Cruising with Cruz Ramirez on the Road to the Florida 500

In 2006, Lightning McQueen made his debut as a rookie sensation in Disney•Pixar’s “Cars,” but things have changed a lot for the anthropomorphic race car in the intervening eleven years. Finding himself up against a new generation of high-tech vehicles in “Cars 3,” which is being released in theater this weekend, an aging McQueen is determined to prove that he’s not ready to retire from the racing circuit just yet. As a result, he ends up getting teamed up in the film with a young trainer named Cruz Ramirez, who can teach him about all the latest technological advancements in the sport. However, Epcot guests had an opportunity to meet a decidedly lower-tech version of her earlier this year as part of Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.

The popular springtime event introduced a topiary of Cruz, which appeared alongside one of Lightning McQueen. Placed between “Test Track” and “Mouse Gear,” the pair marked the entrance to the “Road to the Florida 500,” a children’s play area inspired by Pixar’s latest sequel. “Cars”-inspired displays have been a staple of Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival ever since 2011, when topiary interpretations of Lightning and Mater first debuted to promote that year’s release of “Cars 2.” The 2017 Flower and Garden Festival may be over, but, with a meet and greet with Cruz Ramirez also scheduled to begin at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this weekend, we haven’t seen the last of Lightning McQueen’s new trainer at Walt Disney World.

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