D23 Expo Report: Radiator Springs Reality

  • 8-28-2011


Our latest D23 Expo photo report covers the huge Radiator Springs Reality panel from Sunday afternoon, going in depth on the creation of Cars Land, coming to Disney California Adventure next year:


This panel was held in Stage 23 on the third floor of the Anaheim Convention Center


The "entrance" to Stage 23


Two queue rooms this size were filled to the brim. Crazy crowds at the Expo!


And we're in and waiting for the panel to start!

John Lasseter was on the panel! The Gazette staff had incredible seats for this panel

It's John Lassetire!


Lasseter started off the panel by flat out saying that Disney California Adventure was not up to his view of a Disney theme park. The park original lacked Disney characters for the most part, and that didn't make any sense to John

Imagineer Kevin Rafferty discussed the early Blue Sky process of Cars Land

Early concept art for a Car Land (note the singular 'car'). Originally, Disney hoped to incorporate other famous cars into the land, including Herbie the Love Bug. That might even be a better idea...

Kevin Rafferty along with Roger Gould from Pixar

As the Blue Sky process continued, Car Land morphed into a Route 66 area, including all of the kitschy tourist attractions you can find on the classic road

This idea would have had guests not on the ride squirting at guests on the ride as they go through a car wash

Early concept art for Junkyard Jamboree, without Mater


Another lost Car Land idea was to have had a drive along a Route 66-type road with Goofy. That would have been a lot of fun!

The lady in the middle is Jennifer Mok

Finally, it was decided that Car Land should become Cars Land, based on Radiator Springs from the original Pixar film. I personally assure the skeptics that so much thought and detail has gone into this new land that it will not feel like a celebration of only Lightning McQueen and other characters from Cars. Instead, it will be a Disney-fied Route 66. I learned at the presentation that so much research went into the making of the original Cars film that Radiator Springs, as it appears in the film, is already very much like the real Route 66. The buildings you see: Flo's Diner, Ramone's Paint Shop, even Luigi's Tire Store, are all based on actual locations that can be found on Route 66

Lasseter said that Cars Land, like much of Disneyland (he noted Big Thunder Mountain Railroad specifically), will become a completely different place at night. They're putting a lot of effort into making incredible neon signage

Lassetter was very animated when talking about this stuff, waving his hands about and making goofy facial expressions. His enthusiasm for the project certainly convinced me that it's going to be incredible


There will be three dining locations in Cars Land. The flagship restaurant will be Flo's V8 Cafe, serving tradtional diner fare. Apparently, the views of Cadillac Range are going to be so spectacular, no one is going to want to leave the restaurant! The Cozy Cone Motel will be a series of quick service locations and all of the food will be cone-shaped (except for the churros)! Finally, Fillmore's Fill Station will serve beverages. They did not specify if they would be alcoholic or not

There will be two main shopping locations, Radiator Springs Curios and Ramone's Paint Shop. They didn't talk about either location in too much detail, but it sounds as if the Curio shop will be full of fun, kitschy items like you could find on the real Route 66. And both locations are sure to be full of incredibly detailed theming

We learned that the old Flying Saucers in Tomorrowland was John Lasseter's favorite attraction as a kid

Concept art for Luigi's Flying Tires, which is based on the Flying Saucers

Here's John testing out the new ride vehicles for Luigi's Flying Tires. Looks like fun!


Concept art for Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, a cross between Francis' Ladybug Boogie and classic state fair Scrambler rides

Obviously, the main attraction in Cars Land will be Radiator Springs Racers. At nearly 6 acres, this ride is going to be the largest attraction Disney has ever built. To give you some perspective, all of Cars Land is 12 acres, which is 1/3 of the size of new DCA

The ride starts off with a real-life version of that gorgeous driving sequence from the first film, where Lightning and Sally drive into the hills, over bridges, and next to waterfalls. I can't wait to see this, as that is my favorite part of the film

Near the end of the attraction, one ride vehicle will go right into Luigi's Tire Shop and one will go left into Ramone's Body Art Shop. When they emerge, they will be side-by-side for the final, Test Track-like race sequence at the end of the ride

Here they are creating the model for one of the ride vehicles. There are eight different car "personalities" that you could get, each of them created especially for this ride

All of the figures and ride vehicles in the ride are based on actual specs of the characters, as created by the Pixar animators. In other words, these will be the most accurate representations of a character that you have ever seen in a Disney theme park attraction!

A built, but unpainted ride vehicle


John Lasseter with Tom Staggs and some Imagineers, testing out the vehicles on the Radiator Springs Racers track. With banked corners and hills, and a speed of 40mph, this is sure to be a thrill.

Here's Lasseter breaking ground on Cars Land back in 2009

And now here's Kathy Mangum, lead Imagineer of Cars Land, to talk about the construction progress up to this point

This is the incredible mechanisms underneath the Mater's Junkyard Jamboree attraction. All of this will not be visible by the time the attraction opens to the public, but look at how complex it is!

