Slideshow: Red carpet, ceremony mark Cars Land opening
Anaheim – Disney California Adventure celebrated huge improvements Wednesday night with a dramatic neon streak and a glowing mountain behind a host of celebrities and Lightning McQueen and Mater animatronic characters driving through the new Cars Land, just two days before the public debut.
A ceremony for the soon-to-open cornerstones of California Adventure's $1 billion makeover was preceded by celebrities strolling a red carpet like actors from the TV hit "Modern Family," country star Brad Paisley and actor Andy Garcia.
Fireworks shot off from the rockwork.
Disney California Adventure will be closed today to the public so the company can show off the new stuff to journalists and special guests. On Friday, for the first time, the new Cars Land and the new Buena Vista Street entrance corridor will be turned over to the public for what Disney bills as the 11-year-old park's grand re-opening.
"It's an amazing feeling I have right now to see the world we created actually come to life," said John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar studios, whose trip along Route 66 was the inspiration of the "Cars" movies and lent a big hand to Disney's new themed land.
Before sundown, celebrities wandered the red carpet that ran between Cars Land and the new Carthay Circle. They included actors who voiced "Cars" characters: Cheech Marin and Larry the Cable Guy.
"A voice and character at Disneyland – I'd never thought in a million years," Larry the Cable Guy, who also did the narration and music for Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, one of three rides in Cars Land. His first Disneyland trip was just 10 days ago, he said from the carpet.
"I'm literally floating because I know this is forever," said Jenifer Lewis, who voices Flo in both the movies and the Radiator Springs Racers ride. "I'm blown away by it."
It will take months, if not longer, to see if Disney's massive investment sufficiently boosts the once-sagging park. Some celebrities certainly gave Cars Land the thumbs up.
"I thought it was so cool and so fast," said Ariel Winter, who plays Alex on "Modern Family," about the Radiator Springs Racers ride. "I'm like a five-year-old when I go to Disneyland."
Disney decided to renovate the park after it failed to meet attendance projections and is trying to match the appeal of the next-door Disneyland. This week's events culminate a five-year rejuvenation, which started to percolate with the opening of Toy Story Mania! in 2008, the first major improvement, and has included the now-popular "World of Color" light and water show.
Bob Iger, the chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Co., who led the renovation, took his sons to Cars Land last week and was back Wednesday night.
"It has exceeded my expectations, which were considerable," Iger said from the red carpet. "I feel very confident about it."
The project's linchpin is the 12-acre Cars Land, made up to look like the fictional town of Radiator Springs in the "Cars" movies. It offers rides: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, Luigi's Flying Tires and the centerpiece, Radiator Springs Racers – a combination dark and fast ride that rolls inside and out of towering rockwork reaching 125 feet into the sky.
Each night, a lighting ceremony will illuminate the neon on the buildings and the 280,000 square feet of the Cadillac Mountain Range.
Cars Land also has shops and food venues, including Flo's V8 Café and the Cozy Cone Motel, which looks like the wigwam lodges along the real Route 66. Shops, inside buildings that resemble those in the "Cars" movies, include Ramone's House of Body Art similar to the car paint shop in the movie.
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