Test Track Rebooted at Epcot

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Kevin Yee, Walt Disney World

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Published on December 04, 2012 at 5:05 am with 34 Comments

Color me impressed. The new Test Track is no mere reboot from a tired industrial setting to a multi-hued digital world that would look right at home in the movie Tron, a concept that struck many fans as lackluster when they heard the news or saw the concept art. But it delivers. Boy, does it ever deliver. In fact, after I rode the attraction I felt like I do following the debut of a major E ticket ride. This was no mere repainting of a few plywood façades – – it was a full-scale reimagining and it blows New Fantasyland out of the water.

FASTPASS and single rider to one side, Standby to the other.

The hype in almost all press releases and media reports so far has been centered on New Fantasyland, perhaps because Disney wanted to reveal little about Test Track, or more likely, because they felt it would be foolish to promote a re-skinned attraction over something brand-new. Thus, Test Track has been flying under the radar for almost everybody. But in many ways, it exceeds its mandate, and it soars where New Fantasyland merely glides. My first visit to New Fantasyland was very positive. I liked the mermaid ride, partly because it has Audio-Animatronics, but mostly because it’s a dark ride with an Omnimover. I also liked the meet and greet experiences, especially that vexing magic mirror effect. Most of all, I liked the sets and the atmosphere. New Fantasyland feels like an actual place and it just exudes that Disney vibe. But I left the land after my first visit in a kind of warm afterglow, grinning about the very effective atmospheric details. When I left Test Track, however, I was feeling pumped, energized, and jabbering away excitedly. I needed to go on the ride again, which I did. I even rode a third time in a row. I realized later that New Fantasyland had very little of that effect on me (that I had to immediately return).

A car Segway?!

Test Track 2.0 improves in a million different ways over Test Track 1.0, and it’s the sort of renovation that could have gone wrong in hundreds of tiny ways, but didn’t. That’s a real testament to the Imagineers in charge of this redo. Test Track now reclaims the crown from Soarin’ as the parks premier attraction. As the evening ended, I found myself doubting that I would trade the new Test Track to have World of Motion back. I would have traded the old Test Track for World of Motion in a heartbeat, but not the new one. Such a decision would cause me many long, agonizing nights of sleeplessness if I had to make it.

Hidden Mickeys can be found in the pretend design area.

Ride Description — spoilers

My hideous car. It has a submarine CONNING TOWER! How awesome is that.

The ride itself is unchanged from the old version, meaning the track layout is identical, and the cars have just been repainted that blue-white color we saw in a few early tests. As long as you know to expect a similar ride in terms of excitement and feeling, you ought to come away feeling very positive about this new experience. Based on the press releases, I thought perhaps we would see a Pepper’s Ghost effect showing a reflection of our ride vehicles, but this is not what they meant when they said every person can customize his own car. It’s not a physical effect, but rather a customization of an on-screen car that is compared to every car in your party on several factors, such as handling or power. This is the other major factor to keep in mind when setting your expectations. A few reviews online have been negative, and I think that might be because they were expecting the wrong thing. The car you’re traveling in does not change, and its route and speeds are identical to the old version of the ride.

The upramp reminds me of Anaheim’s Space Mountain (big canyon walls, suggestion of “charging batteries”)

The queue is one thing that does look dramatically new and different. Here they kept essentially nothing from the old version. There is a warren of new rooms and walls and on a few occasions I became slightly disoriented about where we were versus the old version of the queue.

No more Belgian blocks.

The first room is a modest show room with a new Chevy front and center, but also a new concept car that is essentially the Segway technology applied to an automobile (you stand up?!) The line winds around these two central exhibits, but there are also smaller cabinets and wall displays, making the place also feel just a little bit like a museum. The color scheme and the curbing handrails reminded me of the Men in Black attraction married to the old queue for Adventure thru Inner Space.

The “slot” is much better hidden now than the fake road cones.

After passing by a small white model of the car onto which are projected designs and patterns (using the castle projection technology), we come to touch screen walls that show how to use your finger to trace a line as if designing a new car. This isn’t yet the personalized experience, but it does show you how it will be done in a few moments, and thus saves a bit of time.

This time WITH the antilock brakes… just kidding.

You are assigned to a design station and given an RFID card with a rubber band to identify you. Up to three people can share one design station, or every person can design his own. You have two minutes to craft the body of the car, and a further two minutes to choose accessories and colors. Then it’s off to the merge points in the final stretch of the queue.

