Cars Land Rumored for DisneyWorld?

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

Tagged: , , , , ,


Published on September 04, 2012 at 5:08 am with 40 Comments

There have been whispers for some time now that Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS) at Disney World would get its own Cars Land, and rumors erupted anew last week. There was a different intensity this time, with known insiders on message boards saying it would happen. Lights, Motors, Action (LMA) and presumably the Backlot Tour are on the chopping block if everything really does go forward, but remember that we are very much in the preliminary phase of explorations.

Even if these rumors are true (and I’ve heard nothing directly one way or another myself from inside sources), then we’re dealing with the “blue sky” phase of development, when ideas are freely kicked around and proposed, but no project has been fully greenlit and no budget apart from seed money for explorations will have been approved.

Let’s say that plans do proceed and some version of Radiator Springs Racers (RSR) comes to Florida. Will it be the entire Cars Land, or just RSR? No one knows, but the available acreage at DHS apparently is enough to handle the entire Cars Land as built in DCA (perhaps configuring the main street a bit differently).

Would Team Disney Orlando (TDO) “cheap out” like they often do, and only include a part of the experience? Could that mean just RSR but no Cars Land? Or maybe it will mean RSR but without the entire mountain range. I certainly hope they don’t go that route. That way lies madness. The awesomeness of the ride derives at least in part, maybe even in large part, from the fact that you are driving in front of, around, and through a freaking mountain range that they built by hand. Take that away and the ride is highly neutralized. Not completely, but it would lose something.

Cars Land mountain range

Yes, that's a man-made mountain range in the background. Yes, it's what makes it awesome.

What about the fact that RSR uses the same technology as Test Track? You can’t have two slot car rides in the same resort, right? This argument is used sometimes to explain why Indiana Jones Adventure from Disneyland has never been added to DHS–there is already an attraction at WDW that uses the same ride vehicle system (Dinosaur). But I don’t really buy this argument, for Indy or for RSR. It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean use the same ride design, and there are a whole lot of busbar-type dark rides along the lines of Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland.

More pressing is the issue of Florida weather. I’m sure they can build a mountain range to withstand a hurricane (although maybe not, if the Tree of Life is still falling apart). It’s the rain and lightning I’m thinking about. Test Track closes often in the summers due to lightning, and RSR would have the same problem. Would they enclose the whole ride to avoid this problem? Could be a good solution, but then you won’t see those awesome mountains and the ride becomes more run of the mill than it would have otherwise.

Doc Hudson in RSR

The animatronic cars are admittedly a big draw for the ride.

The show producer for Cars Land in DCA was moved over to WDW about a month ago. There was no announcement about what Kathy Mangum would do at WDW, but the timing certainly seems right if they are exploring a Cars Land or RSR expansion to DHS.

Here’s a hiccup: if they do demolish Lights Motors Action (LMA) for this new ride/land, that would likely mean a bunch of tangled red tape with the LMA sponsor, Brawny. Would they have to pay back the sponsorship money?

And some folks are saying (who knows how accurate this is) that John Lasseter and Disneyland Resort executives are all very much against RSR and Cars Land being cloned at WDW. They feel that the uniqueness of the area is a big draw, and DCA needs a big draw that the other parks can’t replicate. I have to say, I do agree with this logic. Poor DCA can’t catch a break. It finally gets a bona fide breakthrough hit, the sort of thing that makes people want to make the cross-country trek just to see it, and now there is talk about removing that uniqueness.

queue of RSR

It's not Calico ghost town, but it's the next best thing

You can see why WDW and TDO might be very interested in replicating Cars Land. It’s minting money over there in DCA, and it’s driving attendance like never before–reportedly exceeding even very optimistic expectations. And TDO is getting increasingly nervous about Universal. Not only is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter setting records, but there is a Potter expansion happening in the other park, basically doubling the size of the Potter theme park universe. Universal is also building Transformers at the same park, ratcheting this park up to a Magic Kingdom-style level of E-ticket rides.

Disney looks like it’s standing still in comparison. Its Fantasyland expansion looks anemic by comparison, and that vaunted Pandora expansion to DAK is both years away and so quiet that some people wonder if it will ever be built at all. Disney needs a Potter-swatter, and Fantasyland ain’t it.

Use the Farce

One idea often touted as the only real possible Potter swatter is a Star Wars land. If done right, it could put us Star Wars geeks on cloud nine… of Bespin. We’d be over the Endor moon! Imagine visiting the Mos Eisley cantina for real and drinking bubbling blue alcoholic drinks–who could resist? Every biosphere imaginable (forest, desert, ice, cloud, water, city) has its own planet in the Star Wars universe–could anything be MORE perfect for a theme park?

