Cars Land Test Drive: Luigi's Flying Tires

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer
Advertisement

I'm starting our Cars Land Test Drive with Luigi's Flying Tires, my personal favorite of the three new Cars Land attractions, but one that received decidedly mixed reviews during previews. Luigi's Flying Tires are a new take on Disneyland's fabled Flying Saucers attraction, the ride I consider the Woodstock of Disneyland—the one everybody's parents claim to have ridden on.

Walt Disney is often quoted as saying "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." John Lasseter's slogan might be "It's kind of fun to do the impossible twice." And as Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering, Lasseter was in a unique position to bring the Flying Saucers back as part of the new Cars Land, using new technology to address the problems that led to the original ride's closure in 1966.


Luigi's Flying Tires is one of three new rides in Cars Land. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

During a media preview of Luigi's Flying Tires, Imagineers explained the story behind the ride. When Luigi's uncle Topolino discovered the mysterious floating capabilities of Cuscino D' Aria (cushion of air) tires, his Italian village responded by hosting the first Festival of the Flying Tires (incidentally, Topolino is both the name of a classic Fiat model as well as the Italian name of Mickey Mouse). Luigi and Guido brought the tires—and the festival—to Cars Land. I admit to paying only limited attention to this tale, being entirely focused on finally getting to experience the ride I've heard about my entire life.


Fettuccini brand tires are displayed in the first portion of the queue for Luigi's Flying Tires. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The queue takes you first through Luigi's showroom, filled with displays of Fettuccini tires, and then into his office. This is my favorite section of the queue; the souvenirs displayed all around the office help distract you during what ought to be a long wait. Officially Luigi's has a capacity of just 600 riders per hour, among the lowest of any Disney rides. In practice the capacity is lower, especially when riders each demand their own tire.


Souvenirs and props in Luigi's office give you plenty to look at while you wait to board the Flying Tires. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The ride takes place in a 8,000-square-foot "tire storage yard" behind Luigi's shop, and the last section of the queue winds through Luigi's garden. Here, cast members instruct you on how to make the tire move, and offer tips to avoid common problems. Then CMs pass out small colored pennants, like the magic feathers distributed at Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction in Disneyland, and send riders into a waiting area. The pennants are used to let the CMs accurately count ride vehicles for each cycle, and the process of collecting them once riders are seated gives CMs a chance to verify that every seatbelt is properly fastened.


Topiaries with automotive themes decorate the exterior portion of the Luigi's Flying Tires queue. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Most riders will board their ride vehicle from the main ride floor, stepping over the black "tire" section and onto the center platform. The tire may look solid, but the fabric base doesn't support weight. By the time riders reach the tire, they will have seen and heard several warnings not to step on the tire, and there is even a "no step" symbol sewn onto the tire itself.

The single bench seat can accommodate up to three passengers; two adults and a child or one adult and two children. Each tire has a single seatbelt, and a recessed bin behind the bench to store loose objects.


Signs in the queue provide instructions on how to make the tires fly. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

As Luigi gives the countdown and the 6,714 air vents open, each tire lifts about two inches off the floor, turning the floor into a giant air hockey table, with the ride vehicles being the puck.

While the ride does admittedly has a learning curve, most of the complaints I heard were from riders whose tires wouldn't go very far or very fast. The key is to find the balance point of the tire, which varies depending on the number and weight of the people in the tire.


Cast members distribute beach balls to riders as they wait to ride Luigi's Flying Tires. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

To make the tire move, riders lean in the direction they want to go. The concept is similar to that of the two-wheeled self-balancing Segway. It sounds easy, but it's also easy to lean too far, "grounding" the tire on the ride surface. You can immediately feel when that happens, and just need to ease up a bit to restore balance. Once you have the hang of it, and assuming you can get clear of other riders, it's time to fly.


