Hello Dear Readers! If you went to the D23 Expo this past weekend, no doubt you waited in more than a few lines. Since seating was so limited for a lot of the popular panel discussions and so many people were turned away, today’s column is devoted solely to one of those panels. I’ll fill you in on everything that was said and hopefully, if you missed the panel, you’ll feel like you were there anyway. So let’s get started, today we’ll be continuing with:Radiator Springs Reality: Imagineering Cars Land for California Adventure.
Lasseter described where the idea for Radiator Springs Racers originated and gave a few details about what the ride will be like, “Very, very, early on, in the beginning development of the movie Cars, I had gone to Florida and one of the things that I had always felt like was missing, is some way to do a story-telling ride, a dark ride, and combine thrill to it. Now we all love in Pirates how that drop goes, there’s a little bit of thrill to it. But we don’t really have that many story-telling rides that have the thrill, you know, a real thrill ride. And then I went to Florida and I rode Test Track. The ride system for Test Track for me, was so exciting and I kept saying, ‘This is it.’ In the early days it had tremendous mechanical issues. So when I suggested using it, the Imagineers would go, ‘No. No. No,’ and then they said, ‘I think we’ve solved it.’ So I always felt that that would be the greatest ride system for this ride because you can have story telling and thrill.”
“So out of that came the idea that you can get on the ride and you start with that drive with Sally where you go up by a waterfall and you drive through the trees and stuff and then it takes you into Radiator Springs. Now this is where all the cars are alive and you’ve seen downstairs in the Imagineering section, Red, a full-size Red with his eyes moving and it’s just fantastic. So you come in and you’re coming into town and the sheriff slows you down and then he tells Mater to escort you into town and everybody’s real friendly, but Mater wants to take you tractor-tipping first, so you go tractor-tipping and he says, ‘Watch out for Frank.’”
“But Frank comes and scares you and you drive really fast to get away from Frank and it brings you to into town and all of the townspeople are there to welcome you, Sally and McQueen are there. The car in front of you will go into Ramone’s to get a new paint job, and there’s a really great effect for that. And your car will go into Luigi’s to get new tires. So it’s kind of fun because you know, in one ride you might go into Ramone’s and in one ride you might go into Luigi’s. But what that does is, as you come out, you’re side by side with the car ahead of you and then Doc is giving you pointers and then Luigi and Guido say, ‘Go!’ and you take off and we’re gonna go about 40 mph. The banks are really steep and there’s these great camel humps. The thrill of this thing is unbelievable. Test Track goes about 60 mph, but we’ve got the real steep banks and camel humps and it’s side by side which is really, really, fun.”
They’ve worked very hard to come up with several vehicle combinations so it really looks like you’re riding with the town’s citizens, “So we started with really basically the same Test Track vehicles and we really worked hard to turn it into a character and we have how many combinations of colors and styles?”
Executive Show Producer, Kathy Mangum, answered that, “Well, we have two car styles (a Ferrari-like and a convertible) and each style has four different colors so we have eight different colors and there are eyes and mouths, they all have smiles, some are female, some are male, so they all have their individual personalities.”
Lasseter is so enthusiastic he couldn’t help himself and added to the description, “In our minds, these are all characters that you’re all riding. And so we wanted it to be as varied as possible so it’s not exactly the same car. So it’ll be really fun to see, as you’re in the queue line, all these different-colored cars coming through. It’s gonna be really fun. And it’s not just about the characters in the buildings; it’s also about the environment. One of the key things about the environment all around is the magnificent vistas of the rockwork, it’s so, so, inspiring.”
As Dave Fisher made his next introduction, he tried to give the audience a grasp of the scope of the project, “If you’ve been to California Adventure in the last few months, you’ve seen we’ve got this little project going on there. It’s about 12 acres and to give you some perspective on this, in 1954 and 1955, it took Walt Disney one year and a handful of days to build Disneyland. We broke ground on Cars Land two years ago, in July, and we have another year to go. This is an amazing project, huge scale and one of the persons keeping this all together is Executive Show Producer, the woman who’s keeping this all running, Kathy Mangum, who is going to give us an update on where we all are.”
