This week we are back in Disney’s Hollywood Studios as we explore a show near the end of its run. As we discussed last week, this year will be full of changes at Walt Disney World. That means exciting new offerings, but also the closure of some rides and attractions. This past week Disney officially announced the closing of Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. Normally, we wouldn’t take the time to add a closing ride to our library, but there is still a little time for you to check out this action-packed fireball of a show. Plus, this and several other closures announced this week are helping to define the future landscape of the park which we’ll discuss later, but first…
Let’s get started with our know before you go essential facts:
- The show is located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- There is no height requirement
- Fastpass + is available
- The fright factor is 2 out of 5
- Guests may remain in a wheelchair/ECV
- The show is 38 minutes long
- This show opened on May 5, 2005
- The show will close on April 2, 2016
If you like the smell of gasoline, the roar of engines, and the thrill of explosions, then this is the show for you! Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is a professional stunt show involving high speed car chases, daring stunts, and a peek under the hood of what makes Hollywood stunts like these possible. The show takes place in front of a 177,000 square foot outdoor stadium that holds an audience of 5,000. With multiple performances a day, it is safe to say this show has entertained millions of visitors at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now, with only a couple of months left on this stage spectacular, I think it is time to pay tribute and catch one last performance if you will be in the parks before April 2nd.
The first version of the show was launched at Disneyland Paris under the title Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular. The stunt show featured a multitude of stunt cars performing unbelievable vehicular feats in a Mediterranean village setting. The cars peeled out to the delight of audiences and when it opened in 2002 it was an instant hit! That prompted Disney to bring the show to audiences in Florida and construction began at Disney’s MGM Studios in February of 2003. With an opening date of May 2005, you can see that this project was so massive it took two years to complete. Keep that time frame in mind as I will come back to it later. During that 2 year span, the Disney Imagineers were busy creating a Mediterranean village facade to match that of its French counterpart. Identical turquoise blue windows and french awnings meant Disney could use the same French film here in Florida without having to do a reshoot. The massive set is complete with a man made canal out front and a variety of pyrotechnics equipment placed in strategic spots. To weave through the buildings and jump over the flames of the explosions, more than 40 cars were specially designed for the show. These cars were built in Europe and painted either red or black to distinguish between the hero car and the villains that would give chase. Once the set and massive stadium were complete, the show was ready to open the doors.
When you see Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, you are not only watching a stunt show, but also learning how these stunts are filmed, edited, and pieced together to make a movie. The idea behind the show is that you are on the set of a major motion picture and the crew is giving you a behind the scenes look as they reveal the secrets of bringing these unbelievable sequences to life. The show begins with an action packed car chase called the Ballet Chase. The name for this sequence could not be more perfect, as the cars seem to be dancing around one another. Several black cars give chase to the red hero car, but do so by spinning in circles, driving backwards, and drifting within inches of the orange stucco buildings. Smoke fills the air throughout the sequence since the cars burn rubber every time the rev up their engines. For the climax, our hero car drives backwards down a long stretch and then hits a ramp, gliding through the air and then safely back down. If you haven’t seen a live show like this before, it is pretty darn cool! As soon as the chase is over, the director on set can be heard over the loud speakers and seen on the giant t.v. screen in the center of the village.
As several large trucks are brought out onto the set, the director introduces the audience to the stunt coordinator for the show. They then show the Ballet Chase on the giant screen up above. As you see clips from the first sequence, the director explains how certain camera angles are used to make the cars seem like they are going faster than they appear. Things are not always as they seem, and that is especially true of the cars in Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. First of all the cars are specially designed with 4 forward gears and 4 reverse gears giving them the potential to reach the same speed backwards as forwards. In addition to this, the motor in some of the cars is located behind the driver’s seat. This central placement allows the car to be extremely balanced and capable of executing stunts forwards or backwards. However, even all of this specialized design is not enough to safely pull off ramp jumps while driving in reverse. No, for that there is a secret 2nd hero vehicle. This car looks identical on the outside, but has one significant difference on the inside. You may have guessed it already, the driver faces the back of the car in this 2nd vehicle. The car you see jump the ramp traveling backwards is actually being driven forwards from the stunt drivers perspective. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. When you go to see the show they bring out both vehicles and you get to see both drivers emerge from opposite directions.
Now, this isn’t the only part of the show with deceptive appearances. Remember how the set was modeled to look exactly like the original show over in France? As I said before this was done for good reason. The playback sequences you see on the big screen up above are actually shots from that original French show! Of course, they don’t tell you this during the show. They have camera men stationed around the set and they put on a good show with the director to convince the audience they are seeing live playback of the real action that was just performed. Does it really matter that you aren’t seeing live playback? No, but I think it is neat to know. Also, it is impressive that the show repeats the same high speed stunts with such consistency that you can’t really tell the difference!
