When does a kid first fall in love with race cars? Perhaps a childhood ride in cool car. Or a Christmas gift of a Hot Wheels track. For little Daniel Demaras, he became an instant gearhead at the age of 3 thanks to one of the greatest moments in cinematic history; the 2006 release of Pixar’s Cars. Lightning McQueen became a highly influential figure in young Demaras’ life, as he repeatedly watched the movie and learned every line of dialog.
The cartoon town of Radiator Springs was brought to life in 2012 when Disney built Cars Land. It seems unfathomable that the Demaras Racing team have never visited Cars Land despite having visited Southern California before.
Part scrap yard, part movie magic, just walking through Ornament Valley you’re amazed at the scope of the place. Truck springs and car bumpers are used as decoration next to Mater the Greater’s stars and stripes hood. The thing you have to keep reminding yourself is that the vehicle never existed; it was only a cartoon.
Flo’s V8 Cafe stands in the middle of town, a 50’s style diner featuring framed posters and gold records of Flo’s younger years as a Motown singer.
Cars Land gets decorated for the holidays, so lots Christmas garland has been added to the mufflers used as décor. Still, Disney California Adventure created an authentic representation of the movie town.
The creativity to turn discarded car parts into tree ornaments shows the care that’s gone into Radiator Springs. Even the bronze statue of Stanley, the town founder, has been modified with a Santa hat and sack of toys.
Although the entire town has been recreated in detail, some places like Lizzie’s curio shop aren’t accessible to visitors, which is odd since it is a souvenir shop!
But the real stunner s Luigi’s Casa Del Tires. The shop is massive, doubling as sheltered space to line up for one of the amusement park rides. Besides the Fettuccini Alfredo white wall tires, recreation racing posters from Cars 2 tile the wall. Visitors even get a glimpse into Luigi’s office, which looks like an Italian grease money works there. the only detail of authenticity missing is a pinup girl calendar.
Just like that moment in Cars when Lightning wins Sally Carrera’s heart by lighting up the town’s old neon signs, sunset in Radiator Springs is dazzling. While the big V8 sign at Flo’s is the centerpiece, a close second is the Radiator Springs Racers sign, which is the main ride and attraction at Cars Land, but not canon from the films.
Does it look like Las Vegas? Does it feel like the 50s? Maybe a bit of both. Just wandering around under the immersive, coloured lights is disorienting. After all, this is a recreation of a town from a cartoon that was made to look like an old town on Route 66.