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Cars Land, one year later: It's getting a little rusty in here

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Published: June 14, 2013 at 8:57 AM

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.)

Roasted pork loin platter, from Flo's V8 Cafe
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).

Blueberry and peach pie
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.

On Luigi's Flying Tires

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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Readers' Opinions

From M. Ryan Traylor on June 14, 2013 at 9:21 AM
Wow, you got it on a bad day. I thought it was rough when the tractors didn't tip and Doc stayed in place. But Sally & Lightning not talking? No Frank? (Although his rise is very short) And no Mater over the moon? (I always thought his timing was a tad early and that riders would miss it.

Did you have a baby tractor? That was a thing I noticed last trip. 24 hour day was 3 large tractors. Two weeks ago was 2 large and 1 small tractor.

Luigi tires runs better without the beach balls. It's such a classic ride. Wish the space was a little larger, but that's the general problem of bumper rides. Once you get a group jammed up, the ride starts to end. Especially with tires since there is a larger learning curve to the controls.

**After watching video - nice to see Doc working again. I wonder if they are taking effects offline while working on them and still operating the ride. You're right though, that middle section was a huge let down.

From Brandon Mendoza on June 14, 2013 at 9:29 AM
This is where some big wig would say "Attendance for this attraction hasn't slipped. People are still coming in hordes. It's fine the way it is."

To that I would say "Have some pride in keeping the attraction pristine and up to Disney standards."

Sad to see missing elements especially when they're blatant like Sally and Lightning. Too obvious that there's something wrong.

The food in Carsland, especially in Flo's Diner, is still amazing to me. Great value for a theme park, and tastes great!

From 67.181.193.54 on June 14, 2013 at 9:34 AM
I gotta say, those scenes were some of my favorites. To see them not working now, makes me sad. I hope they don't give up forever. It's still early!

Also, I didn't like the little pies in DCA. Mine was insanely dry, very crusty, the filling was just old and barely edible. I was so very, very, very disappointed. In retrospect, I really should have complained, especially for the price I paid for one tiny pie. I had my whole family try it and they also agreed. Between us, no one could even finish it and we threw it away. What a waste. :(

From Anon Mouse on June 14, 2013 at 9:43 AM
"there's no audio at all in the heart of the ride"

That did not happen when I went last month. Except for the tractor not tipping, I'm sure most everything was working, but then again, I didn't go on the ride when it opened. Last month was the first time I've been there and I felt it was great!!!

From Dan McNeely on June 14, 2013 at 9:43 AM
That's missing a lot! :(

Can we start a petition to stop Disney from bringing Cars Land to Hollywood Studios?

I'd much rather see Star Wars Land and an expansion of Pixar Place.

Monsters Hanging Door Roller Coaster
Incredibles Ride
Some Dark Ride based up Up!

The possibilities are endless and IMO much better than duplicating a land that should be exclusive to California.

Last I checked, Route 66 doesn't pass through Orlando.

From Daniel Etcheberry on June 14, 2013 at 10:18 AM
When I went to California last summer, the only thing that was not working was the tipping tractors. This video left me speechless and angry. Disney should change their attitude and keep their rides in good shape. This is my favorite theme park ride, and I hate to see it falling apart.
From Blake Meredith on June 14, 2013 at 10:56 AM
It's interesting that the animatronics seem to be malfunctioning so much. In the 10+ times I've ridden this ride all of the animatronics have been functioning and I've only been stalled on the ride once. Perhaps I'm just lucky but I've never come across the malfunctioning animatronics. After watching the video, I will say that it certainly takes away some of the magic of the ride, as the animatronics in RSR are certainly some of the best looking and convincing I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. Perhaps I'm just lucky. I'll be taking another spin on RSR this weekend for Father's Day and we'll see if the problems are still occurring.
From Eric G on June 14, 2013 at 11:03 AM
The outrage towards Disney expressed in the comments regarding the broken effects is ridiculous. None of you know the cause of the problems with these effects and to suggest that Disney doesn't care is just as ridiculous.

Disney has shown us more than once in recent years that it cares about its attractions. In the past decade we've seen many attractions go down for refurbishment and come back better than before with enhancements and additions. That's proof that they care about the ride experience.

Did Robert have a bad ride? Yes, but we don't know if this was a one off experience or consistent throughout the day since he only rode once. Shame on him for not riding twice.

I had one ride out of a dozen in a day last September where the audio was absent in the same scenes. I've also witnessed effects go from broken to working within a couple of hours and without the attraction going down.

