Yesterday Walt Disney World temporarily closed the popular Test Track attraction at Epcot to be renovated with a new theme under the banner “Chevrolet Design Center.” When the ride re-opens some time in fall 2012, it will likely still sport the “Test Track” name and will feature the same track, but the overall theme and ride experience will be drastically different, abandoning the notion of a GM vehicle test facility in favor of a sleeker Chevrolet-branded experience allowing guests to take part in the design process before taking their creations out for a spin.
The original Test Track has cemented itself firmly in Disney history, not only for consistently drawing large crowds since it first opened in late 1998 (officially in early 1999), but also for being the fastest Walt Disney World attraction, topping out at around 65mph. Test Track replaced the slow-moving, Audio Animatronics-driven World of Motion, an attraction many hardcore Disney fans loved as a classic Disney experience. But most casual Disney theme park visitors have enjoyed Test Track as one of the most thrilling rides at Epcot for nearly 14 years.
Since Epcot is transforming the ride into a new experience, I wanted to capture the classic Test Track attraction, as I’ve known it since looking forward to its opening in the late ’90s. While I was a fan of World of Motion, Test Track marked one of the prominent moves away from traditional Epcot “edutainment” often dubbed boring by many visitors into a world where education could be married with an attraction featuring much more than just a slow-moving adventure. It may not be a history lesson through hundreds of years of transportation, but Test Track did offer a glimpse into how everyday cars are tested before they hit the roads.
So below you will find an in-depth tribute to the original version of Test Track, as it exited just two days before it closed. The 24-minute video below takes you on a tour of the outside of the building, through the queue, pre-show, and on the ride itself, followed by a walk around the showroom post-show area that’s changed many times over the years. The pre-show video features picture-in-picture to offer a look at both monitors simultaneously and both that and the ride itself offer binaural audio, so wear your headphones for the most complete experience.
Test Track Tribute: Full experience (queue, pre-show, ride, post-show) at Epcot
Outside Test Track
The sounds of high-speed cars zipping around the shiny exterior of Test Track has been a draw since the ride was testing in 1997. With a crash test-inspired color scheme of white, yellow, and black, Test Track’s exterior drew plenty of attention from Epcot guests. When it reopens in a few months under the “Chevrolet Design Center” theme, the overall look of the attraction will be more refined, modern, and sleek, a contrast from the on-purpose rough “testing facility” look the attraction has featured for so many years.
Take a photo trip around the outside of Test Track, including a look at its mirrored front offering a glimpse at the ride vehicles speeding around the banked exterior curve:
Test Track Queue
One of the most animated queues at Walt Disney World, the winding waiting area for Test Track took guests past a series of tests that are frequently run on specific car parts and crash test dummies, often with startling results. Coupled with a soundtrack comprised of grinding and clanging mechanics’ tools, the Test Track queue was always filled with noise, emulating a real testing environment. Though it wasn’t always a pleasant place to wait more than an hour for the ride, it was a memorable one.
Test Track Pre-Show
Tucked away from the cacophony of the rest of the queue, the “briefing rooms” welcomed groups of guests behind closed doors to become introduced to how automotive testing procedures work and to be prepared for the tests they would soon be experiencing on the ride. As a tribute to Imagineer and Disney Legend Sam McKim, whose Disney work included a car-based attraction for the World’s Fair, the lead character in Test Track’s pre-show video was named Bill McKim, played by actor John Michael Higgins. Alongside his assistant, McKim planned and explained a series of tests to put cars, and guests, through on the ride.
The pre-show video was presented on side-by-side monitors, showing the test facility in the middle and demonstrations on the left and ride. The video below presents both simultaneously in a picture-in-picture format.
Test Track pre-show with both monitors at Epcot
Test Track Ride
Though its queue and pre-show were entertaining, the Test Track ride itself was clearly the star of the show, providing guests with the highest speeds on any attraction in all of Walt Disney World, topping out at around 65mph during its exterior banked turn. Before that climactic moment, guests were put through a series of tests, including rough road, braking, varying climate, hair pin turns, and evasive maneuvers, culminating in the crash test, sending guests seemingly speeding toward a wall before it opens to the outside.
Unlike most Disney rides where individual show scenes are separated from each other, Test Track was largely set inside an open warehouse-style building, with most of its scenes offering views into what has already happened and what’s to come. Guests could clearly see other guests riding on other vehicles as they rode through.
The video below showcases the entire ride experience with binaural audio, so wear headphones for the most enjoyment.
Test Track full POV ride at Epcot
Test Track Post-Show
With exhibits and showroom cars changing over the years, the Test Track post-show area went through many variations. It began with with a glimpse at how car parts are manufactured and assembled and was then followed by an interactive area and showroom showcasing the latest GM cars and sometimes few concepts. The photos below show how it looked a couple days before it closed.
Test Track Gift Shop
Just beyond the post-show area, Test Track’s gift shop was filled with car-related apparel and collectibles, as well a few items unique to the ride itself. Near the back of the shop, guests could create a Test Track “official driver’s license” with their own photo.
Test Track Cool Wash
Just beyond the exit of Test Track was the Cool Wash, an area that served both as a place for kids to play (and get a bit wet in the process) as well as to offer beverages for sale. In the middle, a Test Track vehicle was filled with ice, Coke bottles, and featured a crash test dummy “frozen” in place.
The Future of Test Track
Guests who have visited Test Track in recent months have already received a glimpse at what the future version of Test Track will look like. The yellow, white, and black color scheme will be replaced by shades of vibrant blue and black, as made evident by the recently-redesigned Chevy-branded ride vehicles that were making their way around the track. These will be known as “SimCars,” somehow integrating guests’ car designs they will create in the new interactive queue.
Test Track is scheduled to reopen with the “Chevrolet Design Center” theme in fall 2012, with many fans hoping it will return in time for Epcot’s 30th anniversary on October 1,
though no specific date has been offered by Disney yet.
UPDATE (4/19/12): The official Epcot calendar at Walt Disney World’s web site indicates Test Track will be closed for refurbishment through Friday, November 30, reopening December 1, 2012. Though this feels like the winter season, fall continues through December 20, so Disney has until then to still meet their announced timeframe for reopening the attraction.
When it does return, Test Track will likely feature the same track layout but an all-new queue, pre-show, show scenes, and post-show area, essentially creating an entirely new experience. Though it’ll still be based on cars going around high-speed twists and turns, Disney is promising the new Test Track will be more interactive and thrilling than ever.
Until then, thanks for being such a great test crew. Come back and ride any time. Bye now.
(Did you remember to turn off those robots?)
More photos from Test Track at Epcot: