2013 Theme Park Insider Tournament: Radiator Springs Racers vs. Splash Mountain

March 8, 2013, 10:39 AM · Disney loves big fake rocks, doesn't it?

Blessed with the budgets that being the worldwide market leader in theme parks delivers, Disney's Imagineers don't always limit themselves to working with the land where their parks sit. They sometimes create massive new vistas -- mountains, cliffs and plateaus to provide homes for their thrill ride creations.

We're pitting two of Disney's best against each other today in the 2013 Theme Park Insider Tournament: Disney California Adventure's Radiator Springs Racers and Disneyland's Splash Mountain.

Radiator Springs Racers

Radiator Springs Racers takes visitors through the world of Pixar's Cars movies, as you ride inside one of the eponymous vehicles for a tour of Radiator Springs, followed by a high speed race around Ornament Valley. Radiator Springs Racers is the highlight of Cars Land, which was itself the centerpiece of Disney's $1 billion-plus revamp of the California Adventure park. Framed by the multi-stories tall rockwork of the Cadillac Range, Racers uses the ride system theme park fans first saw on Epcot's Test Track to create an engaging themed ride that blend character-driven storytelling with a fun touch of high-speed thrill. It's all very comforting -- one of the few major attractions where nothing "goes terribly wrong."

With the Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain down for a much-needed refurbishment until later this month, we're going today with the Disneyland version, which has looked better than its east coast sibling in recent years.

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain debuted at Disneyland in 1989, the first of three installations of the ride around the world. (The third is at Tokyo Disneyland.) Inspired by Knott's iconic Timber Mountain Log Ride, Splash Mountain provided Disney with a place to feature its "Song of the South" characters and the Academy Award-winning song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" after Disney deep-sixed the film. Facing the Rivers of America, Splash's 50-foot drop has become one of the great photo ops in any Disney theme park, and the musical sections within the mountain have become a beloved part of a Disney theme park visit for millions.

And yet… only one of these rides is moving on to the quarterfinals of this year's tournament. Racers or Splash? If you're standing in the Disneyland Resort esplanade, to which ride do you run first?

As always, voting is open for 24 hours, and the comments await your campaigning.

Thanks for a great first week of this year's tournament. We'll continue Monday with another first-round match-up, this time of popular rides at Universal's Islands of Adventure: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey vs. Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges.

Replies (48)

March 8, 2013 at 10:49 AM · I voted for Radiator Springs Racers, if only because I'm fairly confident the movie that the ride is based on isn't racist.

On the other hand, I've actually seen the movie that Splash Mountain is based on. I have no interest in seeing Cars.

I probably should have voted the other way.

March 8, 2013 at 11:00 AM · Having just experiencing both of these attractions last week, I had to go with Radiator Springs Racers. I don't think it's quite the homerun I was expecting (perhaps it was overhyped), but it (along with the rest of Cars Land) is quite possibly the most detailed addition to any theme park in the US since WWOHP.
March 8, 2013 at 11:29 AM · Splash Mountain is probably my favorite fun Disney attraction. The ride always makes me feel happy and puts a continual smile on my face. There's so many interesting animatronics that I don't really mind when a few AA's are usually inoperative. I'm using the WDW version since I've never been on the others. The only, very minor detail, is that I've never really gotten wet on the ride, just a few light sprays. Guess you need some heavyweights on the log to get wet. I especially love the grand finale, after you're led into thinking the ride is over.Plus the queue & the attraction are beautiful.... Cars Land Radiator Springs seems to be very immersive, but I have yet to experience it. The dark ride portion looks great, but I'm not sold on the Test Track type ending. I'm not a big Test Track fan. My vote goes to Splash Mountain.
March 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Splash Mountain all the way! Great music, great pacing, and it's a classic! I'd consider Splash Mountain to be the last of the classics that WDI built. It's also my favorite ride at Disneyland.
March 8, 2013 at 11:37 AM · I love Splash Mountain, in fact it is my favorite attraction at the Magic Kingdom. However, my desire to ride Radiator Springs Racers far outweighs my love of Splash Mt. If I was at Disneyland Resort today, I would make a beeline away from Splash and straight towards RSR.