Furthermore, with the exception of maybe a grand opening or media day, I've never heard of Disney closing a ride system down to repair a show scene or effect, unless the element impedes the ability for the ride system to function. Hence, why we sometimes experience rides like Robert did. The ride wasn't going down last summer because maintenance was inside repairing the tipping tractors.

Is Radiator Springs Racers in need of some refurbishment? Sure and I bet WDI and park maintenance would love to get in there for more than a few hours at night to do some significant work, but you can't easily close down your new flagship attraction in the first year of operation.

You all need to give them a break!

From N B on June 14, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Good to see Disney would rather run a ride that is completely broken than shut it down for a few days or a week to fix it.
From 98.68.153.12 on June 14, 2013 at 12:03 PM
"Shame on Robert for not riding twice" - you're kidding right? It's the guests fault for not experiencing an attraction the way it should be experienced?

I will say that when I visited in January I rode like 3 or 4 times and it was always a mixed bag of effects. Sometimes the ride gets crazy out of sync with the show scenes and things just freeze I guess.

With Everest we are talking about effects that are never seen anymore. Nobody who rides Everest sees the Yeti moving, nor do they see the large hawk at the top of the lift hill, nor do they see fog when they go through the mountain.

It's rare to see the steam effect working in the station and it's rare to see all the waterfalls turned on at Everest.

From 70.98.129.170 on June 14, 2013 at 12:13 PM
WOW - very disappointing. As a fellow Disney fanatic, I feel I would rather experience an attraction in its full grandeur than in only half its glory. I mean, I understand an effect or two not working properly but come on, your video showed key elements in the attraction not working. But to each his own I guess. Thanks for the POV - great review on Carsland!
From Jay R. on June 14, 2013 at 1:31 PM
I rode this last week & the tractors weren't working.

But I've been it plenty of times & there's sooo much going on, that you figure something, somewhere is going to malfunction.

It's a catch 22, if every time something malfunctions the ride has to be shut down for repairs, you'll have complaints.

If you don't repair the supporting parts of the ride, there will be complaints.

I'm assuming they make a decision based on what the majority want, which is riding the attraction, plus the fact that it's now summer......as long as the cars are running, I'm guessing they are good to go.

From 76.174.34.87 on June 14, 2013 at 2:03 PM
I rode this past Wednesday. Only the tipping tractors were not working. And this was also the first time in 6+ months that Doc was actually working. But, it seems like he is still in B show mode. He doesn't seem to have the same "bounce" to him as he did in the first few months of operation. However, this could be just my mind playing tricks on me as its been so long since I've seen him moving.

From Tyler Stover on June 14, 2013 at 3:24 PM
For what its worth, I rode RSR just a few weeks ago, and while I can't recall whether the tractors tipped, everything else from the start of the show building up to the split seemed to be working, but the tire effect in Luigi's (the split room we went to) did not work. So rather than a steady state of decline, it sounds like they fixed something and then a lot more things just recently broke. That doesn't justify letting the ride run even for a little bit with half the stuff not working, but it at least hasn't been left like that long-term (coughyeticough) at least so far.

On that same visit a few weeks back I had the pork loin and the same blueberry peach pie at Flos (usually we do breakfast there after arriving at rope drop to Fastpass RSR and jump in line for the Flying Tires. Following TPI tips FTW!) and I agree, it was fantastic. We shared the pie too, but if left to my own devices I'd have stuffed myself full with the whole thing.

From Gabriel Schroll on June 14, 2013 at 7:58 PM
I haven't been to DCA since CarsLand opened.

But I guess my question is why are these things constantly breaking down in the first place? I know it's really high-tech stuff but when they "fix" it, what are they doing? It seems like at best, they're putting a bandage on it.

I know it's expensive, a pain in the butt, and a big inconvenience, but I would really like to know that they've FIXED the ride.

Though as I just said, I haven't been there since before CarsLand, so I'm sure I will be thrilled with the performance of Radiator Springs Racers, no matter what effects, animatronics, or audio are working/not working. As long as the ride works, I'll enjoy the scenery and call it a fantastic experience!

Ignorance is bliss in my case.