On the left is the queue building for Luigi's Flying Tires. On the right is the new Ramone's Paint Shop store, and in the distance is the Court House, which will serve as the entrance to Radiator Springs Racers

This is the Radiator Springs Curios store. The Imagineers have put a lot of effort into building new things to look aged and crooked. Apparently, they've been having issues with carpenters who want to build things straight!

Look at some of the amazing details going into Cars Land. These will all be in Radiator Springs Curios. See that tire at the bottom of the column? They're truly planning out every little thing about Cars Land!


The tin ceiling of Radiator Springs Curios


This large wingnut was installed on top of Flo's V8 Cafe the very week of the Expo


Working on some of the rock work on the side of Flo's V8 Cafe

This is the giant mechanism that will be underneath Luigi's Flying Tires

A look at a completed Luigi's Flying Tires ride vehicle

Another look at construction on Luigi's Flying Tires

Construction progress on Ramone's Paint Shop. This is apparently identical to a real paint shop found out on Route 66, where people now stop and ask about Ramone!

Each of those levels of scaffolding is 8 feet tall. Look at how huge the Cadillac Range is going to be!!!

Lasseter squinting to point out some details in that last photo

One of the Cadillac formations in the new Cadillac mountain range. Apparently, they go in order of actual Cadillac tail fins. Car enthusiasts will have fun spotting their favorite model, I'm sure

A look at construction on the waterfall/bridge sequence we discussed earlier in the report

Construction on the queue for Radiator Springs Racers, based on the Stanley's Oasis backstory from Cars

One of the bridges you will cross over while on the ride, under while in the queue. There will be an "older" wooden bridge behind this one, much like what you would find on the real Route 66

One of the banked turns during the race sequences of the ride. Incredible!

From the finale of the ride, Taillight Cavern. Apparently, this room will be even more spectacular at night when the taillights are all lit up

Next, the panel discussed the landscape theming in Cars Land. In the movie, Radiator Springs is in the desert so there is very little foliage. Imagineer Jennifer Mok has been hard at work trying to provide natural-looking landscaping for both general atmosphere and greatly needed shade. Here's a look at the landscaping for Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

Some of the highly manicured landscaping to be found around Sarge's building, also planned to be a shopping locations. The photo in the upper right-hand corner is of a tree recently removed from the Disneyland Hotel that will be trimmed to look like the concept art

More shading ideas, this time near Radiator Springs Curios and the Cozy Cone Motel

Some of the desert-inspired plants that will be found near Flo's V8 Cafe, including some cacti, palms, and aloe vera, of all things!


The queue for Luigi's Flying Tires will be like an Italian garden, but with tires everywhere

Some inspiration. See the tire topiary on the right?

They managed to find some trees that looked exactly like the driving sequence from the film. Beautiful evergreens!

Finally, Roger Gould from Pixar Animation Studios talked about his role in integrating detailing into the land from the Cars film franchise


The timeline for the current Cars universe

An expansion to Flo's V8 Cafe was necessary to provide more indoor seating. This design was actually debuted in Cars 2, but was specifically designed for Cars Land

The backstory to the theming inside Flo's V8 Cafe was that Flo was actually in a popular girl singing group in the 1950s. Inside, guests will find old press photos, record covers, awards, and other memorobilia from Flo's life as a singer

A look inside Ramone's


Ramone will be using the World-O-Color Custom Paint System. What an awesome way to tie Paradise Pier into Cars Land!

Inside the Luigi's Flying Tires queue, guest will find various artifacts of importance to Luigi, including this personal blessing from the Pope Mobile!


While doing research in the desert, the Imagineers stumbled on some rock-work that almost perfectly looked like a load and a unload area, so they carried the design over for the ride

Stanley's backstory will be revealed in the queue for Radiator Springs Racers. Apparently, Stanley's Oasis used to provide free radiator fuel to cars driving through the area

Eventually, Stanley turned this into a lucrative business selling radiator caps and other car parts. Thus, Radiator Springs was born

ohn Lasseter with the first complete Radiator Springs Racers figure, Mack the Truck

Mack is actually the first figure to be installed in the ride. He's just as shocked at the honor as you are, apparently ;)

Radiator Springs Reality concluded with a personal request from John Lasseter

He has plenty of photos of himself as a Jungle Cruise skipper from the 50th anniversary, but none of himself in the 1970s at his first job as a Jungle Cruise skipper


Visit johnofthejungle.com to find out details about the contest to be the first to find a photo of John Lasseter on the Jungle Cruise in the 1970s. The winner will be a VIP guest on opening day of Cars Land! Good luck and happy hunting!

Thanks for re-experiencing Radiator Springs Reality with us, and stay tuned for much more from the D23 Expo!

Comments (2)

Said this on 8-29-2011 At 01:55 am

Thanks for sharing! :)

Amy Reilly
Said this on 8-30-2011 At 07:10 am

Thanks so much for the awesome, detailed coverage.  I had no idea about so much of this stuff.  I can't wait for it to open!

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