On Your Mark, Get Set... Almost Ready!by Karl Buiter, staff writer
MousePlanet and other media were invited to a special press preview of Cars Land last week. And while we were not yet allowed to take photographs of the area, we learned a lot more about what Disney has in the works when the area officially opens next month.
All the artist concept illustrations and construction photo updates you have seen will not prepare you for your first entry into Cars Land.
As you transition from the Pacific Wharf area of Disney California Adventure, you pass through a "natural" arch that frames what you see beyond. The panorama of the Cadillac Range, the roar of Radiator Springs Racers cresting over a hill, and the anvil-shaped mesa structures blend reality and fantasy, immersing you in the world of Route 66 and Radiator Springs.
Designed to assist park cast members learn about all the upcoming changes, Cast Showcase is housed in the former location of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire – Play It, and is filled with displays, live presentations, and movies that help illustrate all that is happening in the coming months at the Disneyland Resort. Over 22,000 cast members resort-wide are expected to visit this exhibit in the 20 days leading up to the opening.
The first room provides a resort-wide round-up of attractions, entertainment, and merchandise from the Mad T-Party, Fantasy Faire, the Matterhorn, and the 400-block of Main Street. At the center is "The Happy Chef," who cheerfully mixes the new park elements (highlighted in several video clips) together before the "ingredients" are baked in an oven (for 30 seconds at 5,000 degrees due to time), to present the grandest cake of all.
During the press preview, Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs spoke at the Cast Showcase about all of the changes around Disney California Adventure—both past (from the remake of Paradise Pier into a Victorian-era boardwalk, as well as the introduction of the World of Color) and present.
Staggs acknowledged the need to update the park. "When we opened, California Adventure had some of the most attractive and most loved attractions across our resort," he said, "But at the same time, we knew overall [that] California Adventure did not measure up to where it should be—and so we set out to change that." Staggs said that they were looking to transform Disney California Adventure through the infusion of more Disney storytelling and more Disney characters.
According to Staggs, Disney hopes that "California Adventure will now be a very worthy and complementary neighbor and partner to the Disneyland Resort next door. He added, "I think that is something we could not say before, but we can say now."
Buena Vista Street Cast Showcase Preview Room
During the opening presentation, Staggs introduced the new Buena Vista Street area, which he described as a place that offers park guests a sense of an idealized 1920s-era Hollywood that Walt Disney might have found when he first arrived in California. "I actually think that Buena Vista Street will be one of those sleeper parts of this park, that guests will really find they enjoy," Staggs said. "It's not just a space to go through to get to the rest of the park, [but] a space that you'll want to spend time in and truly experience."
In the Cast Showcase, a hip radio DJ rolled out 1920s-themed radio ads and corny jokes, Merchandise and Food items were displayed around the edge of the room, and a video presentation introduced the creative talent responsible for designing and building this new park entrance.
There are several new shops and restaurant locations along this new tree-lined Los Angeles Street. The Imagineers noted the addition of several trees to add warmth to the area. The tiles on the street were all custom-crafted in Los Angeles, and even their historical patterns were custom-colored. And a classic Los Angeles-style water fountain lies at the center of Carthay Circle. The centerpiece of this area is the Carthay Pacific Theatre, a multi-level restaurant decorated to look like the original theater that premiered Disney's first feature-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
On display at the Cast Showcase is the Annual Passholder shirt commemorating the grand opening of Buena Vista Street. Disney cast members will also have an exclusive line of merchandise for themselves. Photo by Karl Buiter.
A centerpiece on Buena Vista Street is the Red Car Trolley system. Extending into the Hollywood area of the park, the battery-operated trolleys are a working representation of the famous Pacific Electric Railroad's Red Car Trolley system. Once this section opens, two Red Cars will actively run this line, taking visitors from Carthay Circle all the way back to Tower of Terror. These Red Cars are modeled after actual cars of the era. Trolley #623 honors 1923, the year Walt Disney arrived in Los Angeles. Painted a brighter red with striping, Trolley #717 represents a Red Car from the later 1930s time period, and represents July 17, Disneyland's opening date in 1955.