From Jorge Arnoldson on June 14, 2013 at 9:32 PM
The mirror on the left side of the Paint Shop scene ruins the perspective illusion. Remove that mirror, and you're good to go.
From 205.188.117.66 on June 14, 2013 at 10:26 PM
I rode it last October, and thankfully, most/all of the effects and AAs worked then. It is frankly appalling that Disney is allowing broken AAs and effects to mar this great ride, for months and months. Where's the pride?
From James Rao on June 15, 2013 at 2:37 PM
I think it is great when fans with "some clout" such as yourself, Mr. Niles, call Disney out on these types of things. Keep 'em honest, so to speak. That's not to say Disney isn't already trying to take care of things, but it doesn't hurt to keep up the pressure.

Here's to hoping everything is fixed when I get there in September....

From 108.88.93.122 on June 15, 2013 at 3:19 PM
My family and I were there this past week and only the tractor tipping scene was not working. We rode it this past Saturday and on Thursday morning. I guess somethings are getting fixed intermittently.
From Eric G on June 15, 2013 at 3:31 PM
"Shame on Robert for not riding twice" - you're kidding right?

No, I'm not kidding at all. It would've been nice to know if what he experienced was just an unlucky ride or consistent for all riders throughout the day.

From 107.219.189.242 on June 16, 2013 at 8:16 AM
Robert, as some of the other readers said, I think you might have caught the ride at a bad time.

I was there last Wednesday (June 12) around noontime, and I took video on my smartphone. At the time, I only noticed a couple things that were off.

I looked back at the video, and the only things that didn't work were: 1) only one of the tractors tipped 2) the curtain didn't come back up in Luigi's tire shop when the cars are supposed to get whitewall tires. All the other things that you mentioned as not working were working fine on the ride one day earlier than your visit.

Just my two cents.

From Kurt Larson on June 16, 2013 at 12:42 PM
I'm personally curious to see how long this land and its rides hold up. I enjoy the rocks, and radiator springs in enjoyable enough... but does Cars really seem like something that'll have long-lasting appeal for a large amount of people?

I genuinely don't know, but find it hard to believe Cars or Cars land will be exciting or relevant in 10 years. I could be totally wrong, such is the case with pondering.

But if the characters don't hold their appeal, the attraction really just becomes a fast car ride, right?

I don't know, I'm interested to see how they keep the excitement. Granted, it's an entire land... but I still see non-existant lines most of the time for A Bug's Life, The Muppets, Monsters INC, etc...

And yes, I go about 12-15 times a year. Those rides are always walk on easy.

Cars land has always been interesting to me. There are no major human, animal, or alien characters.... so I'm curious to see how the support it gets plays out. It's totally reliant on the appeal of Cars methinks... it's not particularly "thrilling", which is fine, but then you need a classic, generation-spanning character a la Peter Pan, etc.

Twilight Zone still packs them in because it's thrilling, they don't need character recognition.

And if there are malfunctions one year later... can't bode well.

But again, I could be an idiot. Time will tell.

From Blake Meredith on June 17, 2013 at 10:07 AM
Kurt,

Your concerns are legitimate. I myself have often wondered how long the Cars brand will maintain its appeal with future generations. It certainly is a hot brand at the moment and will probably keep packing people into DCA for at least another 2-3 years, at which point DCA will have to do something new to keep the park fresh (the Monsters Inc. Door Coasters sounds VERY promising). I think the difference between Cars Land and a Bugs land and the other rides you mentioned such as Muppets and Monsters Inc., is that Cars Land has a true E-Ticket attraction that people want to ride regardless of theming or branding. Those other attractions don't have that e-ticket appeal. Part of what makes RSR so great is its blend of classic dark ride with modern thrill ride. It's got the best of both worlds where people from all generations can get something out of it.

I haven't been on the new Test Track out at Epcot but I remember going on the old Test Track and I can say that the theme of "testing a car" has to be one of the most boring propositions ever conceived in theme park history (in my opinion at least). Yet even so, Test Track was the premier attraction at Epcot for many, many years(some would say it still is).

I see Cars Land as aging fairly better than Toon Town, another land where the characters and theme are about 20 years out of date (with the exception of Mickey and Minnie). At least Cars Land has a genuine and unique E-Ticket that has a high re-ride ability factor.

I don't see Luigi's or Mater's lasting more than 12+ years, as fun as they are, I think a major re-theming or even a separate attraction down the road is inevitable (maybe a Planes themed attraction depending on how well that film is received. Just please don't bring it to Soarin').

From 71.189.46.25 on June 17, 2013 at 10:59 AM
I was on it just a couple of weeks ago and everything worked, even the tractor tipping. I have been on Indiana Jones before when the rolling bolder did not trigger. When you have sophisticated attractions like this, these things will happen from time to time, and often just need a reset.

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