By Charly SHELTON
Yes, it’s only March. Some say that is a bit early to start making summer plans for theme parks to visit and attractions to experience. But I say, it is right on time! Crews have been working for months to take us to new heights at the local theme parks, whether back to the 1920s L.A. or to the fantastic world of the shape shifting car/robot/aliens of Transformers, or to the quaint town in the American southwest where talking cars celebrate a new land opening. All of this and more are coming this summer to a theme park near you.
Let’s begin at Disneyland, the biggest theme park in the area.
Last summer saw the addition of two new attractions – “Star Tours: The Adventures Continue” at Disneyland Park and “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure” at Disney’s California Adventure. This summer we can head back to Disney’s California Adventure for new offerings as the planned $1 billion expansion to the park continues with the biggest overall to the Disneyland Resort since the second park, California Adventure, opened.
This summer, the entrance to California Adventure will be transformed from a basic courtyard with a fountain, as it has stood since opening, to the new Buena Vista Street. This “entrance land” will be much like Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland that reflects days gone by. Whereas Main Street emulates Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Mo. in the early days of the 20th century, Buena Vista Street will reflect Los Angeles of the 1920s when Disney arrived with a cardboard suitcase and a pocketful of dreams.
Mickey Mouse debuted in 1928 with “Steamboat Willie” and was an instant success being among the first sound cartoons. Disney’s previous success with the Alice cartoons (a series that first gained Disney notoriety in which a live action little girl, Alice, has adventures in an animated world beginning with Wonderland and then moving on to other adventures) had given way to another creation that predated Mickey Mouse by a full year. This character was Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit.
After a botched deal with Universal Studios, Disney turned to a new character much like Oswald – Mickey Mouse. This will all be reflected in the upcoming land as Mickey is touted as America’s new big star. Reference to Oswald will be found in several locations, including Oswald’s Filling Station, and possibly a new experience on Buena Vista Street that may be an Oswald-themed gift shop.
Also coming to DCA is Cars Land, based on the 2006 Pixar animated film “Cars.”
The town of Radiator Springs, in which the film is set, will be recreated for humans to come visit and interact with the characters from the movies in several ways. Retail experiences such as Sarge’s Surplus Hut, Ramon’s House of Body Art and Radiator Springs Curios Shop will sell souvenirs and gifts that will all be Cars-themed. There will be dining experiences at Fillmore’s Taste-In, based on the hippie VW bus in the film, which will serve all natural snacks and drinks as well as Flo’s V8 Cafe, an indoor/outdoor restaurant that will feature fare inspired by the great roadside eateries along Route 66.
Finally there will be Cozy Cone Motel, which is based out of a collection of oversized traffic cones that will serve all cone-themed foods (“popcone” and “chili cone carne” just to name a few).
And then there are the rides. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree will feature tractors pulling guests around as they fly back and forth, all to Mater’s favorite square dance music.
Luigi’s Flying Tires resurrects an old Disneyland attraction, the Flying Saucers from Tomorrowland. Just like the old Disneyland attraction, these tires will be like air hockey pucks on an air jet table where guests will board a tire and then fly all over the floor, bumping into one another while driving their own flying tire. It’s like bumper cars meets air hockey.
The big E-ticket attraction of the land will be Radiator Springs Racers. A dueling vehicle ride, guests will board one of two cars that experience the world of Cars by going through tunnels, past waterfalls and into caverns, seeing parts of Radiator Springs that were originally planned for the film, but then cut before the final product. Mater takes you tractor tipping, you race away from an angry Frank the Harvester, a near miss with a pair of tourist vans and a big rig truck sends you into Radiator Springs where the vehicles split up and go into either Luigi’s for new tires or into Ramone’s for a new paint job. Then, exiting out into the beautiful Cadillac Mountain range of Ornament Valley, the vehicles race each other to the finish line and name a winner before guests exit the vehicles. This is going to be a huge attraction with long wait times all summer, but it sounds like it will be well worth the wait.
Over at Universal Studios Hollywood, the big new attraction coming in May is “Transformers: The Ride 3D.”
As many of you may have noted from my reviews in the past, I am not a “Transformers” fan. I think that the films rely heavily on the use of special effects, but for this attraction, that premise works.
Being only a few minutes long, there is not much time for story development other than, “The Decepticons are fighting the Autobots. Now watch the explosion.” The action sequences from the movies are decent, but from all the preview footage, the action that will take place in the ride will make the action in the films look like playtime with Nana. Surprisingly, I am really looking forward to this.
The ride system is the same from the Spider Man ride at Universal in Florida, largely hailed as the best ride system to date. Combining animatronics, motion simulation, high def 3D effects and a dark ride setting, this is the best of all kinds of rides thrown together to make one great experience. It is coming May 2012 to Universal Studios Hollywood.
Scan the QR Code to see previews of the attractions described here, and check back with the CV Weekly this summer for reviews on all these attractions and more.