Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is the newest attraction in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, opening on March 7, 2016 after replacing Luigi’s Flying Tires. This review features photos, our thoughts after riding the attraction, and general tips and assorted tidbits about the attraction, its trackless ride system, and likely popularity at Disneyland Resort.
First, I have to admit that I approach the whole Luigi’s Flying Tires debacle with a bit of bias. We represented the <1% of guests that could seemingly get the tires to “fly” properly, and had a blast with the attraction. With that said, I feel I can set my bias aside for this review because I witnessed multiple tires full of people rocking back and forth for the entire duration of the ride, not going anywhere as the front lip of the tire hit the ground when they rocked forward and the back lip hit the ground when they rocked backwards every time we rode it–and we rode it a lot.
Given that, I applaud Disney for making the tough decision to replace it after only a couple of years in operation. Regardless of whether it was user error or a failed ride system, the fact that so many guests have troubles enjoying the attraction meant a change was necessary. Enter Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters.
When first walking into the building, it’s clear not much changed in the queue. This was all reasonably well done for what Luigi’s was, so no sense messing with any of it. Upon emerging into the outdoor queue, much likewise remains the same. There are a couple of new banners up and “Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters” is prominently painted on a fence, but otherwise, it’s all the same. This includes the layout of the loading area and even the ride area.
What has changed is how the ride operates. For many Disney fans, the big deal when it comes to Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is the trackless ride system. For the sake of clarity here, we’re discussing LPS/ETF/GPS/etc. style ride systems in which vehicles seem to “dance,” not the technically trackless systems like those found in Universe of Energy and Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World.
This has been a sore subject for a while, as each of the non-US Disney resorts (Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong) have such a ride system. In the case of Tokyo Disneyland, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt has been open for over 15 years. Meanwhile, neither Walt Disney World nor Disneyland has had one. Until now.
Of the other trackless dark rides, from a forward-facing perspective, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is most comparable to Aquatopia at Tokyo DisneySea. Per Imagineer Eddie Sotto, this was the first trackless dark ride that Disney developed (even though it ultimately opened after Hunny Hunt–presumably because the rest of DisneySea was still in development).
As far as first generation technology goes, Aquatopia is okay. It’s solid as a proof of concept and the foundation for better implementations. That attraction’s biggest success is giving great kinetic energy to Tokyo DisneySea’s weakest land.
The problem with Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters as compared to Aquatopia when it comes to the trackless ride system is two-fold. First, this is over 15 years later, with the technology leveraged far better elsewhere in the intervening years.
This isn’t to say Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters wastes the technology or features it to ‘check off a box’ in terms of ride systems at Disneyland Resort. To the contrary, I think trackless was the appropriate choice for what the ride intends to evoke from guests (and isn’t that ultimately what matters?).
Second, due to the positioning of the attraction within Cars Land, the only place it gives kinetic energy is the quiet path between ‘a bug’s land’ and Cars Land. It also lacks water on the course, for obvious reasons.
We did notice more people gathered watching Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters last night on this path, but not as many as on the ‘main drag’ of Cars Land. It would be great if some expanded seating for Cozy Cone Motel was added across from Luigi’s, much in the same way Flo’s “back patio” overlooks Radiator Springs Racers.
On the other hand, there’s no doubt the trackless technology has come down in cost significantly since Aquatopia was developed. Although the exact budget is presently unknown, converting Luigi’s to this ride system probably wasn’t some big-budget affair.
Trackless might very well have been the most practical and efficient ride system to use here in the existing footprint of the attraction (if Sotto’s timeline is right, it was developed 20 years ago at this point…that’s a long time for iterating and reducing costs), rather than a showcase for a fancy technology. The vast majority of the park-going public doesn’t know what a “ride system” even is, let alone a trackless ride system.
To that end, it sort of feels unfair that Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is the first stateside trackless ride. It’s unfair to fans who have heard tales of mind-blowing dark rides like Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and Mystic Manor. Moreover, it’s unfair to Luigi’s itself, as expectations among fans will be elevated to those ambitious attractions.
Luigi’s does not aspire to that, nor is it fair to judge it against those attractions. A ride system does not define an attraction, and prior technology has been utilized myriad ways for dramatically different attraction experiences. I would love to have written the last several paragraphs in a review of some next-level dark ride, with Luigi’s being the second stateside ride to use a trackless ride system, making that ride system almost a non-issue.
This is unfortunate because, when judged on its own terms, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is surprisingly fun. Prior to riding, we were concerned that it would be too similar to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, another whip-you-around while playing fun music sort of flat ride attraction. That’s not the case, as Luigi’s differentiates itself in tone and substance.
The music, while still fun and catchy, skews more towards the uptempo music of Italy. Luigi and his relatives provide vocals giving the tracks a jovial vibe, but it’s not corny. The way the cars move is also less about tossing guests around (although there’s a bit of that) and more about an exuberant vehicular dance-off. Think of this as a precursor to Cars 4: Stomp the Yard. (Sorry for that nightmare fuel.)
Where Luigi’s best succeeds is in the programming of the ride vehicles, which are unpredictable in the beginning portion of the ride before the experience’s crescendo in a choreographed dance sequence.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “wow” moment because I think that would be overselling it, but you can pencil this in as the precise moment Luigi’s wins you over and puts a smile on your face if you didn’t already have one.
Lines for Luigi’s Flying Tires originally started out in the 60+ minute range and gradually fizzled out as locals became frustrated with the experience and word got out to tourists that the experience was a disappointment.
Don’t expect the same to happen for Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. The attraction’s capacity remains low, but we expect the word of mouth to be much more positive on Rollickin’ Roadsters. This should keep lines in the 45+ minute range throughout the summer, maybe settling in around 30 minute averages thereafter.
Overall, we were both surprised at how much we enjoyed Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. Given that we were fine with Luigi’s Flying Tires, we weren’t exactly begging for a redo, and our expectations in what we anticipated would be a simple no-frills conversion were fairly low. Rollickin’ Roadsters exceeded our expectations with a ride experience that’s fun and charming, and an ending sequence that differentiates it from other rides of its ilk. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is certainly not a next-level trackless ride–it was never meant to be–but it is surprisingly good for a flat ride and a nice “save” by Imagineering on Luigi’s attraction.
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Are you excited for Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters? What did you think of its predecessor, Luigi’s Flying Tires? Have you experienced other trackless Disney attractions? Any questions or additional thoughts? Share in the comments below!