The new Walt and Mickey Statue will be featured on leather jackets found at Elias and Co. Elias and Co is the primary fashion store, where four distinct departments offer classic clothing for all. Small statue figurines are below. Photo by Karl Buiter.
In continuing with the Red Car theme, the Red Car Trolley Collection shop contains a collection of merchandise for train fans, including a new Conductor Mickey line of products. Nearby, Trolley Treats provides snack items.
Minnie Mouse Plush is one of the many toys, plush, and playsets to be offered at Big Top Toys. This shop is described as "a Dream Room", with a colorful circus tent theme and murals depicting Mother Goose themes. Photo by Karl Buiter.
Entertainment will play a major role in the 1920s theming, and will include the Red Car News Boys, ambassadors who will ride the Red Cars; hawk the news of the day, and sing the many great songs of the period. Creative Director of Entertainment for the Disneyland Resort Alan Bruun said that these news carriers embodied the spirit of a young Walt.
In addition, Citizens of Buena Vista Street will provide what Disney calls "Catch and Release" entertainment. The citizens include Calvin the Cop; Mollie the Messenger; Fifi the Photographer and World Traveler; and Donna the Dog Lady (who does not realize her dog is a hand puppet). Classic Disney characters will also be calling this area home, including Mickey Mouse, Chip and Dale (dressed as the Little Rascals, complete with slingshot), and Goofy (wearing a Zoot Suit).
The travelling music act called "Five and Dime" will be part of the entertainment Buena Vista Street. The act, according to Disney, consists of five jazz musicians from Chicago who pick up a talented singer named "Dime" along the way. They'll be playing atop a moving jalopy.
Cars Land Cast Showcase Preview Room
About Cars Land, Tom Staggs said, "You are in the movie plain and simple. You think you are in Radiator Springs and it's just a great place to be. And all the charm that place invoked in the film you find in walking through Radiator Springs."
The third room presents the story, merchandise, and food of Cars Land. Some food samples of Route 66 were available during the press preview, including "Route" Beer and PopCone. Also on display were ride vehicles from Mater's Junk Yard Jamboree and Radiator Springs Racers.
A video presentation from John Lasseter and his Imagineering crew talked about many of the elements they brought into Cars Land, such as how the characters from Cars themselves design and decorate their shops, or how immersive and panoramic the backdrop would become as you got the closer to Cars Land.
The video introduced three new Cars Land attractions:
- Mater's Junkyard Jamboree – inspired by whip rides, this attraction is a square dance hosted by Tow Mater, with a ride capacity is 600 visitors per hour.
- Luigi's Flying Tires – inspired by the Flying Saucers attraction that was part of the Tommorowland debut at Disneyland, has a ride capacity is 600 visitors per hour.
- Radiator Springs Racers – inspired by the road trip that Lightning McQueen and Sally drove in the movie, with a ride capacity is expected to be 1,500 visitors per hour. Lasseter and team felt that this attraction may be one of the best attractions ever in a Disney theme park.
Scott Giersch, Director of Merchandise Theme Parks and Resorts, talked about how his team visited many automobile enthusiast events to understand car culture in order to develop all of the Cars Land merchandise. They also invited many designers (such as famed hot-rod designer Chip Foose) to design items for Cars Land. Much of the Cars Land merchandise, according to Giersch, will be exclusive to the land and not sold elsewhere.
There were two signature lines to be sold at Ramone's House of Body Art. One is the "Low and Slow" Car Club pin stripes, and the other is a line of merchandise with a laid-back look. The "Champion Custom Speedshop Collection" will be a line of special collectibles for Annual Passholders, with an early Grand Opening Collectible series.
