Spoiler warning: This article contains details about the new Cars Land; readers wishing to avoid spoilers should skip this article.
[Note: All photographs for this article were taken during the annual passholder previews of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street on Saturday, June 9, 2012. The author paid for admission to this event.]
I don't know when I first heard the phrase "Disney is in the details," but the thought has stuck with me during my years covering the Disney theme parks. The new Cars Land and Buena Vista Street are both stellar examples of that philosophy, with so many visual and audio treats that visitors may miss in their rush to grab a mocha at Starbucks or ride Radiator Springs Racers. Today and tomorrow, let me share a few of these details I discovered during this weekend's annual passholder preview events, starting with Cars Land.
While you're in line for Radiator Springs Racers, you'll pass through several structures designed like roadside stands. While their function is to provide shade for the queue, they also provided an opportunity for designers to add to the story of Radiator Springs. One room is decorated with license plates from various states, and one grouping of seven plates arranged in order those states fall along Route 66 itself—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. This grouping is repeated throughout Cars Land—check out the mural inside Flo's V8 Cafe.
Historical license plates from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, representing the states that Route 66 passes through, in order, decorate a wall along the queue of Radiator Springs Racers. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
My favorite room in the queue is the Amazing Oil Bottle House, said to be constructed of genuine glass oil bottles left behind by visitors to Stanley's Oasis (a new section in Cars Land). Look closely at the bottle bottoms embedded in the walls—most are stamped with letters and a date. Markings like these in Disney attractions are usually placed on purpose, and are references (such as initials and birthdates) to the Imagineers who helped build the attraction.
Pay attention to the wall of bottles that appear to glow as if catching the sunlight—every once in a while, there's a neat lighting effect.
Naturally the round glass bottles here and the radiator caps in Stanley's Cap -n- Tap next door provide ample opportunities for Imagineers to place "hidden Mickeys" in the decor, but the cactus Mickey is my favorite from the Radiator Springs Racers queue.
Once you board Radiator Springs Racers and just before you begin your race, look on the wall next to Luigi and Guido—the sky is filled with vapor trails that look like tire treads.
The queue for Luigi's Flying Tires is also highly themed, with the tire-tread motif incorporated into the showroom decor—check out the wooden pillars, the ceiling lights, and even the tops of the metal stanchions.
The second room of the queue has bulletin boards covered in memorabilia, including Luigi's pit passes from the World Grand Prix races of Cars 2. The autographed celebrity photos are worth a closer look, and there are lots of Disney references scattered throughout, including a poster for 20,000 Leaks Under the Seal.
Disney's horticulture department got into the spirit when crafting the tire topiaries for the outdoor queue. There's also a still-growing Ferrari topiary in the planter right outside Luigi's office.
Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is filled with memorabilia from Mater's Tall Tales, including the drum kit from "Heavy Metal Mater," oil cans from "Unidentified Flying Mater," and an office window from "Mater Private Eye."
Larry the Cable Guy recorded six songs for Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, along with 18 jokes that Mater tells between ride cycles. If you're lucky, you might hear a seventh song that includes outtakes taken from a recording session when Larry the Cable Guy forgot the lyrics.
Pixar fans are used to seeing references to past or upcoming movies in Pixar films. Taller visitors might spot this snow globe from the 1989 short film Knick Knack in the Radiator Springs Curios shop.
Sally's office at the Cozy Cone is not open to the public, and a combination of the meet-and-greet area in front of the office the picnic tables behind it make it difficult to take a good look inside through the windows. If you get a chance to peek inside, you'll find Buzz Lightyear hiding out here. The wallpaper in Sally's office is worth a look, too.
Ramone's House of Body Art store is intricately decorated with hand-painted pin-striping applied by hot rod shop owner Chip Foose and artists from his Huntington Beach design center. Look for this little tribute to Ramone's girlfriend, Flo, owner of the neighboring diner.
The design of Flo's V8 Cafe may represent the greatest degree of character development for any of the Cars citizens. In building the location, Pixar had to tell Flo's previously unknown backstory, including her history with the Motorama Girls. Table jukeboxes at the counter list Motorama Girls songs like "That's the Brakes" and "Heartbreak Garage," and a section of the dining area is decorated with gold records.
Flo's has a great view of the Radiator Springs Racers track, but don't overlook these road signs. Styled like the old Burma-Shave highway billboard signs, there are two messages, depending on whether you're entering or exiting Cars Land.
The other side of Flo's dining room is filled with memorabilia of Doc Hudson's racing and medical careers. A friend pointed out several puns in the eye chart.
Finally, even the most detail-oriented companies make mistakes, and the custom Fettuccini Alfredo tires created for the showroom of Luigi's Flying Tires were produced with a slight spelling error. The tires in the showroom have all been replaced with corrected versions, but the misprint tires are still visible if you know where to look. I'll leave that one for you to find on your next visit to Cars Land.
Did you spot another Disney detail in Cars Land? Share it with us (photos are welcome!)—we may include it in an upcoming article.