There is one part of the show that has changed since its debut in 2005. That would be the celebrity guest! Originally the show got a visit from a car loved around the world, Herbie the Love Bug. At that time, the #53 car was biggest four wheeled movie star in Disney history. In 2005, he was coming off his 6th movie, Herbie: Fully Loaded. The car with a mind all its own was a fun addition to Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and had some classic Herbie tricks up his sleeve. However, just one year later, a new Disney car made his film debut and sped into the hearts of young Disney fans. By 2011 most kids had no idea who Herbie was, but could tell you all about the fast, boisterous #95. Yep, Lightning McQueen was the new kid on the block and audiences were anxious to see their little red superstar come to life in a Disney park. What better way to introduce the king of speed than in a fast-paced car stunt show? Lightning now makes a cameo appearance in the show as he chases down an evil spy car with a secret weapon. While seeing a life-size McQueen is pretty neat, his appearance in the show is short and there are no real stunts executed by the Cars hero. Still, younger kids always like this part of the show and it helps to give the crew more time to set up the next stunt.
After Lightning exits, the show continues on and the cycle of intense action followed by big screen playback is repeated a few more times. Each time the director reveals more Hollywood secrets and you learn more about the movie making process. Along the way, more speciality rides are used and you get to see everything from motorcycles to jet skis to cars driving on two wheels! Some of the action takes the stunt performers outside the vehicles and into some dangerous scenarios. You will get to see one performer fall from the top of a building after being shot in a gun fight and another catch fire after crashing his bike through a wall of flames! All of the action comes together at the end of the show when you get to see the final cut of the film. At this point, all of the sequences you watched were shot out of order are now put together to make one cohesive spy thriller! As the video comes to a close, the stunt cars make one last appearance and our hero car makes one last escape, flying through a wall of flames and disappearing under the stands of the audience.
So, chances are if you are a guy between the ages of 4 and 54, you will probably find Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show pretty cool. In fact, you may even want to run from the show, go rent a car and start trying some of the cool tricks yourself. Well, as they say at the end of the show, these are professional stunts performed by professionals. Do not try this at home! Considering the cars used in the show weigh less than half that of a normal vehicle and are equipped with a 1,300 cc, 150 horsepower engine, built inside a custom racing chassis, it would be an especially bad idea. Needless to say, if you attempt a ramp jump or driving backwards around a building in your mid-size sedan, the results will be less than desirable!
Now, if you are listening and have a trip planned to Disney’s Hollywood Studios before April 2nd, you are probably asking if the show is worth a visit. Well, if you have never seen the show before, then I say yes! If you are a big car fan, then yes! If you like seeing the secrets behind your favorite theatrical car chases, then yes! If you have a big Lightning McQueen fan in your midst, then yes! I think you get the gist.
If you decide to add the show to your touring plan, pay attention to the show times. Currently, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is performed twice a day in the early and mid afternoon. Also, the stadium is all the way in the back of the park so you need to give yourself adequate time to get there and grab a seat. Speaking of seats, these are metal bleachers. Not the most comfortable spot in Walt Disney World, and downright hot in the summer. Fortunately, the show closes in April so you don’t have to worry about the temperature. When you select your seat, I do recommend sitting at least half way up the stadium. The higher seats offer a better vantage point to see all the action.
Now, if you don’t have a trip planned before April and you have never seen the show, there is still hope! The original French edition is still open and waiting for you! What a great excuse to plan a trip to Paris! Perhaps someday I will get over there myself and we will do a podcast covering Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular.
For now, we are staying put on this side of the Atlantic because we have more to discuss regarding Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Along with the announcement that Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show was scheduled to close this Spring, we also learned about several other closures. They include the Streets of America, the Studio Catering Co. quick service restaurant, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, Monsters Inc. Meet ’n’ Greet, and the Earful Tower. If you look at the map below you can see exactly how much of the park will be closed. Basically, everything behind Toy Story Midway Mania! and everything behind Muppet Vision 3D is soon to be a construction zone. When you look at this map you will see there will now be a straight shot from Star Tours- The Adventure Continues all the way to the back of the park that will be closed. Now, it is still uncertain whether this area will part of the new Star Wars Land, or part of the expansion of Pixar Place and Toy Story Land. However, rumor has it that the unprecedented success of Star Wars The Force Awakens has caused Disney to get the bulldozers moving sooner than originally planned. That is why we have to say goodbye to Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.
So, how does this affect the timeframe? Well, if you remember at the beginning of the podcast, I mentioned it took a good two years for Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show to be brought to life. The new expansion will encompass much more than just the area currently home to the stunt show. Even with an accelerated time frame, it is hard to imagine Disney could clear the massive amount of real estate being made available by these closures and then build something new from the ground up in anything less than two years. However, if you are a Star Wars fan like me it is very encouraging to see the Imagineers eager to get to work. The other encouraging thing about these projects are the scale. Not only are they utilizing areas home to previous rides like the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, but all indications are that the park will actually be growing in size. I’m so excited to see where we are in a few months when construction is in full swing and we are able to get a better picture of the changes coming. As always, we will keep you updated with the latest ride news!
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Wow, that was fun! I don’t know if it is the excitement of leaving for my own personal Disney vacation in just a few days, but I had a great time sharing another ride and talking about the future of Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Thank you so much for joining me today. Next week is a very special one as we celebrate 1-year of the WDW Ride Guide! I have some really fun treats in store so I hope you will come back and join me. Until then, make each day a ride worth taking!