A rider tries to catch a beach ball on Luigi's Flying Tires. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

While the technology has changed, so too, have Disney's safety standards, and the Flying Tires are radically different than the ride our parents claim to remember. The bumper car aspect of the ride has been considerably reduced from that of the Flying Saucers—you can still collide with another tire, but the impact won't knock you out of your seat. Take a look at this video Disney posted of the Flying Saucers, circa 1961—some of those collisions actually look painful.

Similar to the balloons dropped onto the Flying Saucers platform, riders on Luigi's Flying Tires navigate through a floor filled with giant beach balls. I am of two minds about the beach balls, as they very much change the nature of the ride. I grumbled to a friend that I was changing the name of the attraction to "Luigi's Beach Ball Fight," because so many of the riders spend all of their time trying to catch and throw beach balls at one another instead of flying their tires.


Riders chase beach balls into a corner during a ride on Luigi's Flying Tires. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Cast members actively encourage riders to play with the beach balls, even distributing them to each tire during the loading cycle. Sure, the balls add energy and interactivity to the ride, but they detract from the fact that you're floating on air. I often found myself stuck in a group of people intent only on grabbing a ball, oblivious to the actual ride experience.

The balls also make it more difficult for riders to properly maneuver their tires, especially when one person in a tire is trying to steer in one direction, and the other passenger is leaning the opposite way to grab a beach ball. Ff you can break free of the ball crawl and make a break for an open patch of floor, however, the experience is like nothing you've ever felt before.


Riders can view a ride vehicle outside the attraction entrance prior to getting in line to determine if they can manage the step up onto the tire, or need to use the alternate boarding area. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

For riders with mobility issues, Luigi's has a alternate loading area that allows passengers to walk across a ramp straight onto the tire, avoiding what can be a tall step up and down. A ride vehicle parked outside the ride entrance allows potential riders to evaluate the step; anyone with balance or lower joint problems should consider whether they can navigate both up and down (and the step down may be more difficult), or if they should use the alternate access ramp. The indoor portion of the queue is fully wheelchair and EVC accessible; once in the garden portion, a cast member will direct you to the accessible ramp if needed. Riders can also wheel directly onto the ride platform and transfer into the tire from there if you're able to manage the step, and this is usually much faster than waiting to use the ramp.


Signs and icons in the ride vehicle warn riders to step over the tire segment and onto the solid platform. . Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The only really clunky part of the accessible loading process is the need for cast members to push the tire back into the loading area after the ride cycle concludes. This only takes a minute, but can add to what can already be a long loading cycle.

Luigi's has a posted height requirement of 32 inches, but parents of taller children who are used to riding alone on other rides should encourage them to stick with the family for this one, as they may not be heavy enough to steer the tire. Even empty tires float, but you need some rider mass to make them move very far.

Some claim that Luigi's Flying Tires was built just to satisfy John Lasseter. If true, I'm OK with that. If you were in his shoes, given the resources at his disposal, isn't there a classic Disney ride you'd try to re-create? It's definitely not the star of the new Cars Land for most visitors, and there are some justifiable complaints about the slow loading process and navigation challenges once onboard. But in a land that is completely steeped in nostalgia, an updated Flying Saucers seems a perfect fit.

Luigi's Flying Tires facts at a glance

  • Number of ride units – 21 Flying Tires
  • Vehicle capacity – 2 or 3 riders per tire
  • Official ride capacity – 600 riders per hour. In practice, considerably fewer.
  • Ride length – 2 minutes
  • Ride floor – 8,000 square feet
  • Vehicle size – 9-foot diameter
  • Air vents in the ride floor – 6,714
  • Air volume generated to float tires – 1.86 million cubic feet per minute
  • Height requirement – 32 inches
  • Fastpass – No
  • Single Rider line – No
  • Baby Swap – Yes
  • Ride Photo – No

Comments

  1. By KarenW2

    After not getting to ride the original Flying Saucers back in the 60's (my mother wouldn't allow me to ride them, but I'm definitely old enough to ride them now!), this was our first ride of the night, after our dinner at the Carthay Circle Restaurant, during our Cars Land Preview and dinner event Sunday night.