For the longest time, I assumed the problem was money. I figured that Lucas wanted more than Disney was willing to pay (who to blame in that equation would be hard to ascertain, though, absent actually being a fly on the wall during those negotiations).

But I realized this month that I’ve been wrong all this time. I have a new answer. Namely, George Lucas has turned to the dark side. By that, I don’t mean he’s become greedy. Ironically, greed would be good, since at least there’s a magic number that would satisfy such a person. Instead, what I mean is that Lucas has turned to satire.

Satire has long been a part of the Star Wars universe, but it’s always been on the periphery. Troops, the knockoff of the Cops TV show, was made without Lucas’s blessing (he apparently loved it). Robot Chicken, the pre-eminent satire of all things culture (especially science fiction and especially Star Wars), has been around since 2005, and its stop-motion gags captured the zeitgeist of the country. People seemed to like their Star Wars with a helping of irony.

Or maybe with a helping of cheese. Witness the increasing success of Star Wars Weekends at DHS in general, and the cheesy Hyperspace Hoopla in particular. The show doesn’t take Star Wars seriously; it lampoons it (lovingly, carefully, and always with reverence and fun). Disney has been doing this for some time. Did you see the hilarious ads showing an impatient Darth Vader waiting out his day at Disneyland until Star Tours was open? Because it’s FUNNY to see iconic Star Wars characters do anything mundane and everyday.

That’s all fine and good, but none of it was canon. The satirists often said plainly and visibly that they hoped George Lucas wouldn’t sue them. Well, they can rest easy. Lucas has joined them. The new show coming this fall called Star Wars Detours was previewed at the recent Celebration VI convention, and it’s very much like Robot Chicken, even made by the same people. It’s not stop-motion, but CGI animation, but otherwise the tone and irreverence is the same. And this time, it’s sanctioned by Lucas.

If you looked around the Orlando convention hall that weekend, you would have seen lots and lots of people dressed up as their favorite Star Wars character. But you’d also have seen oodles of people dressed up in some kind of mashup: Star Wars plus Muppets, Star Wars plus Ghostbusters, Star Wars plus disco. It’s irony they’re after, obviously, and the post-modern mentality means by necessity that they aren’t taking the real thing that seriously anymore.


I never heard this stormtrooper exclaim "WOMAN!" ... but I kept expecting it

Staying alive!

Themed to local university, UCF

Inspired by the Disney-Star Wars mashup advertising used for Star Wars Weekends

Ghostbusters? Look at what he's carrying: It's a trap!

"I see your Schwarz is as big as mine"

It's the Burger King! Sort of.

Here’s an irony: the most “pure” Star Wars stuff is now coming out of the fans, such as the famous 501st Legion of costume-players. If you put the 501st in charge of making a Star Wars land in DHS, you’d have something immersive, awesome, and realistic looking. But to judge by Detours (if not the various cosplay at the convention), Lucas himself would deliver a Star Wars land that lampoons the series rather than celebrates (let alone expand) it. That would spell trouble indeed for DHS. That would be no Potter-swatter.

Air Cooling?

Cousin Orville rigged up a contraption in Carousel of Progress he called “air cooling” that involved a desk fan and a block of ice. We know it better as air conditioning nowadays, and it’s a real requirement here in Central Florida. The place is a sweltering swamp left to its own devices, and it’s definitely so bad that no one would come here if they had to endure its natural temperatures.

So it’s pure folly that Disney appears to be tinkering with the air conditioning. In an attempt to expend less energy (and save money?), the company has been making some indoor areas less air conditioned. I noticed this some time ago on Spaceship Earth, when it got really bad, but a few years ago it leveled off at a tolerable level. Not as cold as before, but not as hot as they experimented with.

Two weekends ago I felt another “experiment” in ImageWorks, the post-show area of Imagination. It was stuffy and almost hot in there, and definitely unpleasant. Was it a broken air conditioner? I doubt it–I checked again seven days later, and it was still largely warm there rather than pleasant (the area under the glass pyramid was even worse). A colleague with me said he had heard Cast Members discussing this trend of reduced air conditioning recently, so I think it’s a fair bet they are seeing what they can get away it.

Make no bones about it: this stinks. It reeks of executives making decisions based on REPORTS rather than experience. If they live life in a cubicle at 75 degrees, I’m sure they wonder why the thermostats at ImageWorks have to be set all the way down to 70 degrees. “Why not bring them up to 75? Why not 77?” they must be asking themselves. After all, they feel chilly after a whole day at 75, so surely we can realize cost savings and environment savings by adjusting the thermostats out in the parks, too. I have a message for such executives: GO VISIT YOUR PARK LIKE THE VISITORS! If you stumble around Epcot during September (let alone August or July) all day, the last thing you want is a room chilled to 77 degrees. You want colder. Seventy-seven might cut it when you’re sitting in a cubicle all day, but it’s not what tourists need when they are in the parks all day. The executives who actually visit the parks on their days off already know this.

