Yesterday, I had the honor of being included with a select group of media outlets who were privileged to get a sneak peak at Cars Land. As just about any fan of Disney knows, Cars Land will be opening at Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort on June 15, 2012. The day actually started for me with a special event at Disneyland for the dedication of the Alice Davis window on Main Street, USA. I then had a couple of hours to get some things done and drink some coffee.
Shortly before noon I found myself parking my little ol’ civic (a car that would LOVE to live in Cars Land I’m sure!) at the Grand Californian Hotel and checking in for this special media event. Officially this media event was called Route 66 and Beyond Media Event. But to me, this was the awesome look at Cars Land event! As we waited in the lobby for everyone to assemble it was fun to see some familiar faces in the crowd. Finally, a little bit after twelve we made our way through the hotel and into Disney California Adventure. Once inside we made our way over to Stage 17 for a look at what is called a “Cast Showcase.” It is a preview of the coming attractions, foods, costumes, merchandise that the 22,000 cast members at the Disneyland Resort will be getting to check out over the course of the next month.
The “Cast Showcase” is divided into four rooms. Each room has a different aspect of the upcoming changes that it focuses on. As we walked into the first room we found ourselves facing one of the new Matterhorn bobsleds in front of a miniature Matterhorn. A section was devoted to the Fantasy Faire with artist renderings of what is coming. This room also had all the new goodies to be found on Main Street for all the new shops and restaurants. On the other side of the wall there was a showcase of the Mad T Party and a look at some of the new costumes for Bugs Land. After a few minutes of wandering around the room, the lights dimmed and our host for the day got things started. She introduced Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs who set the stage for us. A couple things really stood out about what he said about the re-invigoration of Disney California Adventure. First off, he said that they really wanted to “infuse the park with more storytelling.” The second point that really jumped out was how he said they were focusing on “pushing up the amount of Disney.” In my head this translated to better storytelling with more magic. Both of these resonated with me and in my opinion, is exactly the right focus to have.
Recipe for Happiness
After Tom Staggs was done speaking (there will be more about this in my news article), a chef hopped up on stage and introduced a video of Disneyland President George Kalogridis that went into how the end of the expansion is a new beginning for the Disneyland Resort. The chef then humorously created a “Recipe for Happiness” that went through all of the changes at the Disneyland Resort through the last few years. All of these “ingredients” (from Trader Sam’s to Cars Land, each ingredient was coupled with a short video) mixed together to make a beautiful cake (that she made throughout her demonstration). The cake representing the beautiful Disneyland Resort that has been developed over the last few years. Following this demonstration, we were given a minute or two more to explore the room.
Buena Vista Street
The second room we entered was decked out with things that will be found on Buena Vista Street. In the room there were news boys “selling” papers and a radio personality up on stage. On the far wall two conductors stood in front of the Red Car Trolley. After a few minutes, the radio personality began his radio show. The show offered a look at all of the stores, restaurants, merchandise, and entertainment that will be found on Buena Vista Street. It also went into a bit about the Red Car Trolley. There were a couple of things that jumped out to me about Buena Vista Street. First off, the Red Car Trolley will be running until park close! I think that will be a really fun thing to see and experience! I personally am really excited for Buena Vista Street. The two trolley numbers are 623 and 717. The first number references when Walt Disney came to California in 1923. The second trolley number references the July 17th opening of Disneyland in 1955. The other thing that really stood out for me about Buena Vista Street is the Walt and Mickey statue entitled the Storyteller’s Statue. This statue has Walt arriving in California, full of hopes and dreams and looking to the future! Later on during an interview, Mary Niven (Vice President of Disney California Adventure) referenced this and how they hope that every guest will now enter Disney California Adventure leaving the world behind and looking to have their hopes and dreams come true at this park. With what I saw yesterday, I would expect this to happen.
The next room focused on Cars Land. All the elements of Cars Land were represented throughout the room. In the middle of the room was a station with popcorn and a pretzel ball in a yellow cardboard cone along with accompanying drinks. The taste of the popcorn was actually really hard to define at first. It wasn’t until it was explained that it was pickle flavored popcorn that my palette could figure out what taste I was experiencing! We were then presented with a video look at Cars Land. It was similar to the one being shown at Blue Sky Cellar. I do have to make an observation about this though. There is a lot of heart being put into Disney California Adventure. I personally think it shows. The people who are working on all of these projects are passionate about what they are doing and on June 15, the world will see the realization of this passion.
Making a Difference
The final room was fairly empty with a big screen surrounded by many little screens in front of chairs. Basically, it was a mini auditorium. In this room a video was played that is meant to inspire cast members as they go about their daily jobs. The main point of the video shown in this room is that every cast member is important and every cast member can make a difference. A touching story about how a bag boy at a grocery store with Down’s Syndrome went to a conference about changing things for the better and then decided to do something to make every day better for people. He decided to make a thought of the day every day with his dad, print them up, and give one to every person he bagged groceries for. This eventually led to his line being the longest because people wanted him to bag for them. This then led to a complete change of culture in this grocery store. It really did illustrate the point that every person is important and can make a difference.
Once this video was over, we were instructed to put away our cameras and turn off our phones. It was time to go to Cars Land! We would be entering from the entrance at Pacific Wharf.
