When director John Lasseter envisioned the movie Cars, he imagined a throwback to the halcyon days of his youth. It was a time when people across the country would all take the same road, U.S. Route 66, to get where they were going. In this simpler time, the destination was less important than the journey, and cars were integral to traveling experience.
The popularity of the Cars franchise is almost unimaginable. With global box office of $461 million, Pixar’s final film prior to their acquisition by Disney is a blockbuster by any standard. Where the brand differentiates itself, however, is through toy sales. In the period from its release in 2006 until the first quarter of 2013, Cars merchandise earned over $10 billion in revenue. If you’re a parent of a child during that timeframe, this is not new information to you, either.
Given the popularity of not just the films but especially the toys, bringing the realm of Radiator Springs to The Walt Disney Company’s theme parks was inevitable. The arrival of Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure in 2012 represented one of the largest expansions of any Disney theme park to date. The company spent over a billion dollars renovating and adding to their already established facilities.
The signature attraction in the implementation of the themed area of Cars Land is Radiator Springs Racers, which carries a sticker shock-inducing price tag of more than $200 million. It’s far and away the most expensive ride ever built at Disneyland, and it’s in the conversation for costliest ride of all-time. Since the Cars Land expansion, traffic at the park has increased from 6,341,000 in 2011 to 8,769,000 in 2014. Obviously, Cars Land is striking a chord with a lot of potential guests, and Radiator Springs Racers is a key reason why. Let’s go Behind the Ride to discover all the reasons why Radiator Springs Racers is so popular.
1.The Experience: Recreating the Backdrop of Radiator Springs
The Trick: Pave a Parking Lot, Put Up a Paradise
Mother Nature is especially good at building mountains. She gets millions of years to provide finished products, though. In the case of Disney’s California Adventures, Disney rock-work art director Zsolt Hormay and his team had only a couple of years to build the 125-foot tall mountain range named Ornament Valley. This sandstone mesa encompasses the background landscape for the film version of Cars and is therefore crucial to the design of Cars Land.
Disney hired a team of specialists from across the globe who met the twin criteria requisite for the project. They had to possess the construction experience needed to operate on such a large-scale design. They also needed the artisanship to remember that style matters just as much at Disney theme parks as substances. So, a slew of master builders with a track record of artistic achievement were brought onboard.
These professionals welded, sculpted, and painted the entire structure, literally bringing a fictional mountain into reality. In the process, they demolished the prior “Timon” parking lot to put up their mountain, thereby inverting the lyrics of that Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi. There are 4,000 tons of steel in the structure of Ornament Valley. Meanwhile, Disney employees spent 28,000 man-hours making it life-like and visually breathtaking. Anyone who has ever visited Cars Land knows that they performed the job masterfully. The man-made mountain highlights the stunning visage of Radiator Springs.
If you want to watch Hormay describe the process himself and see some footage of the making-of process itself, watch this YouTube video.