"I'm serious! He's won three Piston Cups!"

"He did WHAT in his cup?"

March 8, 2013 at 11:57 AM · If RSR loses, it will be because most people on this site haven't ride it yet. Splash Mountain is a great ride, but RSR is even better. YouTube will not give the thrill of racing against another car through that terrain. You have to ride it to get the wonderful experience. I did. I took a flight from Orlando to L.A. just to ride RSR. And it was worth the cost. For me, RSR is up there with the best rides.
March 8, 2013 at 12:21 PM · +1 to James for quoting the greatest Pixar movie line, ever.

Im regretting including the Test Track reference, because comparing RSR to Test Track is like comparing Pirates of the Caribbean to some county fair (I'm sorry, faire?) tunnel of love ride -- it's a completely different experience. Perhaps I should have said that RSR uses Journey to the Center of the Earth's ride system. That would be a more apt comparison, given the thematic strength of those two rides. (Disclosure: I haven't been on the new version of TT yet.)

March 8, 2013 at 12:53 PM · RSR is my first pick overall, not just over the mildewy, wet-clothes-making splash mountain.
March 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM · Another tough choice, but I had to go with Racers. Very impressive new E Ticket, on a grand scale and considerable wow factor working for it. Plus, I've only been able to ride it 4-5 times, so it was a thrill every time. The massive wait times and rapidly disappearing fast passes are a minus, however.
March 8, 2013 at 1:08 PM · Wow. If you voted for Splash Mountain either you've never seen Carsland and ridden RSR or simply don't like Cars as a movie.

RSR is a Imagineering feat. Splash Mt (which I LOVE) is still just a log flume, and is not even be the best log flume in Orlando, but of course that's not the vote here.

March 8, 2013 at 1:48 PM · Racers looks great, better than Splash even. But the latter is THE quintessential Disney ride. Catchy music, impressive story telling, thrilling resolve and above all, charm that speaks Disney. No trip is complete missing out on Splash.
March 8, 2013 at 3:39 PM · RSR for sure!

I like that it feels like 3 rides all wrapped up in one.

The beginning takes you slowly outside through the vista by the waterfall (and that music swell).

Next you have the dark ride portion with impressive animatronics (the tractor flip & mator) & it leads you randomly into 1 of 2 fun Prep rooms before the race.

Finally the actual race begins & you take off!

I like splash mountain, but RSR blows it out of the water.

March 8, 2013 at 3:42 PM · ^^^^^

Forgot to log in, but that anon post above was mine!

Also, I'd suggest riding RSR at night as well. It's a different experience with all that neon flying by you!

March 8, 2013 at 3:49 PM · This one was tough. I haven't experience RSR, but I have experienced WDW's Splash Mountain. I ultimately went with Splash Mountain. Don't get me wrong, I do think that RSR looks like one of the best rides of the century, but Splash Mountain is just a timeless classic. The show scenes are just as rich in detail, it appears to be a much longer ride and the catchy songs and characters are just classic Disney elements. You can't leave MK or DL without humming "How do ya' do?" or "Zippa-dee-doo-dah!".

And Forbidden Journey vs. Popeye for tomorrow? Popeye is amazing, but it's almost as bad as the Sinbad vs. Journey to the Center of the Earth round...

March 8, 2013 at 3:56 PM · Going with RSR one this one. I've been on Splash but not RSR, but from what I've seen on You Tube, RSR looks alot better.

Daniel, Transformers won yesterday and alot of people in the comments who voted for it said they haven't been on it yet, so don't worry too much.

