Radiator Springs Racers is the kind of ride nobody but Disney can do.
The new $200 million attraction in the 12-acre Cars Land at Disney California Adventure brings to bear all the theme park giant's strengths and abilities: immersive storytelling, detailed thematic scenery, life-like animatronic characters and the illusion of speed and thrill.
PHOTOS: Buena Vista Street | Cars Land | Radiator Springs Racers | Mater's Junkyard Jamboree | Luigi's Flying Tires | Carsland origins
The E-ticket ride is so amazing that Disney may need to come up with a new attraction designation: F-ticket.
Radiator Springs Racers is one of the best attractions Disney has ever built and stands next to Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure at the pinnacle of theme park ride supremacy, giving Anaheim a one-two punch that rivals any Disney resort in the world (until Shanghai Disneyland opens).
REVIEWS: Cars Land | Radiator Springs Racers | Mater's Junkyard Jamboree | Luigi's Flying Tires |Buena Vista Street
Officially premiering Friday, Radiator Springs Racers combines a classic dark ride through scenes from the Disney/Pixar "Cars" movie with a thrilling head-to-head drag race around hairpin turns and along high-speed straightaways. I rode the new attraction several times during press and visitor preview events.
Riders climb into an anthropomorphic slot car based on Epcot's Test Track technology before heading out on a road trip through the desert buttes and bluffs of the 2006 film's iconic Ornament Valley.
The first ahh moment comes as we turn the corner and encounter a 100-foot-tall waterfall as the music soars from the onboard sound system and our car actually stops to take in the scenery.
Heading indoors down a dark tunnel, we meet the cast of characters from the movie in a series of surprising and harrowing moments. Unlike most dark rides, the cars and vehicles we encounter look full-size and three-dimensional with animated faces.
The piece de resistance is a trip through the neon-lighted town of Radiator Springs at night, where Lightning McQueen gives us a pep talk just before the big race.
After a quick paint job at Ramone's body shop or new tires from Luigi, we're off on a race around a banked and undulating outdoor course that's fast enough to push us back in our seats around the corners and lift us up out of them on the camelback hills.
Expect Radiator Springs Racers to generate mammoth wait times during the first few months of operation. In fact, all of Cars Land will likely resemble a parking lot of humanity throughout the summer. But once the initial excitement wears off, I'd say Radiator Springs Racers is the kind of bar-setting ride that's worthy of a cross-country road trip for any Disney fanatic.