Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Review and Planning Info
Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy opened on: March 31, 2019.
Pull up a list of all Disney’s Hollywood Studios attraction planning reviews here. I will update these reviews throughout the month as things evolve. The main points should remain the same.
Location: You’ll find Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy on Sunset Boulevard through the gates just past Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Once you pass through and take a left, you’ll see the building.
Extra Magic Hours: No.
Length: 12 minutes.
Type: Theater show.
Similar to: Voyage of the Little Mermaid, only instead of Ariel and puppets, it’s an Animatronic Lightning McQueen and a wraparound screen. Or like Carousel of Progress, only the background is a screen and the main animatronic is a car instead of a person. It’s sort of its own thing.
Scary Factor: Very low. The show is a little loud and chaotic towards the end, but that’s about it.
When to Go: Disney typically runs Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy more or less on a loop. Once one show ends, cast members fill the theater with the next group. Because it’s one of the rare seated, indoor, air-conditioned shows at Hollywood Studios, visiting sometime in the afternoon is usually your best bet.
This will change with physical distancing protocols, but the main waiting area for Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is located to the left of the building where it’s presented. Typically, you want to see more people waiting, because it means that the next show is imminent. When the area is empty, it usually means that cast have just loaded the most recent show. You’ll then be waiting about 15 minutes to enter the theater.
What to Expect:
Lightning McQueen appears on-stage in animatronic form with screens wrapping around the theater behind him. You can tell how much excitement there is based on the number of phones in the air during his unveiling.
Other character appear on-screen as Lightning introduces us to his racing simulator.
It’s not long before Lightning takes to the track to defend his racing crown.
In-theater effects, and impressive graphics, make for an entertaining experience.
You can watch part or the full show on YouTube here.
Where to Sit:
Disney will likely fill every other row, with about six feet between parties, for the foreseeable future. The main issue is that the rise on the bleachers isn’t very high. That means if the person in front of you is taller, you’ll have trouble seeing the stage in front of you over their head. It’s typically more important to sit behind someone short than it is to pick a particular row. I’d recommend being at least half way back from the stage in order to take in what’s happening on-screen. Seats in the center offer the most direct view. With physical distancing in place, it’s likely that your view will improve with at least one empty row in front.
FastPass+: No, Disney never offered it for this attraction.
When to Arrive: Unlike most shows at Hollywood Studios, Disney doesn’t schedule this one at specific times of day. Fortunately, it’s likely that you’ll get into the next show, which shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes away. If you arrive and there’s nobody waiting, you can safely find something else to do for a few minutes. You can also ask a nearby cast member when the next show should start.
It’s hard to say whether Disney will keep Cruz Ramirez and DJ out for pictures. Taking a picture near them is an option to help pass the time or if you’d simply like one.
Josh’s Take: I am probably somewhere outside the target demographic for Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, but the show is easy enough to see that it’s hard to come down too hard on it. Its out-of-the-way location, coupled with the fact that it runs continuously, means relatively few people make it back here. The Lightning McQueen animatronic is impressive, and Disney uses screen technology well. Fans of the Cars series will enjoy this the most, with most youngsters giving the attraction two big headlights up. See what I did there? Even I’m not happy about it. Without kids, it’s a decent enough diversion with extra time, but most adults probably don’t want to spend time here versus other attractions.