I suppose if they make it unpleasant enough, I can always wait a few months and then go have a cold butterbeer while I wait in line for the Gringott’s roller coaster. Since they have so many ex-Imagineers working to design and build the rides for Universal Creative now, the quality is top-notch. And I’ve seen no attempt by Universal to ratchet down their air conditioning.

Star Wars Celebration VI

The aforementioned Star Wars Celebration VI was a great enough event on its own (disclosure: I attended  with a provided media badge, but my wife bought her own four-day pass). There’s a little bit of everything here. You can get signatures and/or photographs from the stars (headliners this time were Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher), browse the vendors’ booths, attend panels and screenings, ogle props or fan-created droids, and a million other activities in between. Costume play (cosplay) was and remains a big part of the experience. Those aren’t dressed up seem preoccupied with photographing those who are, and there is a startling lack of personal barriers on this front. Many people flash skin (surprising) and they seem to turn exhibitionist at this event, willing to let strangers photograph them (even more surprising). Slave Leia is the mother prototype here, but there are all sorts of variations on this theme. It occurred to me that to a large extent, what we’re witnessing here is a fan event, where fans dress up to impress other fans.

Disney doesn’t have an exact clone of this model, though a few celebrity podcasters do attract a fan base big enough to warrant a comparison. There’s no cosplay, of course (though it WOULD be rather droll to see which women – and men – could pull off a Slave Leia look). But there is the same practice of fans interacting with other fans – call it “inter-fandom.” At the end of the day, that’s what becomes the focus for many fans: connections and personal relationships. Like Star Wars, Disney breeds fans worthy of the name “fanatic”, and I’m glad there are D23 Expos and Destination D conventions to provide a venue for the fandom, and “inter-fandom” that inevitably arises. We may not see as much cosplay yet in the Disney universe, but the Star Wars universe is showing us the way. I suspect more is coming.

Hey, uh, there's a wampa behind you!

Will the real Artoo please stand up - please stand up - please stand up

Try as we might, GONK didn't actually accept our Premier Pass or spit out any FastPasses


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About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida.

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  • martinjbell1986

    I like Longaway’s idea of a Lord of the Rings / Hobbit land :)

    • KingEric

      Only if Universal hasn’t snatched it up first… because… they might have.

  • KENfromOC

    My take on upcoming new areas at WDW is hope they never do an “Avatar” or “Star Wars” land. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit I was never much of a Star Wars fan (other than the original films amazing special effects) and I have never seen, nor have the desire to see Avatar. But my point is this: Regardless of how popular these entities were (and too Harry Potter) they are niche markets that are only drooled over by “Avatar geeks”..etc. In reality there are far more people out there like me, who could careless – especially because these were originally non-Disney properties. They have limited appeal, whereas at least with Cars Land, which too may be limited, it is a Disney (Pixar) product from the start and should have lasting appeal. I wonder how popular the Harry Potter area will be ten years from now? Maybe Disney should concentrate on totally original ideas for a new
    areas as they used to. Don’t forget… Pirates of the Caribbean was an original attraction long before it became blockbuster movies. Now it seems everything has to be based on an already proven product. Too bad….

  • Timekeeper

    Hmmm, I think if Cars does come to DHS, the area should be themed from one of the world locales in Cars 2, the Tokyo, Japan springs to my mind as an area that would balance between the Streets of America and the Pixar Place.
    RSR (ride wise) would begin in the garage before we head on to the streets of Tokyo indoors to simulate the nighttime atmosphere, then we in and around Mt. Fuji and we come to Monte Carlo, racing through it’s cliffs and entering a casino; while dodging the mafia, we race into a room, and it’s one of the rooms from the royal palace of England and we know we are in London, we go, stop the villain and we save queen, become heroes and we come back to the garage and exit.


    • Erica

      I have never seen Cars 2 because I was not a big fan of Cars (it is the only Pixar movie I have skipped seeing/owning). However, I think your idea is really cool. Although I’d love to see a different franchise or original story idea, I think using the world of Cars 2 would be a smart way for them to capitalize on the success of DCA without taking away its special-ness.