As they showed video of Lasseter in his Chip Foose hard hat breaking ground Kathy said, “Yeah, we broke ground two years ago this last July 8th and here you see when John got to scoop the first bit of Disneyland parking lot up for us, he broke ground. And here’s what we’ve been up to since that time. So there is a camera is up on the Tower of Terror and if you look up on the Tower of Terror at the eighth floor balcony, you can see our little camera, and we’ve had it pointed at the site ever since groundbreaking.”
It was a little bit fascinating to watch Cars Land build itself via time-lapse video as Kathy narrated everything that was happening. The pit dug for Luigi’s Flying Tires looked like a giant swimming pool, the mountains start to come together, the ride track starts to get laid out, plaster starts to come across the mountain, downtown starts to form.
“What’s really fun about this video,” Kathy explained, “is you start to see the plaster and the color. You see we’re working from west to east; we’re following ourselves along and working our way out. We’re trying to complete the mountain, especially the vista along the ride track by end of this coming up week because we start ride testing August 25th. So we are making very, very, good progress.”
Best thing? When she started to talk about Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and the little wonky shack that’s there, “It’s hilarious. It’s this beautifully built structure and it’s the little cabin that’s completely leaning to the left. We saw some carpenters out there trying to ...”
Lasseter jumped in again, “With carpenters it’s either straight up or straight across, but the building’s like this leaning thing that you see and the carpenters say, ‘You know we could make it straight.’ It takes a lot of complex engineering to make something look old and saggy but that’s the level of detail that you’re going to see in this park. It’s just unparalleled.”
“In our Route 66,” Kathy continued describing the town’s buildings, “you’re standing at the four corners of Radiator Springs so on the right that’s Ramone’s House of Body Art; it’ll be a merchandise location. On the left you can see the tire finials of Luigi’s Flying Tires and at the end of the street where you see the white steel frame; that will be our courthouse. We left that part of the construction for construction access but now that’s coming together, and off beyond that, is our radiator cap, and beyond that the Cadillac mountain; so it’s just a beautiful view.”
“Here’s a building that we’re making look saggy at great expense, this is the curio shop, Lizzie’s Curio Shop. You can see we’ve got the little ramp out front, the walkway out and all the corrugated tin. We’re just waiting for some signs.”
As photos of fabulously detailed shop cases showed on the screen, Kathy continued her description, “Here’s some interior details of the casework we’re building for this shop. Unlike the movie, we get to go inside this building and we’re adding little car details wherever and as often as we can. Whether it’s in a base pedestal or a finial we’re topping off, and this is just going to be a spectacular little store.”
In talking about Flo’s V8 Café Kathy mentioned the view of the mountain from the restaurant’s windows, “It’s a gorgeous view of the mountain. We were saying that we’re going to have to Fast Pass this restaurant because once you sit down you won’t want to leave, first Fast Pass for a restaurant, ever.”
Luigi’s Flying Tires is another attraction that’s getting ready to test. “It’s really spectacular,” Kathy said, “We’ve got some vehicles and we’re going to start ride-testing this in early September.”
“You wonder what brand they are on the ride vehicles,” Lasseter interjected, “They are the brand of tire that Luigi sells, Fettucini. Whitewalls are called the Alfredo, and the thinner white ones are the Lattes and of course, the blackwalls are Espressos, it’s all Italian stuff, it’s really fun.”
He couldn’t help explaining a little bit about the way the vehicles function, “So the way these work is, it’s such clever engineering that uses the air to inflate the tire; around the edge it’s nylon, very good nylon, and it inflates and it’s a cushion. It’s like a bumper car thing but you know, that there’s all sorts of rules for impacts and stuff these days that we have to adhere to and so it worked out fantastic. And they’re really fun. One thing we’ve added to it that the Flying Saucers didn’t have, is a little kind of gear shift, that looks like the nozzle where you’d put the air into the tire. It’s a lever that you push one way or the other way and it vents the air into this outlet that causes you to spin. So you can choose to go out there and it’s like the teacups without having to turn them, this will turn on its own. And it’s really fun to go either direction.”
More shots of buildings projected on the screen, and Kathy explained where the design of Ramone’s House Of Body Art came from, “This is 100% based on a real building on Route 66 in Shamrock, Texas. It was an old gas station, it’s now the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce. If you go in there, the folks that work there say they are constantly getting stopped, people pull over and want to know if this is Ramone’s.”
