Friday, September 7, 2012

What would Cars Land look like at Hollywood Studios?

                                          (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

In mid June 2012 when Cars Land opened it was an instant and massive hit with Disney fans. The 12 acre land has some the most detailed and beautiful scenery of any Disney park in the world. With its signature Cadillac mountain range the land is anchored by the huge E ticket ride Radiator Springs Racers. Two other smaller rides accompany RSR in Cars Land; Luigi’s Flying Tires and Maters Junkyard Jamboree. With Radiator Spring Racers costing the Mouse an estimated $250 million alone, Cars Land altogether cost Disney an estimated $800 million! But it is because of the massive investment in the building of the land that Disney has seen record attendance numbers and therefore, huge profits! As the popularity and money continued to roll in during the summer of 2012, it was only natural that fans began to wonder if Disney could duplicate the success of the characters, rides, or even land somewhere else in the world. This speculation, a little bit of guess work, and some clever detective work led writer Al Lutz to write in an August article, “Imagineering, buoyed by the huge success of DCA’s extreme makeover, has put together a proposal to do the same type of massive multi year makeover for the floundering Disney Hollywood Studios park out in Disney World.” This is when the speculation began to run rampant across Florida about a possible Hollywood Studios makeover. To add even more fuel to the fire, Disney recently promoted and transferred the lead imagineer from the Cars Land project in California to Florida.
In an August 8 Orlando Sentinel article it was reported that Kathy Mangum was named the Executive Producer for Disney World. This caused the Cars Land to Hollywood Studios to burn white hot. At this point in time I was still a skeptic and very unsure what the exact future of DHS would be. Things were being said around the net that would make the case for and against the expansion. Much like a politicians speech, in this case, facts and numbers were being manipulated and played with to make the case for either side. My opinion was changed a little bit though, during my most recent trip to WDW this past weekend. It was here where I met with someone who gave me a lot of good, solid, and somewhat concrete info. Apparently, there is already a signed contract between Disney and a construction company that will build the massive project at Hollywood Studios. If that was not enough, my source then went on to say that they have seen the actual model/mockup of the new Cars Land at Disney’s Imagineering offices in California. “There it was clear as day.” According to my source, there was not mistaken that this model, which was hidden behind a slightly open black curtain. No more details could be discussed, but right after having this meeting, I immediately made my way over to DHS to try and imagine what Cars Land in the realm of the Sorcerers Hat would look like.   

                                         (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

Lets make our way past Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and past Toy Story Midway Mania shall we. At this point there is our first hurdle; the brick archway that stands between Toy Story Midway Mania and the “Hot Set” building. This archway is supposed to act as the physical barrier between the Hollywood Studios Backlot and Pixar Place. If we are to see the addition themed after the Pixar movie Cars, then this highly accurate brick archway will have to go because we would still be in the realm of Pixar. Small potatoes I know, but with Disney, it’s the little things that count; so say goodbye to this archway. Next we find ourselves standing in front of the “Hot Set” building. As most of us know, this is supposed to be the future site of the Monsters Inc. coaster. For the sake of time, lets just assume this is true and going to be here, and I will put out an article later that is dedicated to this highly anticipated E ticket ride. There is just so much information I have about this attraction, trying to fit it into this article would not be fair. So as we pass by the Monsters Inc. coaster, one thing is becoming obviously clear; there is no room in this small cramped corridor to fit so many park guests. This problem is already evident in front of Toy Story Midway Mania, and the addition of a Monsters Inc. coaster would only exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, the building that is across the street from both Toy Story and the planned Monsters Inc. coaster is the show building for The Great Movie Ride, and that isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. So it looks like the best way to have guests enter the Monsters Inc. coaster show building would be from the other side of the building. If we were to enter the building this way, then this would mean the destruction of the Cast Member Costuming Center. With tons and tons of acres of land, im sure Disney would have no problem building a new building somewhere else on property. And since this Costuming Center is already underutilized due to the failure of DHS not being a working film studio anymore, Disney is probably eager to build a smaller and more efficient Costuming Center.
We are also presented with the issue of what to do with the space currently occupied by the Coca Cola Cool set and Backlot Tour entrance. This space could easily be torn down and serve as a pre show/queue for the Monsters Inc. coaster. This would mean the destruction of the Backlot Tour water tank scene 1 component. Again, this is more than enough space for a queue, retail, and food. Walking past this section we can begin to get our first full reveal of the entire Cars Land area, and what should be our first full reveal of the Cadillac Mountain range.        