March 8, 2013 at 4:22 PM · Bryce,

RSR is actually a nice length. Before you even get to the race, you start slowly outside, then there's the dark ride portion & the 2 random rooms.

The first time I rode it I was impressed with the length.

March 8, 2013 at 6:01 PM · This one's hard. I've been on both rides and they are both really good, but they both have their flaws. RSR is one of the most elaborate rides at the Disneyland Resort and certainly is popular with the public, but the ride is very tempermental, is based on a property I don't particularly care for, and the big race at the end feels a bit slow to me (it's still fun, but I've always thought it felt more like a joyride than an actual race). Splash Mountain, on the other hand, is a classic Disney attraction, possibly the most iconic one the company has come up with, and it is certainly one of the best flume rides out there, but the attraction is based on a movie few have seen or have knowledge of and the ride has the worst interruption of story of any Disney attraction I know of.

I guess I'll go with Radiator Springs Racers since it is my second favorite ride at DCA (first is California Screamin'), while I prefer Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion to Splash Mountain at Disneyland. However, if I were in a plaza with one to the left and one to the right, and both attractions had equal wait times, it would be a coin toss as to which I went to first.

March 8, 2013 at 7:07 PM · This was a no brainer- Radiator Springs Racers vs. Disneyland's Splash Mountain? RSR for the Win! Now if it had been RSR vs. Tokyo's Splash Mountain, that would be a tough decision!
March 8, 2013 at 7:18 PM · I've been lucky enough to ride Radiator Springs Racers a half dozen times, and enjoy the ride a lot, but I don't think the dark ride portion incorporating the world of the Cars movies really works with the thrill aspect of the ride. In a lot of ways, I think the elaborate theming of the Cars Land area is more interesting than the signature ride there.

But because the ride is so novel and the racing part of the ride is thrilling, the regular lines for the attraction are unbelievably long.

From a practical standpoint, if forced to choose between the two rides, I'd undoubtedly get in line for a Radiator Springs Fast Pass first because Radiator Springs Racers has such long lines and the Fast Passes are usually gone within an hour of park opening.

But if the lines were equally long and I only had one 'E' ticket in my hypothetical pocket for the day, I'd rather go on Splash Mountain.

March 8, 2013 at 7:22 PM · Uh oh......this is too close, come on RSR, lol! Gotta beat that Brer rabbit!
March 8, 2013 at 10:14 PM · I think people are going to pick RSP because its NEW.
My heart still has a special place in its heart for Splash Mountain.
Radiator Spring Racers is a wonderful ride, and my new favorite attraction at DCA....but I had to pick SM in this one
March 9, 2013 at 8:16 AM · You know, it cracks me up how the Disney community often reacts. We piss and moan that Disney never does anything new, and then when the company spends $200M on what is largely considered the best new attraction of 2012, and an instant classic, those same complainers turn out in force to support a circa 1980's flume ride. Yeah, I love Splash Mountain too, but why should Disney ever build anything new if people are willing to latch on to the classics of the past and never let go?

Folks, wake up. You want Disney to move forward, then you have to move forward too.

A vote for RSR is a vote for progress. It is a vote for a new Disney Company that is willing to venture out, spend gobs of money, and try new things. It is a vote for the future.

Vote RSR, your next Disney vacation depends on it.

March 9, 2013 at 9:20 AM · James: Any ride that doesn't exist in Orlando seems to have troubles pulling in big numbers on TPI's polls. Probably has something to do with the demographic's of this site. I would guess that the vast majority of readers live east of the Mississippi River. I too, am sometimes a little reluctant to vote for an attraction I didn't ride if the opposing ride is one that I did ride and is of excellent quality. Transformers also did not pull in huge numbers, but will probably do better next year after its Orlando opening. I don't think its' necessarily a bias against non Orlando areas, it's probably more of a "YouTube videos and such don't give you a true ride experience". Just an opinion, but I think that's what happens in these cases. You really can't experience an attraction's merits until you have actually experienced the attraction. I narrowly voted for Transformers because it was pitted against an attraction, that I liked, but did not consider it in the same tier. If Transformers were pitted against Spiderman, I would vote for Spiderman since they are the same level and I've only experienced Spiderman so far. This thought kind of rambled on, but I imagine that is what is happening.
March 9, 2013 at 10:29 AM · I don't disagree, Rob, but you of all people should be in agreement with my previous post. You have been calling for Disney to move forward with "new stuff" for over a year now. If we want new, then we better vote for new.

