Scene-by-scene preview: Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure

Los Angeles Times staff writer

What’s better than an E Ticket ride? How about an F Ticket?

Radiator Springs Racers aims to redefine our expectations of an E Ticket attraction by combining a classic dark ride with a thrilling head-to-head drag race.

Currently under construction at Disney California Adventure, the $200-million ride debuting in summer 2012 will take passengers on a four-minute journey through stalactite caverns, around hairpin turns and along high-speed straightaways. Each side-by-side race ends with a randomly selected winner.

> Photos: Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure


On-site ride tests revealed a prototype vehicle based on Epcot’s Test Track technology that moved like a giant slot car along a banked and undulating course. The sleek red sports car with anthropomorphic headlight eyes and smiling bumper looked like one of the animated characters from the Pixar movie “Cars.”

> Related: Downtown Radiator Springs | Luigi’s Flying Tires | Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree

Crews continue to construct 6 acres of manmade rock-work resembling the desert buttes and bluffs of the 2006 film’s iconic Ornament Valley, which will take a year to carve and another year to paint.

Spoiler Alert: What follows is a scene-by-scene breakdown of the Radiator Springs Racers ride:

Queue area

Riders pass under the track into Stanley’s Oasis, named after the town’s founder whose statue sits in front of the Radiator Springs Courthouse. Based on concept art from “The Art of Cars” book, the queue recreates a scene dreamed up by Pixar animators that never made the original movie. Visitors walk through Tap N Cap, Stanley’s roadside radiator cap shop for overheated cars.

Load station

Inside a fender-shaped cavern, passengers climb into six-person vehicles, each with two rows of three seats. The Sheriff delivers a safety spiel and sets up the ride’s back story, informing riders of the upcoming race.


Road trip

Heading outdoors for an idyllic drive through Ornament Valley, you pass pine trees and a waterfall amid the desert landscape.

Dark ride

Entering a tunnel, you barely avoid a collision with Mack the big-rig truck, swerving out of the way as his horn blares. You escape another near-miss with Van and Minny, a pair of haplessly lost tourists.

Flying past a roadside billboard, the Sheriff warns you to slow down or you’ll blow a tire before the big race. Mater the tow truck arrives (driving backward, of course) to escort you to the race but instead takes you tractor tipping. Your horn wakes Frank the harvester, who chases after you.

Radiator Springs

Entering town, you’re greeted by Sarge the military Jeep and Fillmore the VW van. Lightning McQueen and Sally the Porsche offer tips and training for the big race.

Alternate scenes

In preparation for the race, your vehicle enters either Luigi’s Casa Della Tires for a tire change or Ramone’s House of Body Art for a fresh paint job.

Race preparations

Doc Hudson offers final pre-race instructions as your competition pulls up beside you. Luigi the tire shop owner delivers the countdown as Guido the forklift drops the flag to start the race.



Heading back outdoors, both cars race around buttes, over camel back humps, past geysers and along high-speed stretches before crossing the finish line.

Unload station

Heading back indoors, you enter Tail Light Cavern, a room full of stalactites and stalagmites designed to look like 1950s tail fin lights. Lightning McQueen and Mater say goodbye as you disembark.

Note: A similar version of this story ran online several years ago. We decided to republish the story now as the ride’s debut draws near.