Disneyland TR - Radiator Springs - Astounding

Trip Report

Disneyland – Tuesday 2014-02-04

Crowds – Lighter to Moderate

Wait times:

Peter Pan - 35

Snow White - 0

Matterhorn – 10

Indiana Jones - 0

Haunted Mansion - 20

Pirates of the Caribbean - 20

Gadget’s Go Coaster - 10

Tower of Terror - 10

Radiator Springs – 2 hrs. (Late in the day, single rider was 8-10 minutes- it was re-ride heaven.)

Luigi’s Tires – CLOSED

Small World – CLOSED

I can’t help but compare Cars Land’s Radiator Springs to Disney’s very first comparable thrill ride, the Matterhorn Bobsleds

Radiator Springs is just breathtaking in its size. Compared to the small footprint of the Matterhorn Bobsled which was created in the mid-50’s, Radiator Springs about maybe 6 times as large. Most of the rides at Disneyland use space sparingly, because we all know how hard it is to secretly purchase property in Anaheim under some false name like WED development. Dead giveaway, and the property value skyrockets. But you’d never know that Radiator Springs is built on some of the most expensive real estate in the country—the layout is that care-free, that bold.

Let’s compare the themes and execution of Matterhorn Bobsleds (1956) and Radiator Springs 58 years later (2014).

The Matterhorn Bobsleds has a minimal Yeti story. One villain and you, the rider. No dialogue, no setup, no protagonist, and only one emotion by the Yeti—anger. There’s a real lack of story detail here, and detail is one of the things that keeps a ride fresh. We want to identify with the characters, the era, the activity, their emotion and where it takes place. When these elements are missing, we disengage. We see the Yeti a couple of times throughout the ride, in various frozen positions because it’s cold, apparently. The stage picture of the Yeti doesn’t change much. He seems like a ventriloquist, able to growl without moving his mouth or body. The ride technology is dated, of course. I recommend Disney embrace the ride technology drawback, and place the ride in the 50’s. Make it an historical throwback to the Swiss chalets of the 1950’s. That will at least make the ride’s outdated ride technology appear intentional.

Radiator Springs is set in the 1950’s in the Red Rocks of the Southwest with the familiar characters of Cars Land. Notice how Disney places its newer rides in a historical context because that helps the ride age more gracefully? If a ride isn’t in a time period, then it starts to look old, real fast. When it’s in a specific era, the dating looks intentional. I recommend Disney do this for the Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and the Indiana Jones ride, otherwise, the rides start to pale at the 30 year mark. But what do I know?

Radiator Springs not only has an historic context to keep it fresh, it has everything else a great story needs. Bold characters, adventure, change of stage picture, a clear game (competition), great emotion, and heartstrings galore. You love these car characters, and they’re rooting for you to win the race.

Basically, after you get a car tune-up and pep talk by the guys who are now your friends for life, they wish you luck in your race as you screech out of the garage and are vaulted into a sprawling Arizona landscape amid towering red rock formations. It seems like miles of tightly twisting track and tons of straightaways with tons of bunny hops. The best illusion is that you can’t see the rest of the park when you’re on this ride. You’re completely immersed in Arizona, until the final finish line stretch where you see the Boardwalk in the distance. It seems like miles of track. So brilliantly laid out, so committed to the unique landscape of Arizona, so breathtaking, it’s a miraculous, moving, immersive, complete story experience. I cried at the wonder of this ride. And Disney’s commitment to using so many acres to create this thrill ride experience is so bold, so gutsy, so impressive. So complete and satisfying.

I’ll save my rants for some other time about Disney overcrowding and overselling tickets causing huge wait times. Most of the riders on this board go for ERT anyway, so the 2 hour wait time for Radiator Springs is not an issue.

Radiator Springs is a world class ride with a complete story package, adding the emotional link which makes you love a ride forever. The Matterhorn, although it’s a beloved classic, frankly pales, not only in its outdated ride technology, but in its lack of story and emotional involvement. What a long way Disney Parks have come, when you consider this comparison.

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NOTE: I was able to get six rides on Radiator Springs using the single rider line in the park’s last hour, from 7PM to 8PM. A true joy, considering the crowds that Disney can pack in, even on this, one of its lightest days.

Last edited by Bill,

rollergator's avatar

I like your writing style. But I have to say that changing theming at Disney as you suggest for Matterhorn is a tad tricky given the strong preservationists that compose a large faction of Disney-philes...addicts....extremists (what do they call themselves, anyway?)