Is this model city from Spaceship Earth descent? A nod to one seen in the background in Horizons? The fake city in World of Motion? Inquiring minds want to know!

FASTPASS holders do not get the same customization opportunity. They get 30 seconds to adjust a few things from a template, but the focus is on getting them on to the attraction. This delighted me, because it meant that the attraction designers found a way to make the standby line better than the FASTPASS line. Having your own car design makes the ride more fun in several small but real ways, and it vastly changes how much you care about three of the post-show experiences. The integration of personalized elements into the show and the post-show offers the best example yet of how to use creativity to make the FASTPASS line seem like a bad idea. Bravo!

No hot or cold chambers here!

The ride itself has been redone with plywood back drops and cutouts next to the track, lit by neon and glowing with black light paint. Pause and picture that for a second. You can probably imagine how this might look incredibly stupid if done wrong. But it’s not done wrong. It looks exciting and inviting and yes, it looks like you’re in the world of Tron. There isn’t much music to the attraction, and certainly not anything from Tron itself, though I wish it had that.

You see yourself in the mirror in a “wind tunnel” of digital numbers…

The overall sense I got from the lighted sets was that they did not cut corners, and it shows. To give you only one example, I need not look further than the top of the very first hill climb, which is now punctuated by faintly glowing purple orbs in the ceiling that generated alien starfield. Its subtle, but not too subtle.

There’s a sign in the “lateral forces” section that says “Turn Right to Go Left” – sound familiar?

There appears to be at least two tributes to World of Motion: the logo is visible on the themed trash cans in the area (yay! themed trash cans!) and again on those canyon walls on the upramp hill, all the way at the top. Let me know if you find more!

The truck that almost hit us in the old Test Track is still there, but you can’t see the LBJ cutout since the windows are now blacked out.

Former barrier test

The high speed loop is the same as always. I wonder what it would take to enclose this whole section of track; I know they considered it already. That would be truly awesome. They could make a tunnel out of it, with racing lights, maybe even the technology you see in water-slide tunnels… too awesome to contemplate. Since it’s not here now, I’m guessing it will never happen. Maybe they can do that in a few years to plus the ride even further. Certainly it will have amazing word of mouth. This ride is everything that Disneyland’s Rocket Rods SHOULD have been.

The photo opp is no longer the barrier test; it’s just after it, on the fast-stretch.

The ride ends with a comparison of your individual car designs to all the other designs on the track right now (so it’s not just yours on the screen). Your lack of ultimate victory may depress you, but hold onto your RFID for a second. In the post-show, you can see your ultimate car score on a giant screen. It’s the sort of thing that will goad you into a second trip, to try to increase your score (and beat your buddy’s). They obviously know what they are doing here.

237 was the winning score from our group (curse you Rory – all the way from the UK just to crush us Yanks!!)

In the next post-show room, you can create a music video with your car—I didn’t have time for this one, but it looked engaging enough.

It’s called Design in Motion.

The post show room after that was the one I look forward to the most. Picture a motocross-type figure-eight racing track about the size of a baby hippo… projected on the floor. That’s what you get to race on, courtesy of some steering wheels stationed around the track. It’s a video game… with the very car you designed earlier!

It’s apparently addictively fun. You can create a custom car at a nearby kiosk even if you didn’t ride Test Track.

The show room is next, and there are a few Chevy cars, but the side walls are now taken up by giant green screen photo booths, where you pose with props (yes, Chevy cars) and have photos sent to your email, all for free. It’s amazingly engaging.

This planet can also be made to look like Spaceship Earth

I found the whole experience to be exciting, exhilarating, and rejuvenating. I went three times in 90 minutes (it was cast-and-friends preview night) and I was nowhere close to bored with it. I could have gone ten more times.

The new Test Track is better than New Fantasyland. It’s better even than World of Motion. I’d go so far as to say that it would be a coin toss if I wanted Test Track 2.0 or Cars Land if given the option to have just one. Test Track is THAT good of a fit for Future World.

In fact, looking back at recent WDW history, I’m hard pressed to say when another attraction exceeded my expectations quite this much. Toy Story Mania? Maybe, but it’s so small in comparison. Everest? It’s so dilapidated, and not in a good way. Frankly, we might have to go all the way back to 1994 to find a similar watershed, in the form of Tower of Terror. This is the best ride at WDW since Tower of Terror.

I close with a caveat. For the first time in many months, my wife and I disagree about a Disney attraction. Usually we agree in lockstep so much that we hardly need to give voice to the praise or the objections, but this time, she felt the ride was “just OK.” It’s possible her expectations were much higher than mine, and if so, you should calibrate your own expectations and don’t let my messianic praise build it up too much for you.

