Last week, Josh and I were invited to attend a preview of the $1 Billion expansion of Disney California Adventure park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.
Since it opened in 2001, Disney California Adventure has always been considered by myself and most other theme park afficianodos as sub-par or half a park. No more than a bonus to Disneyland but not a stand-alone attraction.
That is… until now. That’s what spending a billion dollars will do.
There has been quite a bit of anticipation for the expansion. It was announced several years ago and Disney has been especially forthcoming about their plans from the start. Parks guests and internet theme park junkies have been able to watch as Walt Disney Imagineering shared its progress.
Disney has rolled out many of the improvements to the park over the past few years including Toy Story Midway Mania, The Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Silly Symphony Swings, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Goofy’s Sky School coaster, and of course the incredible nighttime water show, World of Color. You probably remember seeing our coverage of some of these events as they opened.
But the big deal, the reason everyone is so excited, is Cars Land. Cars Land is an entire land based on the Disney-Pixar movie, Cars. The imagineers recreated a life-size Radiator Springs complete with mountain range. I’ve enjoyed watching the construction every week from my computer as well as in person on my monthly trip to the parks.
Finally, after many years, the wait was over. Josh and I were able to preview the park BEFORE it was open to the general public. Anticipation all around Anaheim and SoCal was high. TV commercials and Billboards announced the opening date — June 15, 2012.
So on June 14th, we walked through the park gates, down Buena Vista Street (more on that soon), and up Route 66 to a small town called Radiator Springs.
And it is gorgeous.
Everything is there from the film. You can grab a snack at the Cozy Cone motel or a full dinner at Flo’s V8 Diner. And there are plenty of cool places to shop and explore.
There are three attractions in Cars Land.
The first is found in Mater’s Junkyard — called Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. Basically, you ride around in a trailer being pulled by baby tractors and get flung around while Mater sings hoedown songs.
It may look simple but it is a ton of fun and has quite a bit of ingenuity involved in the ride design. I compare it to the teacups over at Disneyland but maybe the next generation.
Larry the Cable Guy (Mater) recorded several different songs for the ride which helps to keep you from growing sick of the ride as you wait in line.
The second ride is found in Luigi’s Casa Della Tires — called Luigi’s Flying Tires. The ride is inspired by the mythical Flying Saucer ride in the early days of Disneyland.
Guests float along on giant tires and use their center of gravity to control the speed and direction of the flying tire. It’s a little tricky but once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun.
The Flying Saucers were plagued with trouble and closed early on. I’m a little worried that the Flying Tires might have the same issue but until then, I’ll definitely make a point to ride it as long as the line is short.
The last ride and the one I was most excited to ride is called Radiator Springs Racers.
This ride is set on the far side of Cars Land among the Cadillac Mountain Range. The vistas are breathtaking. I thought The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was impressive. This is even more incredible.
On top of seeing all of this, you actually get to RIDE THROUGH IT! The track system is just like the one used for Test Track at Epcot in Florida. This is definitely a thrilling ride and the dips take my stomach every time. The ride pictures are quite embarrassing.
Not only is this an incredible thrill ride but it is also one of the best dark rides ever made. Life-size Cars characters welcome you into Radiator Springs and prepare you for the final part of the ride, a RACE with another ride vehicle full of guests.
I can’t express how much I love this ride. It could quite possibly be my favorite theme park ride ever. So immersive. Disney definitely stepped things up and we now have something that rivals Harry Potter in Orlando.
All signs on the web seem to indicate that Cars Land is a huge success. I love it. I can’t wait to go again. The crowds have been insane so I would definitely wait a few months before planning your trip to SoCal.
Make sure you see the park at night. The neon is BEAUTIFUL. Night time is the best time to be in Cars Land.
(Here’s a picture of Josh and myself with Cars writer/director and Chief Creative Officer at Disney, John Lasseter.)
Check out Inside the Magic’s Cars Land coverage for even more details with video and pictures of all the festivities.