And it is not as if we're voting for chopped liver, here... the reviews on RSR are astonishingly good, and the droves of people flocking to DCA to experience it are proof enough. It would be nice if the vote on this battle was a bit more reflective of the truth, not just the bias of the Orlando contingent on this site.

March 9, 2013 at 11:01 AM · James: I agree with your two posts. It's just that sometimes an attraction doesn't measure up with the hype surrounding it. One example is the original Test Track. I read so many good things about it. But it was real blah to me personally when I first rode it. I felt like I was sitting in a dingy car shop waiting for a car repair. My main point, and I guess I didn't make it well enough, is that Radiator Springs Racer would have done much better if it was already open in Orlando and more readers had experienced it. I would have probably voted for Radiator on what I've read & seen on videos if it wasn't pitted against what I consider the most enjoyable, though surely not most thrilling, Disney attraction. In a tie type situation, my vote goes to the one I've actually experienced.
March 9, 2013 at 1:39 PM · I understand, Rob, I do. But the question Robert Niles asked was: "Racers or Splash? If you're standing in the Disneyland Resort esplanade, to which ride do you run first?" I seriously doubt 52% of those voting are running to Splash first.

If the result of this vote is a true representation of the answer to Robert's question, then Splash would be the attraction with 60-120 minutes wait each day, not RSR, and Disneyland would be the park with 3 million additional visitors this year, not DCA.

[Taking some creative license]:
What we've got here is a failure to communicate. Some voters, you just can't reach. So you get what we have here in this vote. I don't like it any more than any other reasonable voter.

March 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM · James: You've made a strong point.
March 9, 2013 at 2:28 PM · As Pat Benatar once said, "It's a little too little it's a little too late...."
March 9, 2013 at 3:53 PM · I have to wonder if there's something to be said about voting for or against a ride you haven't been on. On the one hand, Radiator Springs Racers is not available in Orlando, and lost to Splash Mountain. On the other hand, Transformers is not available in Orlando, but beat Men In Black.

I don't think there's really any safeguard against this, as there is no way to restrict voting to those who have been on a particular ride. I admit it's a little frustrating to see RSR lose on its first ballot, but I can imagine almost everyone has been on Splash Mountain at one park or another.

I can't imagine why people vote the way they do, but this result is definitely a shocker for me, and I can only surmise that Radiator Springs Racers lost because too few people have actually been on it.

I'm sure if there were a way to track and graph the locations of the votes, it would show that RSR voters were almost exclusively on the West coast, fair or not.

March 9, 2013 at 4:12 PM · Robert, we need a recount! And ONLY allow voters who have ridden the ride. RSR is too good to be eliminated so quickly.
March 9, 2013 at 4:27 PM · I feel conflicted now for voting Splash Mountain based on pure classicness. Not that my one vote would have really mattered among the other 600 something votes, but its obvious that RSR is a better, stronger and more technologically advanced attraction than Disney's famous late-80's log flume.
March 9, 2013 at 5:49 PM · I kind of disagree with the theory of voting for which ride would you ride first if given the choice....

Under that theory a new ride would always have an advantage

I would go under the criteria:

Which ride did you enjoy most after riding them and that depends on THE RIDERS PERSONAL PREFERENCE


For some people which ride are YOU THE MOST IMPRESSED BY

----Now for me on Monday presents me a challenge as I have appreciate HP as an achievement but don't ride it (due to motion sickness), but love Popeye as for my money the best rapid ride in the world

March 9, 2013 at 11:07 PM · To James's post. Despite DCA's addtional 3 million attendees due to CarsLand, Disneyland park still drew in more visitors(for the year) by a long shot. Despite DCA's attempt to create new adventures, you shouldn't ever underestimate the power of a classic. Perhaps RSR will become a classic in time, but the key words there are "in time". Splash Mountain has been thrilling guests since 1989, so you figure 14 years of satisfying guests isn't going to beat out a brand new attraction? Maybe in a best New Ride category, but not in overall best attraction.
March 10, 2013 at 2:01 PM · @Justin I am not in any way saying Splash Mountain is not a great attraction, but you have to go back and look at the question that was being asked in this particular poll: "Which would you run to first?"

Also, if you look at percentage increase in attendance for 2012, DCA is blowing the doors of DL. In fact, there have been days where DCA has outperformed DL - which was previously NEVER the case. I am not trying to say DL is anything less than the greatest theme park ever built, but the focus, attention, and enthusiasm is all on DCA, and it is mainly because of one attraction: RSR. So, obviously, people are running to it first.

If people had voted based upon the question that was asked, RSR would have won in a landslide (heck, Splash Mountain is not even the first attraction you run to in Disneyland - Space Mountain, Matterhorn, or Indiana Jones take precedence). However, people voted with their heart, and in a spirit of nostalgia, which is consistent with most Disney fans. We're content to live in the past, then we act surprised when the company doesn't do anything new for years and years and years.

Why should Disney ever build anything new, when fans are quite happy with a circa 1980's flume ride?

March 10, 2013 at 3:48 AM · Justin said "...Splash Mountain has been thrilling guests since 1989, so you figure 14 years of satisfying guests isn't going to beat out a brand new attraction?"

And I though MY math "skills" were bad!! :)

March 10, 2013 at 7:20 AM · The majority of voters for Transformers were those who were excited it was coming to Orlando. It RSR was coming to Orlando, I'm sure it would have been the same way.
March 10, 2013 at 8:55 AM · I prefer the splash mountain theme, for my was hard to vote for RSR. I voted for RSR.
March 10, 2013 at 9:04 AM · I think you should only vote on which ride you would go on first if you've been on both rides already. Naturally, everyone would choose the new one. Let's say we're back in 2011 when the Little Mermaid opened to the public. Between that and Splash Mountain, which would you run to first (and then vote on)? I'm sure everyone here would say that they'd head for Mermaid, but that by no means makes it a better ride than Splash. So I too disagree with the 1st ride basis unless the attraction has been open for a few years and you've already been on it.
March 10, 2013 at 10:15 AM · @James Rao- this time I think you're wrong.

This tournament has always been about the readers favorites, not answering Robert's questions. Robert uses a question in the article merely as a writing style, but it's really irrelevant. To be consistent with the rest of the tournament it's not about which one you go to ride first, but which one is your favorite.

I'm not surprised that Splash Mountain wins. While Radiator Springs Racers is excellent, Splash Mountain is still a better attraction.

You're assumption is also flawed since you're assuming that everyone who voted has ridden both attractions. That simply not true, so who would those voters cast their vote for? Likely, Splash Mountain.

March 10, 2013 at 1:15 PM · I am sure Mr. Niles will be thrilled to find out his writing is irrelevant. As is my opinion apparently, being as I am "wrong".

And for the record, I would go to Splash Mt first over Mermaid. But I am probably wrong about that choice, too.

March 10, 2013 at 1:41 PM · The tournament should be divided into two editions: East Coast and West Coast. That way Pirates (Disneyland) and RSR would still be in the tournament.
March 10, 2013 at 2:07 PM · The tournament is fine, it is some of the voting I question. Regardless, the whole thing just became a lot less interesting without DCA's $200M juggernaut. I really dont want to see another Haunted Mansion / Forbidden Journey final. Oh well, go Orlando!?
March 10, 2013 at 4:50 PM · The first ride premise is flawed...

