As a History Major, I feel obligated to tell the history of the Moteurs . . . Action! Stunt Show Spectacular before getting into the actual storyline of the show, because no, it’s not just a big explosion of cars – It’s Disney, there has to be an interesting backstory!
The History of the Stunt Show Spectacular
Moteurs . . . Action! Stunt Show Spectacular opened along with the rest of the Walt Disney Studios Park on March 16th, 2002. As the name indicates, it focused on showing the audience the “behind the magic” of car (and motorbikes… and jet skis!) chases commonly seen in action movies. As such, the show fit the original idea of the “Studios” Parks perfectly.
The production was sponsored by General Motors. The show as a whole has over forty vehicles both in the actual area and backstage in a garage. One car is known as the “hero” car and is the vehicle that tends to see the most action. This “hero” car was custom-built for the Studios Park and was painted red to help guests differentiate it from the black “villain” cars.
There are also many cars that exist to trick the audience into thinking that they are actually the “hero” car, so keep your eyes peeled! The cars were built to resemble Opels, a German brand of cars that was a part of General Motors. Moteurs . . . Action! Stunt Show Spectacular would be a unique attraction for 3 years, but would soon be transplanted across the pond . . .
Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (known back then as Disney-MGM Studios) in Walt Disney World on May 5th, 2005. The opening was a part of the “Happiest Celebration on Earth” festival in Orlando when at least one new attraction was put into each of the four theme parks. The American version meant the “Tram Tour” attraction at the Park has to be cut in half to built the show’s arena. It was originally sponsored by Koch Industries and closed on April 2nd, 2016, to make room for the planet of Batuu, also known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The French show might be next, but that’s for a later section.
Both of the shows had the same plot, set and cars, as the Hollywood Studios version was a nearly identical transplant of the one in Walt Disney Studios Park. In a possible nod to the show’s roots, both of the stunt spectacular arenas were inspired by a Mediterranean village in the south of France (Villefranche sur Mer).
Each 40-min show used cameras and video (some pre-recorded) that was projected onto a gigantic television screen to give guests a better view of the action.
The Plot Behind the Explosions
The main goal of both spectaculars is to show guests how action movies are created, particularly those with intense car chase scenes and other heart-racing moments. To prove this point, before the actual stunt began, there would be clips of car chases from action films like Con Air (1997) and Enemy of the State (1998). The show was split into different “sequences” and “chases”. First, there was the “Ballet Chase”, also known as “Sequence 7A”, which depicted the “hero car” being chased by black cars and then going backward off of a ramp as a black car is blown up.
During the setup for the next scene, guests are shown the film of Sequence 7A and get to see how “Video Assist” is used to make the action scene even more believable on screen. After the “Ballet Chase” came the “Blockade Chase”, “Sequence 8”, set in a marketplace. The cars are driving around other vehicles before the “hero car” would drive up a truck bed and go over another truck before landing safely on an airbag below.
One of the interesting bits that happened in between setting up scenes was when a volunteer was chosen from the audience to drive a “hero car” via remote control. After a few moments, the guest would begin to lose control of the car and it would be revealed that there was actually a driver inside, sitting on the far side in order to hide from the audience.
Once the “driverless car” was revealed to actually have a driver, it was time for the “Motorcycle Chase”, AKA “Sequence 3”. The “hero”, no longer in a car, would go into a motorcycle shop and take a blue one, once more being chased by black vehicles, this time motorcycles.
At one point there was even a jet ski, but that would be removed in Paris. A stuntman would even fall from a building while a motorcyclist would catch on fire (proven to be safe thanks to specially treated clothing after the sequence).
Before guests got to see the final scene, “Sequence 10”, all of the sequences from before were shown on the giant video screen as they would have been edited in a finished action film. Just before the climax of the film, however, there would be a gigantic fire and the “hero car” would again be chased by one of the black cars before driving off of a ramp towards the audience. Fireworks and loud explosions would be set off as the “hero car” left the arena via a tunnel located underneath the audience.
Finally, at the end, all of the vehicles used in the show are brought to the front of the arena for a “curtain call”, with the classic advice to not try the stunts seen at home (to the relief of many parents).
The red “hero car” was the last to exit the arena, the driver waving at the guests until the car was out of sight.
Originally, Herbie the Love Bug (a Volkswagen Beetle from a movie of the same name) was making an appearance during intermission, but the car was switched to Lightning McQueen in 2011, after the Cars franchise gained popularity.
In June 2017, McQueen no longer appeared in the show and was instead “replaced” by a static photo location (of sorts) at the entrance of the attraction.
My Thoughts on the Show
Cars in general have never really been my thing (even though I did love Cars Land in Disneyland over in Anaheim). But for the sake of this article, I rewatched some videos of the French version of the show.
I actually quite liked the show! The setting was unique (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a car chase in a French fishing town) which was welcome. Even though I don’t know a lot about cars (or moviemaking, for that matter), the use of videos and explanations along with physical action scenes allowed me to learn a little more about action films and car chases. Making the “hero car” red was a great decision as it enables guests to know where they should be looking for the main action bits. And of course, the show as a whole would have been a nice break from walking around the parks all day.
Unfortunately for fans of the Stunt Show Spectacular in Paris, it looks like the show is not going to be back any time soon. Its last performance was in March before the parks closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The set has since been spray-painted green for the Jungle Book Jive just before it was supposed to open in August (Alexa, play “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen). There’s also the fact that the show can’t be found on the Disneyland app. You can still see the arena on the Park Map However, fiery explosion and all.