AttractionsAttractions in FiveWalt Disney World (FL)

Five Things to Know About Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy

Share This!

In the series of animated Pixar films, Cars, Lightning McQueen says, “Faster than fast, quicker than quick. I am Lightning!” And now he’s here, in a life-size audio-animatronic, to teach you what it takes to be a champion racer. You can learn all about his secrets – and more – by reading on. But if you’re eager to get to the finish line, here’s your shortcut.

1. How to get to the starting line.

The queue for Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is the large open area outside the Sunset Showcase building. There are photo op spots with Cruz Ramirez and DJ, plus large posters including one of Lightning himself and another of the Piston Cup. Pre-race music plays to set the tone for the attraction and there are seldom-crowded restrooms, too!

Cruz Ramirez photo-op

2. Lightning races and you yell Ka-Chow!

Once you’re inside, you can play along with Sally and Mack as they ask various Cars trivia questions while you wait for the real show to begin. To meet Lightning himself, the audience (“rookie racers”) are prompted to yell “Ka-Chow” real loud! Tow Mater, who appears on the giant screen, sings a song reminding you of what happened in the Cars 1, 2, and 3 films. When his song ends, Lightning McQueen is revealed.

Lightning explains that he started this academy to share his racing secrets with everyone. To do so, he and Cruz Ramirez developed a racing simulator they’ll use to show you exactly how to race. But the demonstration goes awry (of course) and soon Chick Hicks appears, saying he’s hacked into the simulator to even the score with Lightning. They race, and of course, there’s a happy ending.

I’m not sure this audio-animatronic gets enough love, to be honest. While the movements are subtle, there’s much to appreciate if you watch closely – which can be hard to do, given everything that’s going on around the room on the giant screens.

3. A lap through history.

Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy opened on March 31, 2019. Housed in the Sunset Showcase building, its premiere was part of the Hollywood Studios 30th Anniversary Celebration. Disney secured original voice actors from the Cars films to perform their characters in this attraction. Among them, Lightning is voiced by Owen Wilson, Mater by Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt is Sally Carrera, Cristela Alonzo is Cruz Ramirez, John Ratzenberger is Mack, and Tony Shalhoub is Luigi.

Going further back in time, Sunset Showcase wasn’t constructed with the Racing Academy in mind. Fact is, it was designed as a “flex space” that could house different events. Club Disney opened here on December 4, 2015. It had a sort of night club atmosphere where DJ Club Host played songs from Radio Disney Top 40 while guests danced with Disney characters. Huge video screens showed clips from Disney movies and a small menu of food and beverages was available. Club Disney closed February 2016 but would reappear seasonally.

Beginning in January 2016, the venue hosted Club Villain, a special ticketed event featuring great Disney villains. Dr. Failier from “The Princess and the Frog” was the host. As you hung out you could bump into Maleficent, Cruella DeVil, and other Disney villains. Club Villain ended in the first half of 2016, but reopened during the Halloween season that year and again in 2017.

Finally, for a while, the Sunset Showcase was used as a character Meet & Green event area during Disney PhotoPass Days. In 2019, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy took up residence and has remained here since

4. A pitstop full of fun facts.

⭐ The events in Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy take place after those in the film Cars 3.

⭐ Lightning’s number is 95. That number was chosen because that was the year Pixar’s first feature film, Toy Story was released.

⭐ When Chick Hicks offers “a huge pile of cash” to all the guests if he wins the race, A113 appears as part of a serial number on one of the bills shown on the screens. A113 appears in every Pixar film; it’s the number of the classroom for animation students at the California Institute of the Arts (many Pixar folks are alumni).

⭐ A couple of last numbers: the screen in the Sunset Showcase venue is almost two stories tall and more than 200 feet from one end to the other. While some online sources quote different dimensions, whatever the actual size, it’s immersive (and impressive)!

5. The Nuts and Bolts.

Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is located in one of the most remote corners of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Sunset Showcase building is at the very end of Sunset Boulevard, past the Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster plaza. The presentation itself is about 10 minutes long. As an indoor attraction, weather doesn’t affect the show, but the queue is outdoors and guests will be exposed to inclement weather. Once inside, the theater is air-conditioned.

Once inside, the seats are hard benches with no backs. Guests may remain in their Wheelchair/ECV. There are no height requirements or health advisories for Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, and handheld captioning is available.

Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is not open for Early Theme Park Entry or Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. Genie+ is not available, but because of the theatre’s capacity and the short length of the show, you won’t need it. It’s rarely crowded and there’s never a lengthy wait to get in.

The Bottom Line.

Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is by no means a headliner attraction in Hollywood Studios, and probably doesn’t make the “must-do” lists of many visitors. But to be fair, it has its own merits. The visuals are stunning, and the awesome life-size Lightning McQueen makes it worth visiting at least once. Littles who love the Cars movies will enjoy it more than others, according to our surveys. (We had to visit with our young grandson on our last trip with his family and he loved it!) If you’re still in doubt, remember this: it’s easy to get into and it’s air-conditioned.

Have you been to the Racing Academy? What did you think? Let us know in the comments. Ka-Chow!

You May Also Like...

Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *