Ultimate Guide to Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy
Whenever a Disney theme park adds a new attraction, it’s a really big deal. This statement is doubly true at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a park that needs a few more attractions. Hollywood Studios is the home for more shows than any other place at Walt Disney World, and so it’s fitting that the latest offering there is a state-of-the-art presentation. Here’s everything you need to know about Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy!
Where It’s Located
When you enter Hollywood Studios, you won’t have any trouble finding the new show. Frequent visitors will know the area as the side with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Disney actually modified the line queue for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to create more space for the Racing Academy.
For new or infrequent visitors, it’s still extremely easy to find. You’ll enter the part at Hollywood Boulevard and take the first right from there. You’ll know that you’re on the right street because you’ll see the ominous Tower of Terror off in the distance. As you approach the building, you’ll have the option of turning left or remaining straight. Should you continue down the path, you must veer right anyway. So, it’s simple to know when you’re in the correct area.
You’ll take the left turn, which leads you to Sunset Boulevard. Conveniently, the building that hosts the Racing Academy actually has a silver sign that says Sunset Boulevard. You really cannot miss it.
Your Favorite Cars Characters Appear
Don’t let Lightning McQueen’s name in the title fool you about the cast of Cars. The gang’s all here during the show. In fact, the first car that you’ll see isn’t Lightning McQueen but rather his pal Mater, whose eyes pop up on a pair of digital screens to let you know that the presentation has begun.
As the star of the show, Lightning McQueen does get something special. He’s the only audio-animatronic (AA) on display here. We’ll talk about this aspect a bit in the next section. For now, what matters is that Lightning functions as the host of the show. Think of him as the teacher who will help you learn to go faster.
Since every Disney presentation needs a bad guy, Chick Hicks makes an appearance, too. You may remember that he’s the egomaniacal car who believes that he’s faster than Lightning, even though everyone knows he’s not. At one point, Chick plays dirty, forcing all of the Radiator Springs crew to work together to help their driver friend win a big race.
Appearing during this sequence are Luigi and Guido, Fillmore, Cruz Ramirez, Flo, and Miss Fritter. Lightning’s girlfriend, Sally Carrera, even shouts out a few words of encouragement at one point. Finally, Doc Hudson is shown early in the race and then honored toward the end. After Lightning, however, Mater undoubtedly has the most prominent role in the show, cementing their vehicular bromance.
The Impressive Tech of Lightning McQueen
At the start of the show, you’ll see a tall centerpiece on the stage. It has lightning bolts on both sides and hides the secret you’d guess. Lightning McQueen is inside. While Imagineers would be too modest to describe this AA as on the same level as the Shaman of Songs at Na’Vi River Journey, it’s a stunning technological triumph.
McQueen has headlights that glow red, a windshield cover that goes up and down, and a completely believable movement system. The windshield cover has a secondary purpose in that its movements bring life to Lightning’s unforgettable eyes. You’ll know his mood at the moment by how much his eyes are showing. It’s an oddly hypnotic effect.
As the host, McQueen moves around some, but he’s in a relatively fixed position on the stage. What he’ll do is turn a few degrees one way or the other to match the other show elements. Impressively, Lightning can turn in a half-circle when needed. At one point, he’ll face away from the audience and toward a racing simulation screen.
During this sequence, you should pay attention to his brake lights. You’ll see that Imagineers have thought of everything. When McQueen hits the brakes, the lights come on. Little touches of authenticity like this one are sprinkled throughout the show, adding to the immersive nature of the Racing Academy.
The Show Features Remarkable Tech
Most pre-opening reports about Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy compared it to Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot. The belief/expectation was that audience members would interact with the Radiator Springs team throughout the show. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This presentation isn’t interactive. To the contrary, it’s a tightly structured digital presentation of the highest quality.
From the very beginning, you’ll appreciate that the theater seats look up at a series of giant digital monitors. These screens are a Pixar fan’s dream come true. They’re effectively a 270-degree viewing of the world of Cars. The action on display during the 10-minute presentation surpasses anything from the movies due to the available technology.
The screens that you see don’t work together, at least not in the way that you’d expect. The ones on the left and right side are distinct from the center one. Since Lightning is the centerpiece, the screen behind him isn’t always active. When it is, your eye may still be drawn to the AA star of the show instead.
So much happens visually during Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy that you’ll have to watch it several times to catch everything. The high-quality monitors recreate race scenes from the movie. However, these sequences also have a distinct racing videogame structure. They’d seem right at home on your Xbox X, and you’d brag to your friends about the quality of the graphics.
The Imagineering here is truly stunning. I would go so far as to say that the Racing Academy has immediately claimed a spot on the list of visually interesting attractions at Walt Disney World. The dynamic nature of the show will remind you why Pixar is the unquestioned master of cinematic graphics.
I’ve avoided spilling details of the show itself, as I want you to experience the same surprise that I did in watching it the first time. If you don’t want to wait until your next Hollywood Studios visit, you may view the full presentation here. It’s a lot different and more visually impressive than you expected, isn’t it?