Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Like tuh-mater, but without the "tuh"

So I have two words to describe Disney's new Cars Land: awesome, and unbelievably crowded. Wait a minute... ahh, who's counting anyway? Have you heard about this place? It's the latest and biggest upgrade to Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, CA, to date. Price tag? Try $1.1 billion dollars. That's right, billion with a "b". But the stakes are high, even in a down economy, and attendance at California Adventure has been sluggish since its opening in 2001, as compared with other Disney properties. So in typical Disney fashion, they paid out big bucks for the big guns.

In the past that might have meant Snow White or The Little Mermaid, but in 2012 it's Pixar and the cast of Cars. That's right, Lightning McQueen, Sally Carrera, Mack, Tow Mater, and the rest of the gang from Radiator Springs are all here. The scenery is just amazing. Ornament Valley looks just like it did on the big screen, and there is a real southwest, Route 66 feel about it. One of my favorite attractions is Luigi's Flying Tires. You may remember Luigi as the proprietor of Casa Della Tires in the movie, but this ride is like nothing you've ever seen before. You sit atop a giant Fettuccini-brand tire (about 9 feet across) while about a million air jets turn on, and lift you ever so slightly off of the ground. Think air hockey, only with you as the puck. Then you and your companions lean in the direction you want to go. That's when the bumper car action starts, and man-oh-man is it fun. Even as you are sitting on it, banging into other riders, it just doesn't seem like it could possibly work. Like something you drew up in your bedroom as a kid, that somehow sprang to life. But I guess that's the point, and is what the folks at Disney and Pixar are all about. I wonder if they can do anything about those jet-packs we were promised?

Of course no Cars-themed park would be complete without a Mater attraction (like tuh-mater, but without the "tuh"), and Cars Land does not disappoint with Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. It's like a kiddy ride meets The Grand Ole Oprey. There are 22 adorable baby tractors with articulated eyes and mouths that pull you around the circuit as Mater leads as a combination square dance caller/stand-up comedian. The tractors dance along, if you can imagine, and you'd really have to be a grouch not to have some fun on this one; especially when little ones are involved.

But the main attraction, in my opinion, are the Radiator Springs Racers. Up to six people board a car familiar from the movie, and take a tour of Radiator Springs and Ornament Valley. So you see the "Pull-up and Fill-up" service station, the Comfy Cavern Motor Court, and run into Mack, Lightning McQueen, and the rest of the gang along the way. And then right at the end, you are pitted against another group of visitors in a race for the checkered flag. You'll zip over hills, high-banked turns, and camelback straightaways against a backdrop of red-rock formations. The cars are on a track - giant slot cars actually - but you really feel like you are racing against the other car. It's great fun, and you will want to ride it again and again.

If you are considering a visit, and you should be, I would offer you two pieces of advice: wait awhile; and rent a timeshare. This park just opened last Friday, and it is estimated that over 45,000 people were there on Saturday. I am pretty sure I made physical contact with each and every one of them. And not in a good way. Plus there were mechanical issues, which should come as a surprise to no one. Give them a month or two to work out the kinks, and put it on your family vacation radar. There are tons of timeshares available in Anaheim, which will not only put you near Cars Land, but Disneyland proper, Knott's Berry Farm, Legoland, and Universal Studios Hollywood, to name a few.

Well, I'm off to Hollywood for my rendezvous with death. No I am not planning a Belushi-style O.D. at the Chateau Marmont, although you can visit Bungalow #3 if celebrity death sites is your thing. No I am headed to the Museum of Death, featuring the largest collection of serial murderer artwork, Manson Family crime scene photos, the guillotined head of the Blue Beard of Paris, a body bag and coffin collection, full-size execution devices, autopsy instruments, and much much more. On the gruesome scale, this place is an 11, and makes the Belushi death scene look like a suite at the Waldorf Astoria.

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