      One of my biggest annoyances is when people say: “Well, I don’t need to go to WDW/TDL/DLP because I’ve been to Disneyland and they are all the same.” I’ve been to every Disney park except Hong Kong and they all have different feels. I really hope Disney increases the individuality of the parks by not just coping rides/areas.

  • Kritter

    If WDW brings Cars Land to DHS. I will have no desire EVER to visit the East Coast parks. This just shows how unoriginal and tasteless TDO truely is by building multiple things that were supposed to be exclusive to the west coast. “Oh! It’s doing well in California?! We don’t have any ideas?! Build it here!”

    • Susan Hughes

      Totally agree. Orlando Imagineers ripping off Cars Land just screams out, “We suck! We can’t come up with anything on our own!”

  • TheRottenOnes

    If Florida must get RCR, I’d rather them not get a clone per-se but utilize the existing studio backlot tour, and do more of a World Grand Prix theme. It can be a RCR style ride, but I prefer originality.

  • wild01ride

    Regarding Carsland/WDW/Kathy Mangum:
    Would it make sense if Kathy was being sent out to Florida to work on Avatar-Land at AK? If I’m not mistaken, she played a big part in AK’s initial development, and it seems to make sense that she would go back to work on the biggest expansion since the park opened.

    As for the A/C, I TOTALLY noticed that they were dialing it WAY back on my trip in June/July. Both inside the attractions as well as walking by the open doors on Main Street, etc., it was clear that there was a distinct reduction in the A/C (and the resultant comfortability).
    This is one area where I really hope they don’t continue to be cheap. I am particularly sensitive to humidity with my breathing and it quickly becomes uncomfortable for me when A/C isn’t kept at a reasonable level.

    Thanks for the great commentary, as always!

  • ralzap

    West vs. East. Keep Disnelyland. Disnelyland, and Make WDW a destination the company can be proud of. Nothing more, nothing less. Kevin, your doing a great job. Keep it up.

  • r1hert2

    Cars Land is great looking but it needs to stay in CA. Why cant the FL gang see that Uni and Seaworld are going to kick there buts. Fantasyland expansion looks nice but after seeing some video of Bells place looks good but not something I’d rush to florida for as it all seems to be geared to Kids only! Make something new and original for Florida parks ONLY!! You have imaginations down there, NOW use them!!!

    • Susan Hughes

      Totally agree. Why pay the Orlando Imagineers so much money when they can’t come up with something on their own. Hell, it doesn’t take a genius to simply rip something off. If that’s all it takes to be an Orlando Imagineer, I could do it.
      And Kathy Magnus being shipped out to Florida doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to duplicate Cars Land either. It’s important to keep in mind that Cars Land is John Lassiter’s project, not hers. And Lassiter has a lot of power with Disney beyond the theme parks. If the stories are true, and that he doesn’t want it there, it’s not going to happen.
      I’m with the whole Star Wars Land idea. It’s got the proven staying power with the public, unlike Avatar. And much more exciting than a Fantasyland expansion, which really isn’t doing anything new. And a Star Wars Land would be a huge draw in Florida.

  • SueinSac

    Avatar has one thing neither Harry Potter nor Star Wars have…at least two more movies coming. I’m curious what people will say 20 years from now about these properties. My 10 year old already tells me that “Harry Potter is over” – as in, not popular with the kids coming up now. She’s read all 7 books, seen all the movies and loved IOA, but feeling a little lonely in her age group.

    Any why the hate between DL and WDW? We’re all on the same team here…we’re all Disney park fans. Seems stupid to me to begrudge one coast from having something just because the other one already has it. I live in Texas, and I bet there’s not that much duplication between who goes to DL and who goes to WDW, except in the fan-atic base. I just want them both to be awesome.

    • KingEric

      it isn’t about the same team, it is about having different experiences that we can spend money on.

  • Klutch

    I think everyone is viewing this purely from a “Disney-Head” perspective. While I would likely fall into that category, the vast majority of Disney Park visitors do not.

    I grew up in Orange County, CA. Then I lived in the southeast for almost twenty years. The vast majority of people on the East Coast don’t even consider visiting Disneyland. Heck, many are convinced the “Florida Disney” is the original!

    Thus, cloned attractions actually work well for everyone except Disney-Heads who visit parks in California and Florida.

    The trend has been for one version of a ride to be much more elaborate in one location, while the other location is not so elaborate. Examples would include the elaborate Tower of Terror at DHS with a less elborate version at DCA, an elaborate Pirates of the Caribbean with a less elaborate version at MK. Of course, there are differences with Splash Mountain rides as well.

    Thus, based on past trends, since the Radiator Springs Racers at DCA is very elaborate, I would expect a much cheaper, smaller and less elaborate version at DHS; if it happens at all.

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