Disneyland’s Cars Land taps into car culture

You can really tell the Disney imagineers had fun with this one


Cars Land was inspired by the Disney-Pixar animated Cars films, yes; and the 12-acre attraction aims to recreate the fictional town of Radiator Springs.

But this project just goes deeper.

Imagineers started by taking road trips on the infamous Route 66 through the United States, and those real-life experiences influenced everything from the design of the town, to the menu in Flo’s V8 Café.

“It’s feeling it, seeing the light and hearing the stories of the people on the road,” says John Lasseter, chief creative officer, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. It was Lasseter’s idea to send imagineers out on the road after he and his family took their own road trip.

“We were all focused on the storytelling to create the home of Lightning McQueen, Mater, Doc Hudson, all of the residents of Radiator Springs, and to make it as authentic as we could.”

The Cozy Cone Motel, for example, is loosely modelled on the wigwam-style roadside motels along Route 66. In Cars Land, that translates into giant orange traffic cones that act as food kiosks (they sell, for example, popcone and chili “cone” queso).

“When our guests step into this land and they see the spectacle and the panorama of the landscape, I want them to feel like this is the greatest road trip they’ve ever been on,” said Kevin Rafferty, concept director and senior writer, Walt Disney Imagineering, adding that the top attraction of Cars Land—Radiator Springs Racers—continues the mind-blowing immersion.

“A great attraction takes you somewhere; it takes you to another place. And that’s what Radiator Springs Racers does.” The ride itself is proving to be a hit with kids and adults alike. It incorporates the cute characters from the movie with the adrenaline surges needed for a wild “race” through the desert.

The ride zips across a man-made mountain range called Ornament Valley, which John Lasseter is particularly proud of.

“The closer you get to that rockwork, the more it wraps around you,” he said. “You look around and you are transported to Ornament Valley. It’s so beautiful, you can take a vacation in Cars Land.”

The mountain range itself stands 38 metres high, and the whole thing took 4,000 tons of steel and 280,000 square feet of rockwork. If you look closely, you can make out six distinct car tail fins, each inspired by classic car models from the ’50s and ’60s, as well as hood ornaments and wheel wells.

You see what I mean about having fun with it?

It’s no wonder the imagineers are proud of Cars Land. They’ve built a mountain. They’ve created cars with bumpers that act as “lips”—and talk to the riders (the audio animatronics was a first).

They’ve created not just a town or a movie setting, but a time and place. And visitors are happy to be transported.

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