    The wait time posted was 60 mins, but according to my hubby, it took us about 40 mins, so it was shorter, but it felt like an eternity to me! The alternate boarding for those who need extra time is very helpful and I appreciated being able to use it. It's an extra spur or whatever they call them, like on GRR or Space Mountain. It took longer for us to get into the action and out after it was over, but that was fine and to be expected.

    I think the best idea to improve the ride would be to add at least one other tire riding area, like they have for the Mater's Junkyard Jamboree (they have 3 areas). More people could ride more tires and the wait time could be cut down considerably. We don't go to the parks during the Summer, but I have a feeling that if they don't do something to cut down on the wait time, it's going to be really bad when the crowds hit. Lots of angry guests who don't want to wait that long in the hot sun, make for hot tempers and bad scenes.

    It would also be easier if they had fewer beach balls that were smaller and easier for people to grab, if that's supposed to be the thing to do, or if they want to use the same size, put handles on them, so they can be grabbed easier! When I ride them again, I would just ignore the beach balls altogether and just "enjoy the ride".

    Putting the 3 rides (or attractions) in order of how much I enjoyed them, I rank them this way:

    1. Radiator Springs Racers (tho I wish it was a longer ride)
    2. Luigi's Flying Tires (so long as the wait isn't too long)
    3. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree (I don't need to ride this one ever again!)

  2. By carolinakid

    The Flying Saucers closed the year before my very first trip to DL in 1967 so I'm excited to ride Luigi's Flying Tires. I always got a kick out of seeing the Saucers during the World of Color theme song. However, I agree with AVP; I don't get the beach ball thing. I'd rather just enjoy riding on air!

  3. By Drince88

    Is there a total weight limit on each vehicle? I know you mentioned that smaller people riding solo may not have enough mass to manuver around -- but is there a posted 'too much mass for the air jets to 'float' you' amount?

    And I agree, that step down, especially with the hand rail being behind you, may be a lot tougher to navigate than the step up. (Especially in a shorter skirt!)

  4. By Bassfo

    I thought the best part of the cue was the music! Luigi obviously has great taste in music, or at least a copy of the sound track to "Big Night" from 1996. Incidentally, that movie also stars Tony Shalhoub. While we were in line, people were singing along with "That's Amore!" and the well-know tenor arias like "O Sole Mio." This ride easily has the best music of any cue anywhere at DCA.

    Did you notice that the wheel in Luigi's office is a Chip Foose wheel? "Foose" is written in the center cap. Also the "foot pedals" the cars use to operate machinery in the movie, like the car lift at the start of the line, are also there. Great attention to detail. Thanks for doing it right this time California Adventure!

    I got my tire going at a pretty good clip, but I admit I didn't trouble myself with the beach balls. Does anyone know what happened to the handles on the tires? In the videos I watched before going on the ride people were using a cylindrical metal handle, but when I rode at the Annual Passholder Preview on June 10th the handles were gone and a plastic cap was in their place. Quite the mystery.

    The line was long, but it was fun!

  5. By AVP

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassfo View Post
    Does anyone know what happened to the handles on the tires? In the videos I watched before going on the ride people were using a cylindrical metal handle, but when I rode at the Annual Passholder Preview on June 10th the handles were gone and a plastic cap was in their place. Quite the mystery.

    They were a spin control that was removed during testing. I was disappointed to learn that; I'd wanted to try flying and spinning.

    Adrienne

  6. By eabaldwin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassfo View Post
    I thought the best part of the cue was the music! Luigi obviously has great taste in music, or at least a copy of the sound track to "Big Night" from 1996. Incidentally, that movie also stars Tony Shalhoub. While we were in line, people were singing along with "That's Amore!" and the well-know tenor arias like "O Sole Mio." This ride easily has the best music of any cue anywhere at DCA.