The Food in Cars Land
Michele Gendreau, Director of Food and Beverage for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, discussed many of the new food items that will be offered at Flor's V8 Cafe in Cars Land, as well as the stories behind their development. One of the guiding principles of the Cars Land menu was to not duplicate items found elsewhere in Disney California Adventure, but rather, to offer food that people normally don't expect inside the park.
To begin their research, Gendreau and her culinary team spent a three-day, 17-stops tour of Route 66 to get a flavor for the types of food they wanted to present at Cars Land. "What you see in that '50s–'60s time period is very much alive today," Gendreau said. "Route 66 is such a fabulous culture and time period that is not wasted." They found many Route 66 landmarks, including the Midpoint Cafe in Texas, still in existence, and Gendreau said such finds provided great inspiration.
Within Flo's V8 Cafe are four rotisseries. Named "Spit Fire Rotisseries," these use the kitchen technology of the 1960s. Some sample menu items you might expect when the cafe opens include:
- Rotisserie Turkey Breast – marinated in citrus over mashed potatoes, with a hint of citrus in the gravy,
- Rotisserie Pork Loin Slices – with Coca-Cola BBQ sauce with mole.
- Veggie Tater Casserole – a shepherd's pie-inspired item. This dish contains a soy-vegetable base Boca crumbles, bulgur wheat, and roasted vegetables topped with mashed potatoes and melted cheddar cheese. Gendreau was very proud of this offering, and said the dish has been well-received by those who have tried it.
- Veggie Baked Beans – the sauce had the same seasoning base as the Coca-Cola BBQ sauce, without the Coca-Cola element.
Gendreau noted that no dinner should be complete without a milkshake. Flo's plans to offer three classic flavors—chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry—each would be topped with "Road Gravel" (chocolate and strawberry curls) and whipped cream.
The development of the menu went beyond just the dishes, with the Imagineers creating a unique backstory for Flo to give her more character. According to Gendreau, Flo was a "Motorama Girl," a Cars singing group of the time. The Motorama Girls included such members as Laverne "Va Va Vroom," Flo "She's Fin-tastic," Sheila "What a Cream Puff," and Rhonda "Sassy and Classy." Several of the Motorama Girl's albums adorn one of the rooms, including the classic "Jeep Date." So when Flo settled in the town of Radiator Springs, she created her "Pie-o-Rama."
Michelle discussed the inspiration for these desserts coming from diners like The Midpoint Cafe, where ugly crust pies can be found. Michele noted it was quite a feat to get their French Disney Pastry Chef Jean-Marc Viallet to create ugly desserts, but he found success with four flavors: Apple cheddar, chocolate mud pie, blueberry-peach, and strawberry-rhubarb.
Some of the more unusual items will be served at the Cozy Cone Motel. The Chili "Cone" Queso is based on a comfort-food favorite—the Frito pie (a simple dish that consists of chili con carne served over Fritos corn chips still in its original bag). Instead of an opened bag of corn chips, the Cozy Cone Motel version uses an edible cone. Disney has been studying the cone material, made from a product similar to pretzel bread, for three years. And while the cone material is not exclusive to Disney, this will be the first time it will be available to the public. Disney plans to offer variations on the corn-chip topped chili, including a breakfast version with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese.
Continuing the cone theme, the Cozy Cone Motel will also offer "Frozen Conecoctions" with pomegranate-limeade and lemonade flavors, cones with churro bites with cinnamon-chocolate sauce, soft-serve chocolate-and-vanilla-swirl ice cream cones, and flavored PopCones (popcorn with special flavor seasoning bases). During the media event, they offered a dill pickle-flavored version during the tour.
Disney California Adventure is in for a major facelift on June 15 that is far more than just a new attraction or two. Perhaps, for the first time, Disney California Adventure will finally come to its own as a full-day park, no longer the shadow of its older next-door sibling. The next several weeks should be exciting for both the Disneyland Resort and the greater Disney community.
Do you plan on joining the madness this June? You can bet MousePlanet will be there!