The experience of riding the newest major Disneyland attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, during its grand opening celebration offered excitement levels likely to never be matched for this attraction that’s been more than five years in the making. Beyond thoroughly enjoying the race around Cars Land, I wanted to find out more about how this massive ride was created.
Last year’s on-ride interview about The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure was both entertaining and informational, so I wanted to once again chat with an Imagineer, this time aboard Radiator Springs Racers.
I turned to Imagineer Tom Morris, who worked on the creative team for Radiator Springs Racers, with roles that included overseeing the development of how the attraction would look, feel, and play out, carefully timing each visual, sound, and thrilling moment using advanced pre-visualization techniques. Hopping onto the ride with me, Morris accepted the challenge of being interviewed while taking on the twists, bumps, and turns throughout, sharing interesting details along the way.
Video: Radiator Springs Racers on-ride interview with Imagineer Tom Morris
The down-to-the-second timing of each scene in Radiator Springs Racers that Morris described was the most impressive figure to me, allowing only 8-9 seconds for each interior dark ride scene to play out and 12 seconds for cars to be “dispatched” out of each one. More impressive is the seamlessness in which this regular schedule is implemented, utilizing tricks like passing off riders between two Mater Audio-Animatronics figures acting as one and having the Doc Hudson figure alternating between each side of the track. The fast pace of those interior scenes is also notably slowed down during the 24-second split into Luigi’s and Ramone’s, not only offering a chance to show a more elaborate part of the story, but also aiding to place two cars previously riding one behind the other into a position to race side-by-side.
But even in talking about the ride’s extensive design work, pre-visualizations, and careful timing, Morris most importantly emphasized the notion of realistic place making and believability. It is these elements that has instantly made Radiator Springs Racers a part of the classic Disney theme park experience, hiding the many technical elements behind the scenes to offer guests a rich story-driven experience that feels real while passing through. It is this very experience that Morris and the hundreds of other Imagineers, designers, artists, and craftsman have worked tirelessly to create over the last five years, all in the name of creating a bit of fantasy and a whole lot of entertainment for Disneyland Resort guests for years to come.