OK, I didn't DISLIKE Cars Land. I thought it was cute and charming. I didn't think it was worth $600 million. Combined with the shops along Buena Vista Street, I certainly didn't think the whole thing was worth $1 billion or all the fuss. Why?
Because I've been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
That ruined it for me. The Wizarding World is so ridiculously well-done, so intricately themed, so beautifully realized from top to bottom and side to side, so true to the spirit of the films AND the books, so remarkably created, that Cars Land was just ... lackluster by comparison.
Taken on its own, my big problem is, I saw "Cars" once and "Cars 2" not at all. The movies don't resonate with me in the slightest. Visually, I found the mountain range to be absolutely, jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The way they use light and color, the way the tallest mountains look farthest away, the way the area looks coming around the corner from the Monterey Bay area (particularly), this part of it was stunning. The reality is, it's out of place to a large degree, it is so massively large that, looking out from the top of the Paradise Pier hotel, where we stayed, it looks completely wrong within the entire resort, this giant wall of rockwork ... but that said, it certainly is stunning and incredibly well created, there is no doubt about that. It does make me feel like I'm in another place completely, and to that end, it has met its goal and far surprassed it. It's SO beautiful and stunning, that seeing the cars with eyes and smiles come along the road looks ... odd. No, I know -- for people who know the movies well, it is just terrific and no doubt gives you a little thrill. It's just ... I DON'T know the moves well, and neither did anyone I was with, so it looked kind of cartoony in the midst of the beauty of the area.
The ride itself is grand and elaborate, it's a beauty, for sure. Again, as someone who doesn't know Cars other than seeing the first film once, the story meant very little to me, but I didn't really need to know the characters. It was cute, mostly incoherent, and colorful, and the outside sections were terrific. From a ride system standpoint, it is better than Test Track, but not nearly as good from a story or experience standpoint as "Journey to the Center of the Earth" at Tokyo DisneySea.
The rest of Cars Land has two other very, VERY minor rides that, in the old Disneyland parlance, would charitably be a C-ticket, maybe a B-ticket. (It seems pretty accurate to lump them in with Alice in Wonderland or the Motor Boat Cruise, both B-tickets.)
Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is sweet and a cute ride that makes you go "wheee." It was not worth the 35-minute wait we had. But we certainly had a good time.
Luigi's Flying Tires was a big bust for us, a carnival ride (KCC Entertainment Design: World Class Indoor Family Entertainment Center, FUNTURA, opens its doors in Donetsk, Ukraine) that felt half-thought-out. The beach balls were an irritating distraction, all I kept thinking was, "How many kids have punched these with slobbery, germ-filled hands?" Without the beach balls, would the ride have been cute? I kind of doubt it ... it would have seemed like not much at all.
So, there are three rides, one terrific, two minor at best. All of them are outside, which makes me wonder what guests are going to think of this area the five or six months out of the year when it's cool (sometimes downright COLD) and even raining in Southern California. I kept imagining myself wearing a poncho over three layers of clothing and thinking that none of this would be fun at all -- it would be more or less torture to do this in nasty winter weather!
The rest of the Cars Land area is shops and restaurants, and to be fair, after its one WHOPPER of a ride, so is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The restaurants in Cars Land feel like kitschy attractions unto themselves, and the food was pretty so-so. (We had breakfast at Flos, which would have been a 99-cent breakfast anywhere else but was $8 at DCA.) If you're not in the mood to eat, they are fun to look at for a few minutes.
The shops follow the same model of shops all around the Disneyland Resort -- the SAME merchandise, the same stuff you can buy everywhere, though with an emphasis on Cars, of course. If you're not a 7-year-old boy, there's not a lot here, and that may be why even when Radiator Springs Racers had a 2-hour wait the shops were mostly empty.
The look and feel of Cars Land is great ... if you know the movies. Otherwise, it's cute to see but mostly meaningless, and it left me pretty disappointed overall. Nice, but SO specific to ONE movie that it shuts out anyone who doesn't know or doesn't like it.