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Review of Mater's Junkyard Jamboree Attraction at Cars Land in Disneyland
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
In “Cars,” Pixar’s animated feature about a world populated by sentient vehicles, Mater, the Tow Truck, is the loveable, if stereotypical, Southern good old boy, who is the best friend of the hero. Because of his slow-wittedness, he manages to get his friends and himself out of scrapes accidentally as much as by design. Naturally for the character type, he charms with the regional drawl that is the accent of Larry the Cable Guy, who voices Mater in the movies.
As funny as the character is, I failed to see how a ride based on him pulling a trailer in a circle could be anything but boring. And yet, the Disneyland Resort is pushing this attraction as one of the three centerpiece attraction in the new Cars Land at California Adventure. I had to check out its flaws myself.
Fortunately, we decided to come on a Tuesday morning in October, when no lines impeded our progress. The ride has no Fastpass, single rider line or ride photo. But it does have a baby swap. The entrance is heralded by “Mater’s Petti Zoo,” where you could take pictures with a solitary and expectant Mater figure. It remained strangely unvisited, despite the legions of kids who passed by. Perhaps the “No Climbing” sign kept away curious tykes. Also discouraging to kids is the 32-inch minimum height requirement.
We rushed through a nearly empty crowd-control path surrounded by the rusted oil drums, spare tires and discarded auto signs that you’d expected to find in a junkyard. The intentionally decrepit waiting area featured wooden poles encrusted with ancient license plates. And a contraption cobbled together from air horns, card radios and engine pipes served as a makeshift jukebox, belting out toe-tapping hillbilly hits.
Twenty-two child-sized, rusted orange Maters clustered on top of eight cement turntables in the ride area. Though each was a tractor rather than a tow truck, they all featured the shy grin and droopy eyes of the original. My partner and I took our places on the small two-wheeled trailer pulled by our tractor, though I imagine three small children could share a trailer. We fastened our seatbelts to the approval of a surly castmember who checked everyone for safety. Note to wheelchair users: the entire ride is fully accessible, with enough room for you to roll right up to a trailer. But you have to be able to transfer from your chair to the ride on your own.
As the music began, our vehicle began its quick journey around its turntable. I’d carefully chosen our trailer based on its circle position and what I judged to be its swing ability. This turned out to be a pointless decision because, rather than staying within its assigned circle, each tractor jumped to the next turntable and then to the next, speeding us through an unpredictable path that resembled a broken figure eight chain more than a loop. At numerous points during our square-dance ride, our Mater would throw our trailer out to the side, providing sudden thrills.
We could neither control the speed nor whip of our trailer. In fact, the only thing we could put our hands on was a stationary safety bar. Just as well, because the clearances between vehicles were sometimes only a few inches. We laughed and occasionally screamed a lot as the swaying and circular motion kept us giddy. After only 90 seconds, the ride ended far too soon.
I highly recommend this attraction. Though the simplicity may seem otherwise, the short lines, country music, attention to detail, constant motion and sudden swerves combine to provide an unexpected good time.