Radiator Springs Racers is a simulated slot car type dark ride attraction in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. The attraction features a third-generation version of transport technology originally developed for the Test Track attraction at Epcot in Walt Disney World. Radiator Springs Racers is themed to the fictional world in Disney·Pixar's Cars. At a cost of over $200 million, the attraction is the most expensive at Disneyland Resort and one of the most expensive theme park attractions in the world. It accounted for about 18% of the entire cost of the $1.1 billion expansion of Disney California Adventure Park. The attraction takes guests in a six-person vehicle through encounters with characters from the film series Cars. Guests then race another vehicle through turns and hills, ending with a randomized race result.
When the Cars Land project began development, it was to be a general celebration of California car culture just called "Carland". The E-Ticket attraction for this proposal was a racing coaster simply called Drag Racer. When the project's lead creative Kevin Rafferty had heard of Pixar's plans for a film based around cars, racing and Route 66, the drag racer was revised into an attraction based on the film utilizing the ride system of Test Track. Later, at the suggestion of John Lasseter, the entire Carland project would be revised into Cars Land, focused around a full recreation of the town of Radiator Springs.
The attraction, along with the rest of the Disney California Adventure multi-year expansion, was announced on October 17, 2007. However, the first indication of the attraction and the new land was some concept art published in the Dreaming section of The Walt Disney Company's 2006 annual report. By late 2009, construction on the attraction and the land within it began and was finished two and a half years later. At the "What's Next?" presentation at Disney California Adventure on June 11, 2010, Imagineer Kathy Mangum gave a brief rundown of the attraction's storyline. Ride testing began in early 2012 with soft openings the following spring. The ride officially opened to the public on June 15, 2012 with wait times of up to six hours.
Starting at an archway near the Radiator Springs Courthouse, the queue travels to the oldest parts of Radiator Springs to the original roadside attractions and buildings constructed by Stanley. Signs in the style of National Parks describe the geology of Ornament Valley upon a viewpoint of the Cadillac Range. Also featured are the original Radiator Springs, a natural spring emerging from a rock formation shaped like a radiator that Stanley discovered while traveling through Ornament Valley desperate for water. He built a radiator cap shop, a house partially constructed of empty oil bottles and a small hotel in the Tailight Cavern system nearby. Arriving at the Comfy Caverns motor court, guests then board their six-passenger convertible while Sheriff provides safety instructions in English and Ramone covers them in Spanish.
Leaving the motor court, the vehicle takes an idyllic drive through Ornament Valley. It then enters the dark-ride portion of the attraction as guests nearly run into several audio-animatronic vehicles. This starts with a near head-on collision with Mack (similar to a scene on the original Test Track), followed by near-misses with Minny and Van, and narrowly making it over a grade crossing ahead of a speeding train. As the vehicle swerves out of the way, Sheriff appears, warning the guests to slow down and to follow Mater into town for the big race. Along the way, Mater takes the ride vehicles "tractor tipping", but this awakens Frank the combine, who angrily chases the trespassers off of his farm. The vehicle then reenters the town, passing by Sarge, Fillmore, Lizzie, and Red before being greeted by Lightning McQueen and Sally. At this point, an automated switch on the track will lead to one of two ride experiences: If the vehicle makes a left turn, it receives a tire change at Luigi's Casa Della Tires, while if the vehicle makes a right turn, it gets a fresh coat of paint at Ramone's House of Body Art. Doc Hudson introduces himself as the guests' new crew chief as both vehicles pull up to the starting line. The car that goes through the Luigi's Casa Della Tires scene will line up on the left track and the car going through Ramone's House of Body Art lines up on the right-hand track. An enthusiastic Luigi waves the flag to signal the start of the race.
Both ride vehicles then accelerate on parallel tracks out of the cave and into an outdoor segment containing bunny hills and high-banked turns around the rock formations of Ornament Valley, with the vehicles reaching a top speed of 40 mph. During a short drop down a sloped bank, an on-ride photo is taken. One of the two vehicles (selected at random) reaches the finish line slightly earlier, bringing the race to an end. The attraction concludes with a short drive through Taillight Caverns, where Lightning and Mater congratulate both vehicles on a great race.
After passing through the caves, the two tracks re-converge and the vehicles pull back into the motor court, allowing guests to exit the ride and return to Radiator Springs. Along the way, guests can pick up their on-ride photo to take home.
- Lightning McQueen: Owen Wilson
- Mater: Larry the Cable Guy
- Sally Carrera: Bonnie Hunt
- Doc Hudson: Corey Burton
- Ramone: Cheech Marin
- Flo: Jenifer Lewis
- Guido: Guido Quaroni
- Fillmore: Lloyd Sherr
- Sheriff: Michael Wallis
- Luigi: Tony Shalhoub
- Sarge: Paul Dooley
- Mack: John Ratzenberger
- Van: Richard Kind
- Minny: Edie McClurg
- The ride is randomly programmed to select a different winner each race. You have a 50-50 chance of being in the winning car!
- The steepest degree of banking on the track is 45 degrees.
- The queue and the ride feature elements from the Mater's Tall Tales short "Time Travel Mater", including the Taillight Caverns, Stanley's Oasis and the Comfy Cavern Motor Court.
- Each vehicle on the track is estimated to do more than 36,000 miles a year, that's equivalent to more than 14 trips down the original U.S. Route 66.
- The peaks of the mountain range, from left to right, represent classic Cadillac tail fins from 1957, 1958, 1959 (the Pinnacle), 1960, 1961 and 1962.
- Doc's appearance and Lightning being in his original paint job from the first film would mean that the events of the ride take place before Cars 2. This is contradicted, however, when, while Lightning and Mater congratulate the racers, Lightning occasionally mentions having raced around the world, as well as by several World Grand Prix-related posters appearing in Luigi's. As for Lightning's paint job, it is possible he reverted to his old paint job sometime after the second film.
- When Mater takes the guest tractor tipping, two Mater animatronics are used. The first one hides behind a bush on the way to the tractor pasture before going back to greet the next car while the other Mater comes out from the other side of the bush, creating the illusion that only one Mater is present. This was done due to Mater having an extended interaction with the guests that one animatronic could not sustain.
- Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career, by Kevin P. Rafferty, Disney Editions, 2019
- Tully, Sarah (June 16, 2012). "At Mile 1, The New Park Gets Inspection", p. News 18. Retrieved on June 16, 2012.
- Joseph Pimentel (July 16, 2017). "D23 Expo: Pixar Pier to replace Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure". "Starting later this year, the 12-acre Cars Land will turn into Haul-O-Ween, a seasonal overlay where the residents of Radiator Springs will dress up and celebrate Halloween."
- Morris, Brad (June 15, 2012). "Can Cars Land revive California Adventure?". CNN. Retrieved on June 20, 2012.