‘Rollickin’ Roadsters’ Hopes To Fix Big Gaff At Disney’s California Adventure

With all the recent news about the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction opening up at Universal Studios Hollywood, news about the recent opening of another new attraction at Disney’s California Adventure has largely gone unnoticed and that might be on purpose.

Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters opened its gates for the first time earlier this month and the only real hoopla for the attraction is some press pictures featuring Gwen Stefani giving the Roadsters a spin. The new ride is located in the park’s Cars Land section which opened in 2012.

Today in a post for Disney Parks, Erin Glover wrote, “The party is going strong at Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters … To celebrate race day in Radiator Springs, 20 of Luigi’s ‘cugini’ (cousins) traveled all the way from Carsoli, Italy, to visit his Casa della Tires and kick off the fun.”

What the post doesn’t say is that the Rollickin’ Roadsters only exists because the previous one failed, something that is rare for a Disney theme park. The previous tenant in that space was the similar sounding Luigi’s Roamin’ Tires which was based on the old Flying Saucers ride that was in place in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland from 1961 to 1966. The Flying Saucers was a nightmare to operate and broke down often. After many attempts to fix and improve the Flying Saucers, Disney opted to just shut it down. However, in 2009, John Lasseter spoke excitedly about the Flying Tires ride referring to the old Tomorrowland ride.

“I’ll never forget it — there’s a particular sound to the ride and the way it moves. It’s that carrot that Imagineering has always had in front of them to try and figure out, because it [Flying Saucers] failed,” said Lasseter. “It’s like a giant air hockey table you get to ride on.” Only, it wasn’t.

According to an L.A. Times article written in February 2015, “In practice, the nine-foot-wide Fettuccini-brand tires – which were designed to float on a two-inch cushion of air like pucks on a giant air hockey game – failed to move much at all, no matter how much you leaned. Luigi’s Flying Tires – which debuted with much anticipation in June 2012 along with the rest of the awe-inspiring Cars Land – proved a disappointing dud from opening day.”

The ride, which looked fun, featured poor reviews from press and low satisfaction scores from park guests. The fact that the attraction was slow loading and that some guests received minor injuries getting in and out of the vehicles didn’t help either.

Luigi’s Roamin’ Tires shut down on February 16, 2015, making it one of the shortest-lived rides in the parks. (The Rocket Rods in Disneyland Tomorrowland shut down two years after opening in 2000 and California Adventure’s own Superstar Limo ride left the premises after one year.)

Disney doesn’t like to admit when they had a bad idea. When the Luigi’s Roamin’ Tires closed, the park announced that Luigi would be going on vacation to Italy to visit his family and when he returns, he would be bringing with him a bunch of relatives.

The new ride, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, is a whole new experience for guests and uses some new technology. The space is actually a “dance floor” where each car moves independently to the Italian-themed music playing. Each car is said to have its own “personality,” so every ride will be unpredictable. The ride features no tracks either. When the music plays, it appears the vehicles glide into dance patterns with the guests literally along for the ride. Will the ride be a hit or another miss?

One guest posted on the park’s blog, “I rode it on Friday and I’ll be honest, while I like seeing the trackless technology in action, the Flying Tires attraction was much more fun.”

[Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer/Getty Images]