AutoMatters: Disney Movie Vehicles


By Jan R. Wagner

Okay, I admit it. I am a huge fan of the Disney movies, TV shows, merchandise and theme parks. One of my favorite places to visit is Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park, next to Disneyland Park in Anaheim (I have a well-used Premium Annual Passport). If you haven’t been there, you absolutely must go. Highlights are the recreations of Route 66 and Cadillac Ranch (from Amarillo, TX), and especially Radiator Springs Racers.

Many Disney movies feature amazing vehicles used on land, sea, in the air and beyond. Recently I had the opportunity to examine some of these at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, located in Simi Valley, California (

The event was called “D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives,” which ran from July 6, 2012 through to April 30, 2013. D23 is the official Disney fan club. I am a member.

Hundreds of Disney artifacts of all shapes and sizes were on display. Here are a few of the Disney movie vehicles that were there.

From the 1954 classic “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” was the meticulously detailed special effects filming model of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. Over 11 feet long, the model was brass-plated, equipped with an electric motor and lights, and weighed in excess of 1,000 pounds when submerged under water. The film won two Academy Awards, one of which was for Best Special Effects.

In “The Absent-Minded Professor” (1961), the character played by Fred McMurray invented Flubber, a rubbery substance that defied gravity. When Flubber was applied to this 1915 Ford Model T, the car could fly. It did, all the way to Washington, DC, where Flubber was given to a grateful nation.

Set near numerous pirate-inspired movie props and elaborate costumes, including one worn by Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), the “Black Pearl” sailing vessel was the special effects filming model used for several “Pirates of the Caribbean” films from 2003 to 2007. It is both intricately detailed and massive, measuring 26 feet in length.

I’m a science fiction buff, so my favorite vehicle in the exhibition was the futuristic light cycle from the inner space world of the 3-D movie “TRON: Legacy” (2010). It was positioned near sets that included a modified Ducati Sport 1000 motorcycle, TRON costumes from both TRON films and the neon sign from Flynn’s Arcade, as seen in ElecTRONica at Disney California Adventure Park.

Inside a neon-lit, computer video game world, the movie’s characters engaged each other in exciting battles as they raced around the grid on their light cycles. Some of you might have visited a recreation of this world inside realistic, large-scale sets – complete with costumed actors and electronic special effects, in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter during Comic-Con a few years ago. I wonder what surprises will be waiting for us at Comic-Con this year? To find out I’ve arranged for a Press Pass and will report to you on what I discover.

Let’s end this brief look at Disney movie vehicles with Tony Stark’s F1 racecar from “Iron Man 2” (2010). In the film it was destroyed while racing on the streets of Monaco, which happens to be the next stop in the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship.

There are other vehicles on permanent display at the Reagan Library. Of these, by far the most impressive is the actual Air Force One (tail # 27000). This Boeing 707 entered service in the Air Force on Aug. 4, 1972. It served seven U.S. presidents, from Richard Nixon through to George W. Bush. It was decommissioned on Sept. 8, 2001, partially disassembled for the trip by truck from San Bernardino International Airport to the Reagan Library and then reassembled where it is now on display. It was unveiled to the public on Oct. 24, 2005.

Unfortunately The Disney Archives exhibit has left the Reagan Library but you can join me to see a brand new version of “D23 presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives” at this summer’s D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center (Aug. 9 – 11, 2013). Tickets are on sale now at

  1. If you enjoy Disney you’re going to love this event, which only happens once every two years. In 2011 I went for one day, just to see what was there. My biggest regret was not signing up for all three days.

Until next time, please write to me with your comments and suggestions at


Copyright © 2013 by Jan Wagner – #280