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How will Disney fix the problematic Luigi's Flying Tires ride?

Disney's beleaguered Luigi's Flying Tires closing after a little more than two years in service

After a little more than two years in service, the beleaguered Luigi's Flying Tires at Disney California Adventure will be replaced by an entirely new ride.

The unnamed attraction will feature a completely new ride system and vehicles. Concept art of the new attraction released by Disney shows riders in classic cars zooming around an enclosed course free of a track or turntable.

Kris Theiler, vice president of Disney California Adventure Park, said the "new chapter in Luigi's story" will be full of four-wheeled fun.

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FOR THE RECORD

June 6, 2016, 8:50 a.m.: A quote in this article from Disney California Adventure vice president Kris Theiler lacked proper attribution. The quotation was from a prepared statement. 

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The levitating bumper cars ride in the wildly popular Cars Land section of the Anaheim theme park is scheduled to close Feb. 16. The new ride is expected to open in early 2016.

While older attractions are regularly replaced, closing down a new ride is relatively rare for Disney. The star-crossed Rocket Rods in Disneyland's Tomorrowland closed in 2000 after only two years in service. In 2002, DCA's much-maligned Superstar Limo was removed after only a year.

When the ride was first announced, Luigi's Flying Tires was envisioned as the heir to the short-lived Flying Saucers that operated in Tomorrowland from 1961 to 1966.

Riders on Luigi's levitating bumper cars, themed to the Italian tire shop owner from the Disney/Pixar "Cars" movie, used their body movements to control the direction of the tire-shaped ride vehicles - or at least, in theory, that’s what was supposed to happen.

In practice, the nine-foot-wide Fettuccini-brand tires - which were designed to float on a two-inch cushion of air like pucks on a giant air hockey game - failed to move much at all, no matter how much you leaned.

Luigi's Flying Tires - which debuted with much anticipation in June 2012 along with the rest of the awe-inspiring Cars Land - proved a disappointing dud from opening day.

But problems were evident long before the Luigi ride opened to the public. Walt Disney Imagineering removed a malfunctioning joystick designed to direct the rotation of the tires in hopes of speeding up the movement of the ride vehicles, according to Mice Chat.

Imagineering officials, who admitted at the time that the task of making people fly had proven "pretty difficult," tacitly acknowledged their failure when giant red-white-green beach balls were introduced to the ride almost immediately in hopes of adding a little kinetic energy to a clearly underwhelming attraction.

Poor reviews in the press were followed by low customer satisfaction scores from visitors who also complained about long wait times and slow load times.

Insult was added to injury when trip-and-fall incidents soon piled up as visitors stumbled while climbing in and out of the cumbersome ride vehicles, according to Mice Chat.

After a few months, even the beach balls were jettisoned when visitors complained of being hit in the face during impromptu dodgeball games.

By early 2013, according to Mice Chat, Imagineers were testing an ultimately-unrealized fix that would have introduced remote-controlled battering ram vehicles designed to look like the movie's Guido the Forklift in hopes of juicing the action and adding some comic interactivity.

While Disney officials have yet to release complete details about the new ride, one thing is certain: Luigi's Casa Della Tires, located at the main intersection of Radiator Springs, won't be torn down. The iconic Cars Land building from the film will continue to serve as a ride queue for the new attraction.

So what are the possibilities for a completely new Luigi ride?

Mice Chat reports that a new ride tentatively called Luigi's Festival of the Dance will feature a fleet of 1950s-era cars spinning and twisting in a choreographed musical number.

The WiFi-controlled vehicles, themed as members of Luigi's extended family visiting from the old country, would employ a trackless system similar to the Ratatouille dark ride at Disneyland Paris or Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Disney is motivated to fix the problematic Luigi's Flying Tires before cloning the popular Cars Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida, where Lightning McQueen and the rest of the "Cars" clan is widely expected to travel next.

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UPDATES

10:05 a.m.: Details added about past ride closures.

This story was first posted at 8:05 a.m.

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