Evolution of Disney's Test Track
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 21:02
A crown jewel of Walt Disney Imagineering, the “Epcot Center” as it was known in its early years, opened as the second gate of the “Walt Disney World Resort.” While popular, the park struggled in its early years due to many factors, among them the lack of a thrill ride. While the park was filled with entertaining and educational attractions, none packed this particular punch.
The solution came in the form of 1999’s “Test Track.”
Despite being delayed multiple times and prone to frequent breakdowns, the ride quickly became one of the most popular at the Walt Disney World Resort. Putting guests inside of a mock GM test vehicle, allowing them to learn and experience the actual tests automotive manufacturers put new vehicles through. The highlight of the attraction was a lap around the outside of the show building which allowed the vehicles to achieve speeds of 65 mph, making the ride the fastest at the resort, a record it holds to this day.
13 years later, the dated introduction film and aesthetics led Disney to remodel the attraction in 2012. The new “Test Track” opened last December, and I had the privilege to try it out this past January.
The first thing that will strike you as you enter the show building is the cool interactive queue system for those waiting in line. Here guests proceed through a series of rooms where they “design” a car and scan their design onto the ride to see how it stacks up. It’s highly recommended that visitors wait in the full line as the FASTPASS entrance robs you of much of the overall experience.
As for the ride itself:
Aesthetically, the new “Test Track” is one super cool, futuristic-looking ride. Whereas, the original iteration of “Test Track” attempted to replicate actual GM car tests, the new ride attempts to place guests in the middle of a digital simulation. The result is probably the closest we’ll ever see to a new “TRON” attraction. Cool video screens and lighting effects guide the journey which follows the same track layout as the prior iteration
However, it must be said that the remodel was absolutely done on the cheap side of things. By “cheap” of course I mean for a Disney Park, that is. The amount of theming and aesthetic detail is absolutely astounding in comparison to anything found at, say, a “Six Flags” park. However while the remodel looks cool, almost all credit is due to WDI’s lighting department. Basically, nearly all previous props, decorations, and animatronics (most notably the crash test dummy) have been removed and rather than replaced, ignored in favor of visual projections and digital screens. For example, the “environmental test rooms” of the previous iteration have been completely stripped away leaving nothing but bare walls and a cheap augmented reality display panel. All that remains intact are the trees and the famous truck prop, which have simply had some lighting effects added.
It is also somewhat disappointing that the ride strays from the “spirit” of Epcot. The park was originally designed to both entertain and educate people of all ages. Even when the decision was made to create the thrill ride known as “Test Track,” the ride still managed to educate guests and give an inside look into actual car testing. The new version of the ride completely ignores this to create an attractive futuristic looking ride but is ultimately devoid of any educational value.
In conclusion, the new lighting and techno effects make the new “Test Track” a visual marvel, and the new interactive queue area just might be the very best in the entire resort. However a lack of any real innovation in the ride whatsoever will keep the new “Test Track” from being a must-see draw for returning park guests. The thrills and chills are still as fun as ever, and the ride is destined to remain one of the most popular at “Epcot,” just not any more so than it had been before the remodel.