Entering Cars Land for the first time is an experience that I will probably never forget. Doug Marsh of Laughing Place was with me in the front of the group as we all entered Cars Land. We walked out into the street from backstage and found ourselves facing the arch leading into Cars Land. Seeing the view for the first time literally stopped both of us dead in our tracks. I can remember very few times where I just stopped because I was so blown away. Cars Land did this. Our hosts finally got us to move forward and we moved into Cars Land. The view was magnificent and we had only gone a few yards inside of Cars Land and we stopped again.
We definitely were not in Anaheim anymore. Up until that moment, this was a press event. I had my press hat on and I was taking scrupulous notes and photos…planning what my articles would be. At that moment when I entered Cars Land, all that went out the window. The first thing you notice is the mountain range and Ornament Valley. It is expansive and beautiful. The Radiator Springs Racers fly by on their track below, thankfully without too much noise to disrupt the wonderful sound of the waterfall in the distance cascading off the mountains in front of the iconic bridge. It is quite simply beautiful. I think one of the things I like beyond the beauty is the way it completely draws you into the Cars story. Those mountains totally transported me to somewhere in Arizona or something.
The town itself was equally impressive. Finishing touches were still being put on various aspects of the town but it is looking great! It all looks just like I’d imagine the world of Cars looking if it had been filmed as a live action movie or even had been modeled after a real place. The amount of attention to detail being put into this place is really going to pay off come June 15. As I sit here a day later thinking about it, a couple of places in particular really stand out to me. First off, the Radiator Springs Curio Shop looks awesome. It is covered with awesome artifacts and the entrance ramp is designed for cars to drive up into the shop…as it should be. Next door is the Cozy Cone Motel. It looks just like it does in the movie! It is also where Lightening McQueen and Mater will be available to meet fans whenever the park is open. I know of at least one young fan who will be thrilled to know that her friends are always available to say hi to! Looking around some more, the Court House looks awesome with the mountains behind it. There are several other details that I could mention but I’ll save them for later. Instead, I’m going to continue and tell you about Flo’s V8 Cafe.
Flo’s V8 Cafe
Flo’s V8 Cafe is going to be an instant hit in Cars Land. It is built to look like a service station and the theming is incredible. It has two wings filled with seating. One wing faces Ornament Valley and Radiator Springs Racers. The view here is magnificent with giant windows. I could easily sit there and just enjoy watching the world go by here all day.The other faces the Route 66 (main street) portion of Radiator Springs. It has an alternative view to Radiator Springs that should give a view of Mater and Lightening McQueen and several of the iconic buildings of Radiator Springs. There is a lot of chrome decorations and a wonderful retro feel. Heck, even our plates looked like miniature drip pans! This is where we were brought for a tasting.
As we sat down, we were told that we were going to eat a lot of food really fast and that statement couldn’t have been more correct. As we walked in we were handed a drink called Red’s Apple Freeze. It was delicious and apparently healthy. It was frozen 100% apple juice with a passion fruit foam I believe. It will be wonderful on a hot day at Cars Land. We were also given samples of many of the flavors that will be found in Cars Land. This included a bunch of rotisserie foods, baked beans, cone cups (with chili inside), a wonderful shake, and some amazing pies. I’ll return to the details of this experience at a later date but if you don’t want to wait check out Heather Sievers write up on it. To sum it all up though, the food is going to be EXCELLENT in Cars Land! There will be lots of options for food and drink. Some will be healthy, some not so much. Some will be for everyone, some will be for the adults. The team at Disney have literally been working on the food for Cars Land for years and everything I tasted yesterday was amazing. There is an amazing Coca-Cola BBQ sauce that stands out to me as I write this along with a chocolate pie that both Heather and I thought had perhaps a coffee taste to it. Both were delicious!
Following our very quick lunch, we were moved to the other wing of Flo’s V8 Cafe (the one with the wonderful view of Ornament Valley!) for interviews with several executives instrumental in the changes at Disney California Adventure. I will be writing more about these on DAPs Magic Disney News soon. For this though, I will share a few impressions I walked away from the interviews with because how they talked I think was more important than what they talked about. First off, the level of passion coming from each of these people was incredible. These people are genuinely excited about what is going to be unveiled in just over a month at the Disneyland Resort. They know they are a part of something special and that it is something to really be excited about. Second off, the dedication to the story was exciting to see. Everything in both Buena Vista Street and also Cars Land fits into a story. This is something that is not easy but I think in the end will really pay off. Thirdly, there is a level of heart that accompanies these previous two observations. The people involved with these projects are have poured their hearts and souls into Disney California Adventure. They have driven Route 66 to experience what it really is like. This experience changed them and made it personal. It isn’t an academic experience to them or a marketing project. It is a mission that they all are a part of. It is more than business to these people.
As we walked back through Ornament Valley to exit Cars Land. I was again struck by the beauty and majesty that was captured. Two racing cars from Radiator Springs Racers waited near us; each with its own personality. I found myself wanting to go for a Sunday drive aboard one of these two cars through this beautiful land. I look forward to the day when I can. Cars Land isn’t finished yet. However, what we were shown yesterday really gets me excited for the finished product. I will admit that I haven’t been the most excited about Cars Land. I can’t tell you why but it just never connected with me…before yesterday. I now can say I can’t wait for Cars Land to be opened! I can also say that if Walt Disney were around today I can only imagine how excited he would be about the projects that Disney California Adventure will be unveiling next month. The folks at Disney are doing a great job and they are doing it right. They should be very proud of what they have done, I know he would be.