A still from the Cars Blu-Ray of the neon cruise scene.
Lasseter added a description of the town as it will be at night, “Also, this whole downtown section and the neon signs are so spectacular. They’re straight from the movie and they’re going be pure neon signs. We are so excited for when it becomes dusk and this whole land lights up. It’s just going be absolutely beautiful at night; the daytime to nighttime is going to be fantastic. We just can’t stand this! You just go there and it’s like awww.” Kathy agreed, “Oh it’s so fun. Every day you see it, you just want it to be closer to being done. You can’t say enough about this mountain, it’s just so spectacular.”
Looking at the photos of the mountain each week here on MiceAge, it’s probably pretty hard to grasp just how big the mountain they’re building is, but Kathy Mangum gave measurements so we can all grasp it a little better, “Well, the scaffolding is eight feet separated by eight feet, every single layer of scaffolding you see is eight feet tall. We top out at 125 feet. There’s nothing quite like walking up to this mountain and looking straight up. And we are slowly but surely pulling the scaffolding down and starting to reveal the mountain.”
The next photo was of the first complete tailfin on Cadillac Range, a 1962 Cadillac, Lasseter explained where the idea came from, “It’s just like Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Texas; this was inspired by it. If you know your Cadillac tail fins, our mountain goes in the proper order of years. 1959 is the centerpiece, the pinnacle.”
No Route 66 detail has been overlooked in building this land, even bridges are important as Lasseter explained about walking in the Radiator Springs Racers’ queue, “There’s two different bridges because you go under both parts of the track, and so we decided to do a sense of history because you find this out on Route 66 where there’s the older part, the alignment of the road, and then they’ve kind of fixed it up and built the newer bridge and right next to it you’ll see the old bridge. So we’ve got kind of the newer bridge and next to it is going to be an older, wooden, bridge and that’s the other part of the track.”
The final show scene in Radiator Springs Racers will take guests into a cavern, although instead of being filled with stalactites and stalagmites, this one’s filled with glowing taillights, Lasseter explained, “Taillight Caverns is really neat because in the daytime, you’ll be able to see a lot of the rock detail and we’re doing the chrome as kind of like mica, so it’s like shiny sort of minerals and the lights are kind of glowing. And at night, it’s all dark, so you see the taillights glowing. So really, you’ll have a wonderful difference from day and night. You know, it’s kind of like Thunder Mountain where it seems like a different ride at night and I think Radiator Springs Racers really has this nice quality of two different senses about it. What I think is fun about it is that in the daytime you’ll be in the show building with all this and when you take off you come shooting through the tunnel and you’re out and it’s like the bright light of the desert. But at night it’s going have all this gorgeous lighting all around the rockwork, it’s gonna have a really different feel from day and night.”
Next up was Jennifer Mok, the Imagineer in charge of Cars Land’s landscaping. I think maybe a lot of us don’t give much thought about how much plants add to our enjoyment of the environment. I mean, Disneyland is always just gorgeous and there it is, you know? But consider this, Anaheim is a semi-arid place, not overly hot, not real wet, either. So how do you turn a chunk of Anaheim into a desert, a believable desert? That’s the challenge that faced Jennifer Mok and her team.
“The landscape is an integral part of creating a good guest experience,” Jennifer said, “In the master plan we saw two districts emerging; the downtown Radiator Springs and the desert. In the town we sought to look at the line of front yards so they really express the character that owns it.”
We saw photos of Mater’s Junkyard where everything is crooked and rusty and old, at Sarge’s everything will be crisp, and as Mary Poppins would say, spit spot. Even the shrubs and trees will have flat tops. An olive tree salvaged from the Disneyland Hotel renovation is currently getting its military makeover as Disneyland Horticulture grooms it to take its place in the show as part of Sarge’s lawn.
They did studies for placing shade trees since they didn’t appear in the film, to find out how they’d add trees into the environment and make them look like they fit, “We looked at artwork, we looked at 3D modeling, and we took actual images of the specimens and overshot them into the model,” Jennifer said.
Flo’s is going to be very stylish (Flo, it turns out was a show car back in the day), so they took Palm Springs as the inspiration and will be using Mexican blue palms, aloe verde, desert spoon, blue agave and silver torch to provide a modern palette with lots of texture.
