Review: Luigi’s Flying Tires fail to live up to levitating legacy
I always wished I could have ridden the Flying Saucers at Disneyland.
Opened in 1961, the space-age bumper cars hovered like pucks on an enormous air hockey rink, a strange combination of retro and futuristic, like a scene from a Jules Verne novel.
I imagined the spaceship-like saucers zipping about on a cushion of air, bouncing into each other as they wobbled across a silvery alien surface, just like Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder or Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean.
The short-lived Tomorrowland ride closed in 1966, a year before I was born, and got filed away in the Yesterland of my dreams.
So when Disney announced plans to include a modern take on the old Flying Saucers in the new 12-acre Cars Land, I thought my dreams had come true. Much like the science fiction fantasy that the classic attraction depicted, I would turn back time and climb aboard the ride I never rode. I could barely contain my excitement.
Sadly, that unbridled anticipation has turned to utter disappointment.
I’ve tried Luigi’s Flying Tires a few times during test-and-adjust previews and it pains me to say the new version of the old flying saucers don’t live up to the time capsule in my mind. The 9-foot-wide Fettuccini-brand tires, based on a theme tied to Luigi the Italian tire shop owner from the Disney/Pixar “Cars” movie, are about as exciting as a bowl of limp pasta.
The instructions were simple: lean in the direction you want to go. But more often than not, I didn’t go anywhere.
The tires didn’t move very fast or in the direction I wanted. When I bumped into another tire the bounce was almost imperceptible. Occasionally a couple of the 22 tires seemed to briefly spring to life, but most of the time they just floated in place like a balloon on a string.
Maybe I got a dud tire each time. Maybe I need better flight instructions. Maybe Disney will make some adjustments before the June 15 official opening and everything will be as I imagined. Regrettably, barring some magical application of pixie dust, the attraction I’ve waited four decades to ride can be summed up in one word: boring.
Disney ride mechanics removed a hand control that made the tire spin in circles just before unveiling the attraction to the public, but it’s unclear if that would have made a difference. I don’t want to spin in circles. I want to go somewhere. I want to do something.
I studied several ride cycles to see if there was a secret to maneuvering the tires. I asked employees for tips. I even picked the “fastest” tire. But I got nothing.
The ride is unique for a Disney theme park in that there is no track. The rider is in complete control. Maybe it was just user error on my part, but I couldn’t seem to get the ride to work no matter how much I tried. The trick apparently, which I failed to master, is to find the tire’s balance point and then lean slightly -- but not too far -- in the direction you want to go.
So far there’s been nothing but happy faces coming off Luigi’s Flying Tires, thanks mostly to the three dozen green, white and red Italian-themed beach balls the riders play with before, during and after the two-minute ride. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to wait an hour to play hovercraft dodge ball to Italian music.
Get inspired to get away.
Explore California, the West and beyond with the weekly Escapes newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.