                                             (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

Now we get to one of the most hated and despised attractions in all of Walt Disney World; Lights, Motors, Action! But before we rip this thing out of the earth, lets take a look behind us. What do we see? The Streets of America. Another underutilized section of DHS that serves almost no purpose now a days since this park is no longer a working studio. These scale, force perspective city scape set pieces pretty much useless in todays DHS except for the Osborne Lights. (Hang on; I’ll get to that in a second.) Now, I’m not saying that the Streets of America could get the axe, but if you take a look at the lack of space behind the Backlot Tour, it is entirely possible to think that the Streets of America might be walled off and used as space to store and stage construction equipment. There is simply no space in this part of the park to store large cranes and stage all of your construction offices, while you simultaneously build the entire land. Now, if the land is built in sections, like New Fantasyland, then we may see the Streets of America and the presentation of the Osborne Lights saved. If not, then prepare to see the Osborne lights moved, or not showing all together during this 4-5 year project.

Now its time to rip out Lights, Motors, Action! The space where this failed stunt show now stands can easily fit Maters Junkyard Jamboree and another smaller, Luigi’s Flying Tires type attraction. With all of the technical and capacity problems Luigi’s is having, I would be shocked to see it make its way over to Florida. So lets assume, for now, that we just have Mater’s and the food/merchandise components of Cars Land in the space of LMA. This would likely see Maters pushed to the back part of this area with your food/merchandise components pushed to the front where you first enter the land from the Streets of America and Muppet Vision areas. I could easily see Imagineering adding a few more turn tables to the WDW version of this attraction to increase capacity.  

                                           (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

One of the final components we need to look at is by far the largest, but ironically the easiest one to figure out, or so we would think. That is the raising of the Backlot tour and the installing of Radiator Springs Racers. But with the recent news that the Backlot tour is going down for another lengthy rehab, this may be a signal that Disney is not quite ready to scrap the entire attraction and start from scratch. There has recently been talk of Disney keep at least the Catastrophe Canyon portion of the ride and installing a Mac from the Cars franchise in place of the current old burnt up tanker. If this is true, then a simple attraction for attraction swap out may not be the case. Indeed with RSR being so similar to Test Track over at EPCOT, Disney may be hesitant to drop in such similar rides so close to each other. What we could see is Disney building a part walking part tram attraction where fans are taken in groups to discover Radiator Springs. Almost like the Universal Studios Florida Disaster attraction. This would surely alleviate the current capacity and long wait time issues they are seeing at California Adventure. With guests on a tram, going through this new attraction 200+ a group, this would be a great addition. But as usual, we have to come back down to earth and face reality… 

There have already been talks that Disney is looking to push back the budget of this new land to a more manageable level. It is more than likely that this land may only see the addition of 1 E ticket ride and a bunch of shops and restaurants. Typically when Disney “copies” an attraction from one park to the other, they tend to cut the budget way back for the latter of the projects. (See Tower of Terror). All, or more likely, none of the things that I have proposed may happen, but it is always fun to dream. We will most likely see an official announcement from Disney about this new land June of next year at the 1 year anniversary of California Adventure’s Cars Land. So between now and then, if you find yourself at Disney’s Hollywood Studios stop at the end of the Streets of America, take a deep breath, and try to imagine those beautiful mountains rising out of the ground. Try to imagine the Cozy Cones. Try to replace the sound of those annoying ass stunt cars with the voice of Mater singing to you and your kids as you whip from side to side. Try to imagine anything but the current studio Backlot tour!        

                                                (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

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  2. Interesting post Chris. Were you aware of Kevin Rafferty's comments at the recent Disneyana convention about building CL in FL? He was ask if CL was going to be coming to WDW. He said "no", and that he wants it to be unique DCA. @TommyPix


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