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June 29, 2012

Cars Land Opens at Disney's California Adventure Park

Cars Land Opens at Disney's California Adventure ParkAs automotive enthusiasts, we have a soft spot for Disney/Pixar’s Cars movies. So we’ve been looking forward to the latest chapter, which does NOT occur on a movie screen: The debut of Cars Land, part of a $1 billion renovation at Disney’s California Adventure Park.

"While I love all of the movies we’ve made at Pixar, the Cars films are particularly close to my heart, so seeing Radiator Springs come to life at Disney California Adventure is a dream come true,”  said Disney/Pixar creative director John Lasseter at last week's grand opening.



Cars Land is a life-size depiction of Radiator Springs, which Pixar’s animators modeled after actual towns along the old Western leg of Route 66. You enter via a “road” with the kind of large neon signs you would have seen traveling cross-country back in the ‘50s.

Flo's V8 Cafe at Cars LandOnce there, you can visit with "car-acters" like Lightning McQueen and Mater. Shop at Radiator Springs Curios, Sarge’s Surplus Hut and Ramone’s House of Body Art.

Dine on classic roadside fare (like cheddar-apple pie) at Flo's V8 Cafe. Or you might want to head down to the Cozy Cone Motel, which serves different "cone-coctions" (like "Pop-Cone" and "Chili Cone Queso").

Radiator Springs Racers at Cars LandOf course, the main event at the Cars Land opening was the launch of three new theme ride. The centerpiece is the Radiator Springs Racers attraction, which pits two six-passenger car-acter vehicles in a race through "Ornament Valley": 280,000 square feet of rock work inspired by the famous Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Texas. Car aficionados will recognize iconic Cadillac tailfin shapes in the jutting mountains as they zip along the track to the finish line. You'll also see elements of hood ornaments, wheel wells and radiator caps in the rock work.

Child-like tow-truck Mater "hosts" the gentler Junkyard Jamboree, where guests enjoy music while carted around on trailers pulled by baby tractors.

Luigi's Tires may be the most fanciful ride, where guests are seated in tires that glide across a cushion of air. This one will carry an air of nostalgia for the older generation of Disney visitors, who will recognize it as an updated version of Tomorrowland's old flying saucer ride, which was removed from the original park in 1966.

So far, the public appears to be excited by the changes at California Adventure: Disney fan blog MiceAge reported that the grand opening of Cars Land on Friday drew 43,000 guests -- and the peak wait time for the Radiator Springs Race attraction was 5 1/2 hours. Fortunately, there is a Fast Pass option for this attraction -- which should allow visitors to enjoy the rest of the park while they wait for their time.

Donna Schwartz Mills is a Los Angeles-based writer who also contributes to CBS Digital Local Los Angeles and her personal site, SoCal Mom. 

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