Tommytheduck's avatar


Haha... At least that's how my family refer to ourselves. We're not Disney tools, but most certainly Coastertools. It's a term of endearment, really.

Great TR. Makes me want to visit DL again. It's been a long time since we've been to DL, but our visit to WDW (also a while ago) while great, served to remind me how much better the California parks are. I did like test track though, I seem to be one of the few who do. So I can imagine how good the Radiator Springs ride might be.

Not much mention of just how amazing the Cadillac Range and the other rock work looks at sunset. Was there Tuesday night, and it was just fantastic. Twilight (or whatever you want to call that period) is the perfect time to take in Cars Land. Truly a home run.

a_hoffman50's avatar

Making it most spectacular at sunset was probably quite intentional given the plot of the movie.

Bill, you said "an historic". And I love you for that.

But let's talk for a minute about Matterhorn Bobsled. It's one of my favorite rides on earth, and I love it for what it is. Very simply, it's Disney's first coaster ever, (well, anybody's first tubular steel coaster ever, really) and I would never expect or want it to come up to the standards of the new multi-multi million dollar attractions of today. It's had it's share of updates through the years- the Yeti was added, the vehicles have been re-invented several times, the mountain's had a face lift or two, and in spite of the old fashioned feel I think it remains fresh. I don't think it needs a super theme, an improved story line, or 99 acres to run around in. It's a fun roller coaster from the fifties, is well maintained, to this day is very very popular, and I thank God it's still around.

Now, I'm not one of those Disney maniacs that scopes out the placement of every trash can then gripes about the changes. But I do appreciate the historic aspect of many of the attractions, especially at Disneyland, and I think comparing Matterhorn Bobsleds to Radiator Springs as similar attractions kind of does both a disservice. Apples and oranges is my thought about that.

I haven't been to CA since Cars Land was built and I can't wait to get there. Everyone here is right from what I can tell, and if the area is half as stunning as it appears in photographs and videos I'll probably faint when I see it. Radiator Springs does indeed look like one of the best Disney rides going, I've "ridden" all the versions I can find on YouTube and it looks like a gas (pun intended) for all the reasons you said.

I'm glad you had a successful time at Disneyland, in spite of the crowds, and thanks for the great trip report.

Wait, what? No Mr. Toad's Wild Ride?

If i recall correctly, Indiana Jones and the Jungle Cruise are set in the 1930s.

Dave Dragon, go Dave Dragon, and the Star Force Five!

Timber-Rider's avatar

I'm not sure about the haunted Mansion at Disneyland in California, but the one in Florida has had a neat upgrade or two. It used to be that you walked through the queue graveyard, and there were just tombstones with funny sayings on them. Now they have some that are animated, and the head busts sing. There is also this weird thing, like you would find at the old libraries that is motion activated. If you touch one box, another boxer opens, and if you try to touch that box it closes. I love the haunted mansion at Disney World. One of the best rides there, and eats people very quickly.

As for ride experience, Big Thunder Mountain railroad, has a similar in it's own little word feel. It's very well themed, and a nice long enjoyable ride. And, it is probably one of the most thrilling mine train rides I have been on. A million times better than the Mine ride at Cedar Point.

As for the Matterhorn, I thought it was kind of a bummer that Disney World didn't have one. I think there are a few rides at Disney Land, that are not at Disney World. Though most of the rides at Disney World are glorified ride through dark houses, though still very well done. One of my hopes, is that I will get to see Disneyland before I drop dead. Just being in California would be cool.

I didn't do it! I swear!!

LostKause's avatar

Yea. Disneyland in CA is on my bucket list as well. It's getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. Probably within the next few years I'll be able to go.

Raven-Phile's avatar

I much, much, much prefer Disneyland to Magic Kingdom. I really like the whole resort out there, but I have to give Florida the nod for having Epcot. :)

If Epcot was in Anaheim (even as part of DCA), along with Disneyland - I'd move out there in a second.

janfrederick's avatar

I think there would be better reasons for moving to California. :)

Although I can think of quite a few reasons for not wanting to live in the middle of the sprawl.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
slithernoggin's avatar

Florida's Fantasyland didn't have room (back when Magic Kingdom Park was being planned) for Matterhorn.

Jeff's avatar

I don't really buy that. The park could be as big or small as they want. They could still stretch out if they wanted to.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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