Part 3. Continued from Part 2. It's the third and final part of our tour through Walt Disney Studios' own Radiator Springs at the new Cars Race Rally, and finally we reach the ride itself. Only the Disney Imagineers could turn what most say is "just a tea cups ride" into something which takes three articles to take a brief tour through. Anyway, this is where the real fun begins -- ready to join the spinout?,
Before you do, you’d better check this out –the obligatory warning sign. It’s not wordy and massive like the ones over at Crush’s Coaster, but just simple and cute. Using the same eye-pleasing style as the entrance information sign, there’s two illustrations showing how to and how not to load the vehicles.
As soon as the vehicles were installed on their turntables back in late February, many a Disney fan eeked in horror at their diminutive size. Is this something everyone can ride? Of course! But only two adults maximum per vehicle, one per row. Otherwise, your unfortunate rookie race vehicle might keel over exactly as shown above!
Warnings over, onto the ride itself. Moving from the queue building to underneath the canopy of Flo’s V8 Café, you reach six boarding groups with the turqoise control booth in the middle. Each “pen” has its own automatic gate to open onto the ride turntables, and you’re grouped together two car-loads in each pen. When the ride ahead of you has come to an end, the gate opens and you’re free to board…
If the Imagineers had gone with the original idea of using characters from the film for the vehicles, now would be the time that you’d be thrown to the floor as families dashed to Lightning McQueen and you’re left with stuffy old Doc Hudson. Thankfully, the concept evolved and we’ve got cars in three different colours – red, blue and aqua. Each car style also has its own unique face and slight details which differentiate each “rookie racer” on the Radiator Springs Raceway.
The’Raceway’ itself has even been given some nice authentic touches, such as tire marks skidding across the sandy-coloured floor. It was always going to be tough trying to recreate a dusty desert landscape with the turntable of a spinning teacups-style ride, but with some squared cracks, dusty markings and those tire tracks it appears authentic enough. Surrounded by the kind of fine ochre rockwork only Imagineering can do to form the “canyon walls” of this sunken ride area, the effect adds up rather nicely.
Each of the Cars has its own unique licence plate number, but it appears the Imagineers didn’t add any hidden secrets like their own birthdates as we’ve come to expect. Instead, each car has a number in the form “CQR011” (CQR being Cars Quatre Roues, the film’s French title), surrounded by the words Carberetor County. One nice detail for years to come is the date of May 2007 at the top of the licence plate, for the first run of these new vehicles.
The best thing about these being brand new vehicles rather than ones taken from the film is that the stars of ‘Cars’ can be presented properly, full-size and as close to their real design as possible. We saw Lightning arrive via the Studio Tram Tour route a few weeks ago, and now here they are – Lightning and Mater beaming uncontrollably at riders as they spin out of control around the course.
Their position here will likely cause upset for anyone who wants to get an up-close photo with the characters, but perhaps if we remember their intricate designs meeting the uncaring hands of guests… it suddenly seems like a good idea! The position also allows for a fun addition to the ride – as you spin and swirl, the pair of “best friends” will shout encouragements over to you, Mater in French and Lightning in English. Lightning McQueen at least is not the original voice of Owen Wilson, but it’s unlikely children will notice the difference.
Enough with the words! Climb into your Car…
When the ride finishes, there are two paths to exit, snaking up through cacti and the rough, ochre desert landscape to the viewing area next to the ride. Each features automatic gates at its start and finish, so they’ve no need to be attended by a Cast Member all day.
The view across the “canyon” towards McQueen and Mater looks like they’ve clicked “copy” on Pixar’s computers and pasted across the best bits of the film’s location into this fairly small space. The thin wire mesh fences — an usual choice for Disney — and the aged trees continue to add to the theme.
As guests turn this corner into the new Toon Studio area, the sudden rush of theme, complete with large collections of real cacti, will be quite overwhelming compared to the rest of the current park. If they wanted to overwrite some bad memories of the past, however, they’ve done well. This barely seems the same park that brought us the wondrous presenting skills of Disney Channel’s ‘Julie’.
“Leaving so soon?” The folks of Radiator Springs have a point. Will we ever want to leave this area on our next visit to Walt Disney Studios Park? Of course we’ll have to eventually, but even after the land is officially re-inaugurated in two weeks time there will still be things to return for…
…Such as that point in October/November when the sun finally sets early enough for us to see Walt Disney Studios Park at its very best – under the cover of darkness! No, that’s not a sly dig at the park’s looks, but an appreciation of its wonderful lighting. And with all those neons, set lighting and the Toon Town backdrop, this should be a second launch of magic for the park’s new land.
Until then, relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Take life a little easier on Route 66. The welcoming residents of Radiator Springs guarantee you’ll never want to leave.
All photos and video by Photos Magiques.