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Cars Land at Disney California Adventure

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Get Your Kicks on Route 66
Guests enter Cars Land at Disney California Adventure theme park.
© Arthur Levine, 2012. Licensed to About.com.
The highlight and culmination of the five-year Disney California Adventure expansion, Cars Land is unlike any previous Disney theme park land. Instead of being inspired by a generic central theme such as Adventureland or Tomorrowland, it is dedicated to a single story and set of characters from the beloved Pixar film, Cars.

Guests enter Cars Land by taking a turn onto Route 66 and into Radiator Springs, the mythical town featured in the movie. The fabled stretch of highway, stuck in a neon-infused haze of 1950s- and 1960s-era nostalgia, includes shops such as Ramone's House of Body Art, where knickknacks like mouse-ear hats with pinstripes and tire-shaped ears are available.

The sheer size and scale of the 12-acre land, as well as the level of detail, make a mighty impression. Off in the distance is the striking Ornament Valley mountain range. Talking-car characters from the films, including Lightning McQueen, take up residence on the motorway. As with the very best immersive theme park environments, it is easy for visitors to buy into and get lost in the story. It's truly incredible to think that the note-perfect town -- a toon come to life -- is actually located in Anaheim.

At the grand opening of the land in June 2012, I had a chance to sit down with John Lasseter, the grand poobah at Pixar who directed and wrote Cars as well as the principal creative advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. A native Californian, Lasseter said that he adored Disneyland as a child (and eventually worked as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise). I asked him whether he thought about how his seven-year-old self might have responded to Cars Land and whether that informed any of his decisions as he was designing it. "I thought about it -- and think about that -- all the time," Lasseter responded. He then said that he was overjoyed to hear a wide-eyed young boy say to his father as they entered the area, "Wow! Is this where they filmed the movie?" Yeah, it's that kind of place.

Next up: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree- The perky whip-like ride based on the goofy tow truck

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