    Did you notice that the wheel in Luigi's office is a Chip Foose wheel? "Foose" is written in the center cap. Also the "foot pedals" the cars use to operate machinery in the movie, like the car lift at the start of the line, are also there. Great attention to detail. Thanks for doing it right this time California Adventure!

    I wholeheartedly agree about the music in the queue! I thought it was fabulous. I was singing along (or attempting to anyway ) and it helped me entertain my 2 year old daughter.

    I can't wait to ride it again to look for the Chip Foose wheel. I didn't get to look into Luigi's office too much because my DD was not very patient with the line since we had been up so early to get to our preview time. Once we got into the back where the ride is, she was much better because she could actually see the ride and the balls. My DH is a big fan of Chip Foose and I think that he did a really great job with the Cars movies, so we bought one of his limited edition paintings (not an original! ) as a souvenir for visiting Cars Land. I did notice the foot pedals, too. There was another one more towards the beginning of the queue, by the garage door. The attention to detail was great, not only in Luigi's Flying Tires, but I thought in all of Cars Land as well.

    I really enjoyed the ride. It was at a much slower pace than I thought it would be. When we rode, the CM weren't handing out the balls, but rather the riders were picking one up on their way to their tires. They flew around at the beginning, but then it seemed that people were more focused on moving their tires. I think that this ride will be different based on the group of people you are riding with.

    Thank you, AVP for your review and for posting the video of the Flying Saucers ride. That is before my time and I hadn't heard of it before. I'll have to ask my mom if she rode it before!

  7. By bennette

    It was a great queue but I can't imagine standing it in for an hour for the ride itself unless maybe I had guests with me. I guess we didn't come close to finding the magic balance point. Maybe if I'm there sometime when there is no queue (?) we'll take another couple of runs at it to improve our technique.

  8. By danyoung

    Quote Originally Posted by KarenW2 View Post
    ....I have a feeling that if they don't do something to cut down on the wait time, it's going to be really bad when the crowds hit. Lots of angry guests who don't want to wait that long in the hot sun, make for hot tempers and bad scenes.

    This is a prime case of supply equalling demand. If someone is willing to wait in a 2 or 3 hour line for a simple 2 minute ride, then it's their own fault if they're not happy with the result. I'm looking forward to riding, but I'll be doing it early in the day, and in no way will I be standing in any 3 hour line!

  9. By Aysle

    Quote Originally Posted by KarenW2 View Post
    I think the best idea to improve the ride would be to add at least one other tire riding area, like they have for the Mater's Junkyard Jamboree (they have 3 areas). More people could ride more tires and the wait time could be cut down considerably. We don't go to the parks during the Summer, but I have a feeling that if they don't do something to cut down on the wait time, it's going to be really bad when the crowds hit. Lots of angry guests who don't want to wait that long in the hot sun, make for hot tempers and bad scenes.

    It would also be easier if they had fewer beach balls that were smaller and easier for people to grab, if that's supposed to be the thing to do, or if they want to use the same size, put handles on them, so they can be grabbed easier! When I ride them again, I would just ignore the beach balls altogether and just "enjoy the ride".

    FYI Mater's has 2 ride areas...

    I don't see how they could possibly add another Luigi's area. The air system breaks down enough, trying to run two at the same time would just equal twice as much broken.... And there just isnt enough space with all the shops.

    They need something like the arm that they had back with the saucers (before my time) to help with loading / unloading. I also think they should come up with a portable unload mechanism for the HCA guests. Something like the stairs they have for airplanes but a ramp. So getting off is faster and they don't have to half spin up the ride to load/unload the HCA vehicle. Also keeping one always in the HCA loading area would speed the ride up tremendously.

    I love the ride and have been on it numerous times. The load time is slow because of the beach balls ( a waste I think, enjoy the float not throw balls at people!! ) and when a HCA tire is loaded it adds another 2-4 minutes to the cycle. Adding handles to the balls would just create a disaster as then people could throw the balls at others so much harder then they already do. Ive been hit in the back of the head a few times already and it hurts!

  10. Discuss this article on MousePad.