Part 1. The Photos Magiques team reports "live" from Walt Disney Studios Park that Cars Quatre Roues Rallye has been open for guests this morning, giving everyone at the park a chance to ride the first and only attraction based on Pixar's hit 2006 film - less than 12 months after it originally premiered! So, there seems no better time for us to continue our Toon Studio photo tour and step into the world of Radiator Springs...,
Entering the new Toon Studio, the Willy’s Butte rock formation is a classic Disney “weenie” (as it has been for months), drawing guests into this brand new themed area hidden by fir trees and planting which appears as if it has been growing at the Studios for centuries. You might even spot a cactus or two amonst the rocky desert floor!
For any guests not sure where they’re headed, a familiar sight from the film has been recreated in reality as you round the corner and get a first glimpse at the raceway – the bright turquoise, yellow and black billboard reading “Welcome to Radiator Springs – Gateway to Ornament Valley”.
Further along, a new planter with a ‘Now in Production’ sign splits the themes of Cars and Finding Nemo in two. The attraction is set up like a real-life movie set, including props, a backdrop and detailed foreground buildings.
Viewed from a distance as above, the entire ensemble of themeing and movie set clichés actually builds to a fairly convincing scene, the cadillac-shaped rocks of Cadillac Range in the background. Together with the newly redecorated Sorcerer’s Hat and the fast progressing Hollywood Tower Hotel, the icons of Cars help to build a real visual feast of recognisable icons and colourful details. Does Walt Disney Studios Park now have visual icons on the scale of Disneyland Park‘s Big Thunder Mountain, Sleeping Beauty Castle and Space Mountain? That’s for you to decide…
This morning, the Quatre Roues Rallye opened for business with the park’s other existing attractions! No fanfare, no special wristbands required – everyone has been getting the chance to join the spin-out with Lighting McQueen and Mater watching from the sidelines. The queue and ride will be featured in-depth in Part 2, but a great feature of the new mini Radiator Springs development is that guests can enjoy the film shoot without actually taking part. The photo above, for example, was taken from a new viewing position right next to the track, raised above the spinning cars thanks to the 1 metre “canyon” dug out early in the attraction’s construction.
Did we say a cactus or two? Make that almost a hundred – the quality of themeing here knows no boundaries. Little paths lead through the cacti landscape surrounded by ochre rocks, the path is bordered by a highway crash barrier and the welcoming magnolia entrance building has been adorned with two banners either side declaring “Welcome Travellers” from the Radiator Springs Chamber of Commerce.
The building – based on Ramone’s House of Body Art in the film – features a strong art deco design with detailed brickwork, large window frames and an iconic tower featuring the ‘Cars’ logo in shiny, metallic 3D form – also due to be illuminated when darkness falls. The attraction’s final in-park name – ‘Quatre Roues Rallye’ – is featured in large blue neons styled to the typeface of the ‘Cars’ logo itself.
Against the perpetual blue sky of the film set backdrop, the colour scheme is incredibly pleasing to the eye, and, in just over six months time, it should mix well with the similar art deco finish of The Hollywood Tower Hotel behind.
Walking further towards the entrance, the flooring changes to a fiery red and more props spring into sight. The telegraph poles present a unique themeing idea, and are joined by extra props of oil barrels (some featuring Lightning’s cherished ‘Rust-Eze’ brand) around their base. To the right of the main entrance is an authentic Route 66 phonebooth, complete with an old-fashioned telephone from the days of the Mother Road’s rule.
During rainshowers, it appears the phonebooth can double as a shelter for the Cast Member positioned at the attraction’s entrance, similar to Crush’s beach hut. But, for the rest of the time, it’s a neat detail for passers-by. Can you think of anything like this in the rest of the park? No, neither can we. Radiator Springs has brought the park its first true slice of real Disney detail…
…Showcased nowhere better than the following series of sets. To the right of the entrance is a generic (but well themed and weathered) brick wall façade, whilst next door is the unmissable Tow Mater garage. Since this is a Radiator Springs Visitor Centre rather than the real thing (which is – according to Pixar legend – located along the real Route 66), the façades aren’t meant to be accurate to the real town but rather a showcase of its themes, locations and people.
Notice again that more aged and crooked trees have been brought in to complete the scene, with a planting area in the scene above bordered by old tires sunken into the desert floor – which again goes through various colour and style changes depending on the themes above.
Therefore, Tow Mater has infact managed to get a real building for his showcase, rather than a flimsy wooden shack. His trademark sign is still in place, though, appearing identical to that in the film with an added “Welcome” sign on a rusted piece of scrap metal. Again, compared to the pristine yellow buildings elsewhere at Walt Disney Studios, this dirty and worn wooden façade is quite a break from the norm.
In the doorway of Mater’s shack are props relating to Fillmore, the hippie Volkswagon camper van hooked on converting the world to organic fuel. These colourful barrels all feature different ingredients for his organic fuel, written in typical 1970s typeface.
At the end of row of storefronts comes the best one yet. No, you’re not looking at a still from the CGI film, this is real – you can touch it! Luigi, who we saw being sculpted many months ago, has been finished off with a perfect Fiat yellow, a shiny gloss and a trademark wince of the eyes. Next to him, the ever-smiling Guido prepares to lift some tires, also appearing pixel-perfect to that seen in the film.
The façade itself is also perhaps the most impressive, coming complete with a Leaning Tower of Tires, strings of lights, tire carvings atop the building and the iconic neon signage of ‘Luigi’s Casa Della Tires’. Notice something in the neons? Yes, ‘Casa’ comes in green, ‘Della’ in white and ‘Tires’ in red… the Italian flag, of course!
Like almost the entire attraction complex, the two vehicles have been given a spot of dirt and weathering already, to add to the rustic realism of the Route 66 setting. Above the scene is an ornate metal framework for the fabric canopy seen in the ‘Casa Della Tires’ of the film. It remains to be seen if a similar canopy will arrive to complete the scene in Paris.
Never one to miss a good sales opportunity, Luigi haseven brought over a selection of tires to showcase to passing guests. In the windows of the store, atop tire-shaped plinths, you can find such novelties as “Creama”, “Latte” and “Blanco Maximo” – Luigi’s famous white-rimmed tires which Lighting McQueen himself adopts halfway into the film.
With our tour of the Radiator Springs exteriors complete, it’s time to head back along Route 66 to the attraction entrance. The yellow stripes lead the way along a special stretch of black asphalt bordering the Visitor Centre complex, filled with worn-out cracks and crinkles as if it has supported weary Route 66 travellers for countless decades.
Back at the attraction entrance, we can find the wait time indicator cleverly positioned on a road sign beside Route 66, the ‘Cars’ logo embossed and given a silver shine, the sign itself presented in a particularly classic and well-designed style. The sign doesn’t just give useful information, it adds to the theme of the attraction. And, like everything else, it already has its fair share of dirt and grime.
For a modest little spin-out like Quatre Roues Rallye, those Radiator Springs folk sure know how to give a warm welcome! Now that we’ve toured the town from outside the race track, get ready on the starting line for Part 2, where we step inside the Visitor Centre and discover even more details from this real “dark horse” of Walt Disney Imagineering.
All photos by Photos Magiques.