Luigi’s doesn’t have a front yard but they still came up with some fantastic landscaping ideas for Luigi anyway. They decided his backyard (otherwise known as the attraction’s queue) will be an Italian garden tribute to tires, complete with car-themed topiaries planted in car-themed planters. Jennifer calls them Tire Poodle Topiary.
So that’s the town part of the landscape. How to get the desert built? Jennifer explained, “To build a desert in Anaheim we had a lot of research to do. The climate isn’t quite desert but we went through lists of southwest desert natives. Along the way to buying almost 500 trees and cactus specimens, we saw some very interesting places.”
Even the trees on the mountain were carefully selected, “We looked at Sally and Lightning going on their drive through Ornament Valley and trying to find the right conifer was challenging but we found one that looks pretty dead on.”
Last up was Roger Gould from Pixar Animation Studios. He’s the guy who is making sure all the audio-animatronics have the right look for the place and time. He described what that entails, “The goal for each of our films is, when you’re watching it, our films should be so coherent, so believable, that when you finish watching the movie, you believe the characters and the worlds live beyond the boundaries of the film. And that’s what we’re doing here, we’ve got to literally bring the characters out of their world and into our world. One of the things we needed to do here was figure out where we are in the time of the story because Cars is a world that has evolved. We decided that when we’re in Radiator Springs Racers, we want that feeling of the town in the first film and so we want to see that Rust-eze Lightning McQueen and we also wanted Doc to be our crew chief and knowing that he had passed on by the second film, that place we call Cars 1.5.”
“Out in the land you’re going to actually get to meet & greet with modern Lightning McQueen, Cars 2 Lightning McQueen of the World Grand Prix styling, so out in the land we’re in a post part of the world. Part of the land is going to continue evolve and grow.”
There were other design problems with the movie version of buildings being too small for what Cars Land needs them to do. Kevin explained, “So what we had to do in so many places in the land, is how do we extend the world? Flo’s is a great place for food but we found right away, great place for seating but there’s no room inside. So we actually ended up designing an expansion of Flo’s so there’ll be plenty of indoor room. It was really great when John said, ‘So that’s at the end of the first movie, the town survived and Lightning moved there so sure Flo would expand, in fact, let’s put that in the Cars 2 movie because it’s in that same time period.’ So it’s fun that an Imagineering design actually ended up in the film.”
As I mentioned, Flo was famous back in the day, inside Flo’s, you’ll learn her background, “We put in this fantastic story that you probably didn’t know, she was part of a girl group in the ‘50s & ‘60s. She had hit records and it’s really fantastic.”
Tiny details matter in creating a believable world, they’re loading Cars Land up with tons, Roger described Ramone’s, “We also knew that we needed to go into Ramone’s and see Ramone at work because at Radiator Springs Racers, as John said, we can get some paint done. So if you want to know who Ramone is, you just need to go to (Chip) Foose’s shop. We went down there to research and it was fantastic and he pointed out the wheels of the green tape he uses in the paint shop. So, we designed Ramone’s shop and we designed his control booth where he’s actually going to control the system and if you look at the back, you see the rolls of green tape.”
Interestingly, this park detail made it into Cars 2 as well, “So we designed this for Radiator Springs Racers and then John worked on a scene in Cars 2 where you see Ramone’s shop and so Ramone’s same color system ended up in the movie. And it’s so good, it’s the best color system, in fact it’s the World O’ Color system, World O’ Color Custom Paints.”
When we finally get to walk into this world in 2012, we’re all going to have so much detail to look at. Even Luigi’s is loaded with aspects of his life, as Roger said, “Now when you’re going through Luigi’s on your way to ride the flying tires, we wanted to populate that with all the memorabilia of his life and his story. So we have beautiful old photos of Uncle and Mama Topolino in Italy. He even has a personal blessing from the Popemoblie!”
On that note, we’ll wrap things up. I know I’m leaving out so much, this panel was chock full of info and it’s hard to list everything that was discussed. But hopefully this gives you a taste of what it was like to sit in that room with the folks who are bringing Cars Land to life for us.
One thing that really came through is how much they all love what they’re doing and how excited they are about this new land. It’s going to be spectacular and, I think I’m every bit as excited as they are.
Sue Kruse may be
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- Please keep in mind she may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Sue pays for her own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.