Disney CEO welcomes visitors at California Adventure attraction

Thousands of Disney fans eager to check out Cars Land joined Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Bob Iger Friday morning as he presided over the grand reopening ceremonies of California Adventure.

“We believe the transformation over the last five years, culminating in Buena Vista Street and Cars Land, created a totally new experience and deserves a grand opening,” Iger said.

An estimated 4,000 people were lined up by 7 a.m. outside the theme park’s gates, at Disneyland Resort’s drop-off lot, with 2,400 entering the Buena Vista Street and the new Carthay Circle, where Iger spoke, before moving on to Cars Land.

Half an hour after the presentation at 8 a.m., the line for Radiator Springs Racers, Cars Land’s signature ride, was already an hour long.

Disney had asked fans not to start lining up until 11 p.m. on Thursday for the launch, but many already had showed up by 7 p.m. with the crowd only growing by hundreds to secure their spots overnight by midnight.

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and the cast of the park’s new musical “Red Car News Boys” joined Iger to fete the opening Friday morning.

New additions of Cars Land, the Buena Vista Street entrance and Carthay Circle end a $1.1 billion makeover of California Adventure that’s taken place over the last five years, and includes rides like Toy Story Mania, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and water and light show, the World of Color, to boost attendance after the park struggled to lure guests when it opened in 2001.

Iger re-opened California Adventure and officially launched its new attractions to guests after it was closed Thursday to present the new additions to media. John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineer Kathy Mangum, who executive produced Cars Land, joined “Cars” voice talent like Bonnie Hunt and other guests for the ceremony.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more