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Taking the Kids: To the new improved Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Media Services on

Ready to race? Radiator Springs Racers at the new and improved Disney California Adventure Park ( is one of the most elaborate attractions ever created for a Disney theme park and it is the centerpiece for the new Cars Land here, which is so popular that parents and kids wait for hours to get in.

For the uninitiated, Radiator Springs is "the cutest little town in Carburetor County" where the loveable characters of the "Cars" movies live along Route 66, that famous stretch of U.S. highway spanning 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles.

"This is an exact replica of the movie!" said 13-year-old Robert Castillo.

And then some.

"We took the "Car" story deeper," explained Kathy Mangum, the Walt Disney Imagineering executive who oversaw the development of the 12-acre Cars Land, complete with a 525-foot-long Route 66. In the movie, Mangum said, you don't go into the buildings as you do here -- from the Curio Shop to Flo's V8 Cafe modeled after a Texas eatery along Route 66.

"I love it," said Stephanie Aleman. "It's a big improvement to the park."

That was the idea. Though California Adventure Park boasts some of the Disneyland Resort's most popular attractions -- among them Soarin' Over California, the 4-D "Toy Story" Midway Mania, the high-speed coaster California Screamin' and Tower of Terror -- a visit to this park seemed to leave visitors dissatisfied, Disney officials conceded.

Now, besides Cars Land, visitors can walk in Walt Disney's shoes -- literally -- as they enter the park and stroll down Buena Vista Street as it might have looked when a 22-year-old Disney arrived from Missouri in the '20s with a dream and just $40 in his pocket.

Sadly, many kids don't even realize Walt Disney was a person, said Lisa Girolami, the senior director of Walt Disney Imagineering, who oversaw the development of Buena Vista Street. "We want to keep talking about Walt as a man ... it isn't just a back story -- and that's what we do -- but this is Walt Disney's back story ... he got off the train with a dream and people can come here and can think about how they can make their own dreams come true."

There is Mortimer's, which sells healthy eats. (Walt Disney originally wanted to name Mickey Mouse Mortimer but his wife, Lillian, suggested Mickey would be a better choice.) Peek into the window of Trolley Treats at the display of Rock Candy Mountain, an attraction Walt Disney designed for Disneyland but never built.


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