Today In Disney History: Cars Released and Cars Land Announced!

by | Jun 9, 2020 | Disney History, WDW Blog, WDW News

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Start your engines, because today is a big day for the Cars of Radiator Springs! Fourteen years ago today, on June 9th, 2006, the very first Cars movie was released to theaters. 

Then, five years later in 2011, Disney made the day even more special with the announcement of the Cars Land expansion to Disney California Adventure at Disneyland!

Get Your Kicks

While Cars is admittedly not my favorite Disney/Pixar film, it holds a somewhat special place in my heart because of the setting. 

I’m a native Oklahoman, and I grew up right alongside historic Route 66. I love the nostalgia of old diners, and quirky museums full of Route 66 neons and memorabilia, and especially driving along the Route 66 stretch of road here in town.

Cars Land Flo's V8 Cafe

Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land at California Adventure. Photo by Mike Billick

So while I’m not a car person, I can definitely get behind the sentiment of a Route 66 themed movie.

Real Life Inspiration

To bring it even closer to home for me, a lot of the inspiration for the movie Cars came from a diner in Stroud, Oklahoma (about 50 miles east of Oklahoma City).

Historic Route 66 passes directly through Stroud, and Rock Cafe is right on top of it.

When Pixar was researching for the movie, they drove along Route 66 and stopped at Rock Cafe. The animators and directors were so inspired by the location that they returned multiple times during film production.

Sally

Sally’s real-life inspiration is an Oklahoman! Image Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

The Sally Carrera character was even based on Rock Cafe’s owner, Dawn Welch.

If you go to the cafe today, you’ll find cut-outs of favorite Cars characters and plenty of memorabilia directly from Pixar.

Cars Reception

Radiator Springs Racers

Cars speeding at Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure. Photo by Mike Billick

Cars, while not quite as successful as other Pixar films, was met with positive critical and audience reviews.

Rolling Stone said “What Cars teaches is how to blend brash comedy with technical astonishments so that each enhances the other. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t want to test-drive this one. Like the promos say, ‘It’s got that new-movie smell.'”

On opening weekend, the film grossed over 60 million USD at the box office. Over the span of its box office life, it made 462 million USD—not quite as much as some of its Pixar counterparts, but nothing to sneeze at!

cars land casa della tires

Luigi’s Casa Della Tires at Cars Land! Photo by Mike Billick

The film was also nominated for and won several awards.

While the list of nominations and awards is extensive, a few of the big-name ones include a 2007 Golden Globe win for Best Animated Film and a 2007 Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year.

Cars Land at California Adventure

In celebration of this classic film, Disney decided to build a real-life Radiator Springs at Disney California Adventure.

Fittingly, the announcement for this project came on this day in 2011, when the film turned five!

Cars Land would open a year later on June 15, 2012.

cars radiator springs racers

The feature attraction in Cars Land, Radiator Springs Racers! Photo by Mike Billick

The land is incredibly immersive and features three rides and themed shops and restaurants. The main attraction in Cars Land is Radiator Springs Racers, a ride built using the technology from EPCOT’s Test Track.

Is Cars your favorite Disney/Pixar film? How will you be celebrating Lightning McQueen’s fourteenth birthday? I think I know what I’ll be watching this evening…

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Written by Leah Sikes

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Leah Sikes is a graphic designer and contributing writer for WDW Magazine and Dad's Guide to WDW. When she's lucky enough to visit the Happiest Place on Earth, you catch her hanging out with the 999 Happy Haunts. She also loves running in the parks (when it's allowed at the marathons).
Leah Sikes

Written by Leah Sikes

Leah Sikes is a graphic designer and contributing writer for WDW Magazine and Dad's Guide to WDW. When she's lucky enough to visit the Happiest Place on Earth, you catch her hanging out with the 999 Happy Haunts. She also loves running in the parks (when it's allowed at the marathons).