As I assume most of TPI's readers are pretty savvy when visiting parks

Example: If visiting DHS almost everyone advises or goes right to Toy Story Mania, yet almost everyone considers Tower of Terror a superior ride

Why the difference wait times? a new ride? park layout? ride capacities? are more a factor in the first ride

I think Mr. Niles was giving an example of a criteria for someone to use (or just setting up a scenario for Journey to the Center of the Earth to Win)

A better test for best ride may be just the opposite in fact...which ride do you make sure and ride again before you leave and/or talk about the most on your ride home

March 10, 2013 at 4:34 PM · In all fairness to Mr. Niles, whose writing I do not find to be irrelevant, I am pretty sure the evaluation between the two rides is supposed to be done in a vacuum, not in relation to crowd patterns at the park.

However, you touched on an intriguing point with your ToT vs TSM comparison.... ask a five year old or a reluctant teenager or Grandpa Fred which of those two attractions they like better. You might be surprised at the answer. There is a reason Disney produces a very limited number of thrill rides yet still maintains the most popular theme parks in the world: the thrill crowd is a niche crowd - a special interest group.

It is kind of humbling when you think about just how much of a fringe group us thrill seekers are when it comes to the #1 theme park company on the planet.

Oh well... on to a new day and a new battle! I am putting away my sour grapes for now. No point in lamenting the fact that the Disneyland version of my favorite attraction at the Magic Kingdom survived to fight another day. Maybe it can be a dark horse in the battle for Mr. Potter's crown. We'll see....

Later, friends!

March 10, 2013 at 6:22 PM · RSR didn't even make it pass the first round......against DL's s Splash Mountain! :-(

As a particular character in DCA recently stated( in an ode to sweet brown), "Ain't nobody got time for that!!!!!!""""

March 10, 2013 at 7:06 PM · James......I do see your point. The question is what would you run to first if you were standing in between the entrances to both parks, so I totally get your point of running to RSR because it is the new thing and you're right that is the question, but the overall competition(tournament) is for the best ride overall. So this question becomes a double edged sword. You would think to choose RSR as the ride you would run to first, but would you put RSR above Splash Mountain in a match against other attractions in the competition? I would still pick Splash. RSR is a wonderful attraction, and I do like that Disney chose Cars as the theme and not another Princess theme like whats going on at Magic Kingdom in Orlando, but still.....to the question, yes I too would run to RSR first.....but wouldn't pick it as a better ride/attraction overall.
March 10, 2013 at 7:26 PM · Makes sense. I would go to RSR because I expect it is the better attraction AND it is newer as well. Gotta think I will prefer that "new ride" smell especially on a Cars based attraction. Will definitely find out when I visit DLR later this year. Regardless, your opinion is just as valid as mine, if not more so according to some.
March 11, 2013 at 3:07 PM · I like both, but for me even if Splash has a bigger "thrill", RSR I think overall it's a better attraction.

I looked more than just the ride experience, but the overall attraction.

First, the story line itself is clean & to the point (at least cleaner & easier to follow vs Splash).

Riders are arriving to Radiator Springs for a race. Before you get to the starting point, you take a tour of the town, see the local pastime (tractor tipping) almost get in trouble with the police (who lets you go with a warning) & then you prep for the race (with either Flo or Luigi), then it's the race.

Second, I think RSR incorporates it's source material & tone (Cars) better than Splash Mountain (Song of the South). Now there are obvious reasons why, but hey, RSR still comes out ahead in this area. I felt like RSR brings the movie to life. Splash Mountain, not so much....

Visually, I think the que is more interesting than Splash Mountain...

But it doesn't matter....RSR lost (no wonder Lasseter doesn't want it going to FL, haha.....)

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