cola barbecue sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, and roasted corn. ($11.49)
One thing I hadn't tried last summer was one of Flo's pies, so we decided to take care of that oversight by ordering the blueberry and peach pie ($4.99).
Yes, that's a real plate and cutlery. Take that, Orlando theme parks! This is how you're supposed to serve food.
Delicious! The pies are supposed to be an individual serving, but we shared, as we didn't have much space left after each finishing an entree platter. The pie offered more peach than blueberry, but that helped keep the sweetness reasonable, providing a nice final note to the meal, rather than overwhelming it with an explosion of sugar.
As for the attractions, we started with Luigi's Flying Tires, which posted a 40-minute wait. The removal of the giant beach balls has helped the attraction in multiple ways. Operators are loading this ride much faster -- we were on and riding within 20 minutes, with the queue starting inside the Luigi's tire showroom. And with the beach balls no longer distracting riders, I see more people paying attention to learning how to "fly" the tires themselves, instead of just batting balls around the platform. That made for a much more enjoyable ride, as people start working together to get the tires to move around.
I love this attraction, despite the hate it elicits from so many visitors. And my wife enjoyed it, too, as we turned several high-speed laps around the platform on this unique "flying saucer"-style ride.
With our late start, all the day's Fastpasses for Radiator Springs Racers were gone by the time we entered California Adventure at 10:45am. With a posted 135-minute stand-by queue wait, we opted for the single rider line, which posted a blank wait time. With the single rider queue backed up just past the bridge, we ended up waiting about 45 minutes to get on the ride. We were making the same pace through the queue as people in the stand-by line, but, of course, we didn't have to go through those three hidden rooms of queue that await stand-by visitors at the attraction.
So what about the ride? I'd heard from many visitors over the past months that the tractor-tipping scene didn't work. But that was just one of the many effects that no longer function properly on this once wild and exciting ride.
Here's a POV video I recorded, so you can see for yourself:
Let's recap: No tipping tractors. No Frank. No Mater sailing over the moon. No dialogue in the Radiator Springs town scene. No conversation between Lightning McQueen and Sally. Basically, between Mater and the track split between the Luigi's tires and Ramone's paint shop options, there's no audio at all in the heart of the ride, save for snoring cars and light background music.
And I thought Disco Yeti was bad. That's a fully functioning attraction compared with this.
Of course, the race itself remains great fun. And the animatronics that still work continue to impress -- Sheriff, Mater, Doc Hudson, and Luigi and Guido. Many of the first-time riders around me exclaimed how much they'd loved it, upon exiting the ride. But knowing what was once in this attraction, I was just stunned as I walked away.
When Radiator Springs Racers first opened, it suffered frequent downtimes, which are now pretty much nonexistent. I think I know why, now: Disney's just given up on maintaining the show elements inside the ride. If the cars run, you ride. And if any of the animatronics, work… hey, bonus.
And visitor reaction justifies that decision. People who don't know what this ride once offered love it. And people continue to pack the queue to see it. Which is great for tourism and for Disneyland. But I wish that, for a few months at least, people would love this ride a little less so that Disney could have the time to go in and fix it with a much-needed refurbishment.
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