Roderick Eime travels to Disneyland for Out & About With Kids to see the latest, and most anticipated, new attraction at the iconic theme park.
“This is Radiator Springs,” says Sally Carrera the blue Porsche seductively as we ‘motor’ into the neon lit Flo’s V8 Café, “where you not only need to be fast, you need to look fast!”
“Ka-CHOW!” chimes in Lightning McQueen as we are whisked away for a makeover in Ramone's body shop.
The Radiator Springs Racers ride is the crowning glory of the Disney Pixar’s Cars-themed Cars Land – part of Disneyland’s five-year multi-million dollar renovation of Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim that has seen an array of new and exciting hi-tech attractions open progressively since 2007.
Before you read on, go see the film or rent the DVD. Go on, I’ll wait. Because you must be acquainted with the characters and geography of the movie’s central location of Radiator Springs – and it seems everyone under 16 is - to fully appreciate this completely immersive experience.
The grand opening in June, 2012 was a gala affair executed in true blockbuster style with a concert, red carpet walk-thru and slap up feed. Of course, all the characters were there to welcome guests in true animatronic form.
As you walk through the streets of Route 66-inspired Radiator Springs, the whole story of Cars comes alive. You can stop for a snack at Fillmore’s Taste In or a sit-down meal at Flo’s V8 Café – all perfectly re-created. It’s sometimes difficult to work out which was conceived first, the theme park or the movie. Feel the retail urge? Then Sarge’s Surplus Hut, Ramone’s House of Body Art or Radiator Springs Curios are there to satisfy. Sally’s bizarre Cozy Cone Motel is there too, with novelty snacks and sweets served at each of the little cones.
Apart from the signature Radiator Springs Racers ride, where the set piece from the banked canyon scene is recreated, Mater the tow truck’s junkyard is a jolly tractor jamboree and Luigi’s Flying Tires is a giant skid-pan for tyre-like bumper mini-hovercraft.
While the other new attractions (such as Toy Story Mania, World of Colour, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and Star Tours) were progressively opened since the overhaul began in 2007, the other all-new reveal was Buena Vista Street, styled on downtown Los Angeles of the 1920s and ’30s. This entire district was built as homage to Walt Disney, who arrived in the city from Kansas, as we are constantly reminded through legend and song, with “a suitcase and a dream”.
Grown-ups will find Buena Vista Street a thoroughly enchanting precinct with many art deco buildings and theatres, the centrepiece being the exquisite Carthay Circle Theatre which includes fine dining and a swank night spot. Adults could easily leave the kids at home for this place, although during the day there is a constant buzz in the streets with roaming characters and impromptu shows, like the Dixieland band Five & Dime.
One of the most impressive features of Buena Vista Street is the minute detail used to theme and decorate the buildings – from the scaled Red Car Trolleys, right down to recreated fuel bowsers, a tyre inflator and even an intricate vintage gum dispenser. All of this completes the illusion of fantasy that transports you back into the days of pre-war Los Angeles at the birth of the ‘talkies’ and Disney’s revolutionary animation Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This movie was first screened in 1937 and the first full-length cel-animated feature in motion picture history.
The challenge of Disneyland is seeing as much as you can in the time available. Queues are inevitable and the signature rides can be an hour or more, but there are ways to minimize your waiting time.
Probably the single most important tip is the Disney Fastpass which allows guests to reserve a specific time window to enjoy their favorite attractions. When guests come back during that specified window they enjoy the shorter line reserved for Fastpass holders.
For parents, a theme-park “rider switch” policy gives both parents a chance to enjoy their favourite attractions without double the wait. A parent who waits with a young child while the other parent rides the attraction may board the ride with minimal wait time once the first parent exits, but you’ll need to enquire at each ride for this.
Also useful is the Disney Mobile Magic app for smartphones which will give waiting times at major attractions plus GPS-enabled maps, dining guides and reservation tools.
Coming from Australia, the major cost is, naturally, airfares. So don’t cut corners by trying to ‘go cheap’ once you are in Disneyland. Vacation packages are available with either of the two on-site Disney hotels which can include meals, multiple day entry and exclusive events where you get your own time with the stars.
The common myth is that Disneyland is full of sugar-rich, artery-hardening junk food. Sure, you could easily go crazy with the array of naughty options, but with a bit of discipline conscientious parents can keep themselves and the kids on the straight-and-narrow.
The two signature breakfast dining options are Minnie & Friends Breakfast in Disneyland proper, located at the end of Main Street, and Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel. The former offers more traditional ‘big breakfast’ fare, while Goofy’s Kitchen is a crazy smorgasbord of outrageous breakfast options. Yes, you can get sober servings of juice and fruit, but how do you keep the excited little mouseketeers away from such temptations as ‘worms and dirt’, peanut butter and jelly pizza, Mickey waffles, Krispy Treats and strawberry shortcake. It’s more like the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
Out in the park, there is no shortage of themed and novelty meals and snacks. From comforting hot dogs, burgers and all manner of fried things, the shortest queues are certainly at the healthy option outlets. Apples, bananas, oranges, mangos, dried fruit, trail mix and juicy pineapple spears are on offer at Mortimers Market along with bottled water for those mums and dads trying to keep a lid on the family calories. For pure fun, the Taste Pilots' Grill in the Condor Flats rocket-testing facility makes great sandwiches. True. And PS, while dad can’t get a beer in Disneyland, the Carthay Circle Lounge does have a spot for a tipple.
Planning and research Disneyland’s online and virtual services are mind-boggling. You can have a complete virtual tour of Cars Land and investigate every nook and cranny of both parks as well as ticketing, dining and vacation package options.
Direct Daily Flights to Los Angeles are available from most Australian capital cities across several airlines.