Epcot Book – A Stocking Stuffer?

It’s the holiday season, so I thought I’d remind you about two of my recent publications, either one of which would be a good stocking stuffer:

 

More information and updates

Readers are invited to connect with Kevin online and face to face at the following locations:

About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida. He spent more than a decade working at Disneyland and cultivating a never-ending fascination with that park’s rich traditions and history. Now relocated to Orlando, Kevin enjoys the Disney offerings on both sides of the country. Kevin is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations: UltimateOrlando.com – Kevin’s personal blog for daily WDW updates Public Facebook page – or friend his personal Facebook account, Twitter feed (user UltOrlando), Google+ account (user cafeorleans), Email at [email protected], Weekly Walt Disney World, a Facebook group of regulars who visit Disney World each weekend. Visitors from out of town are encouraged to come and say hello when in Orlando! Join the FB group to learn when/where the next meet is. Kevin’s books on Amazon

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34 Comments

Comments for Test Track Rebooted at Epcot are now closed.

  1. A hugely positive review from you mean a LOT. I really look forward to checking this out when I’m there next!

  2. I agree 100% with Kevin. Futureworld now has something worthy of it’s title. The new Test Track is futuristic and forward-looking unlike any addition since Epcot was built.

  3. All of the complaints i’ve read come from people who have only seen it on YouTube or appear to be something resembling braindead. The most common complaints are that “it doesn’t make sense” – watch the preshow video stupid, it explains everything – and that “you lose the sensations like ABS” – umm, no, it’s exactly the same vehicle movement and sensation so this complaint is full of crap.

    And complaining there is less to see? Less sets? Are these people insane? Test Track 1.0 had vast spaces of nothingness and whole areas that weren’t themed. And clutter does not equal good design either.

    Ugh.. just ugh reading the responses on YouTube.

    As for World of Motion.. Trashcans, wait time signs, etc.. and oh, I dunno, 20ft tall logos on either side of your car at the top end of the first hill.

    • Oh wow. Epcyc…..I just saw the WoM logos near the top of the 1st hill on youtube. Kind of easy to miss at first but now that you’ve pointed them out they look like billboards! Nicely done WDI.

  4. No the only people complaining are the ones who ONLY knew TT 1.0 and didn’t grow up with World of Motion. You should see thier ridculous “they ruined a classic!” TT1.0 NEVER was a classic people! TT 2.0 is totally worthy of Epcot and FW. THIS is what should have precedded WoM, not that empty industrial warehouse with the TireKingdom/JiffyLube queue……

  5. I have not yet ridden the new version. However, I think that Disney oversold the design a car concept by being too cryptic. When you tell the average guest that they are designing a car and then they get to EPCOT and its the same old Test Track car and track I think people will feel a bit cheated. At this point I don’t see much difference to this setup versus going online and answering a few questions and the program tells me how good my design was. Unless I can design a car that ultimately makes the ride go faster or slower then “yawn.”

  6. New Test Track = building a car of the future. Old Test Track = building a car that doesn’t kill you. Guess which one works better at EPCOT?

  7. Thanks, Kevin! Great report! I do expect to see you post your music video within two weeks at the latest.

    So you liked this version of Track Track? Wasn’t sure.

    I’m looking forward to experiencing this myself to see if I agree with you or your wife.

    Now Kevin, please resume the fight for an improved, working Yeti.

    • And/or a Carousel of Progress refurb too!

  8. This is EXACTLY the sort of thing I want to see in Epcot. Test Track 2.0 feels like old school Epcot. It integrates better into Future World and I LOVE what I’m seeing!!! Kudos to Disney.

  9. Watched the full ride through on YT, including queue and post show. Yeah, it’s pretty. Yeah, it’s fun to design a car and play a video game at the end. The ride itself is a mess. Other than the wind tunnel and high speed section at the end you are essentially just riding around in the car through a Tron-esque environment, like a high tech version of Autotopia.. on cruise control. The whole point of “test” track was the tests.. the unique experience of being a real life test track dummy and experiencing all the sensations. It’s like they scrapped half the ride. All the fun parts are gone.. no more hot/cold room, no more traction/brake tests, no more bumping over the blocks. They even scrapped the photo op, sure it’s still there but so much less fun since you no longer get the great expressions when the truck pops out at you. Would have been much better to reskin the tests, add in the interactive portions, and “plus” the ride while maintaining it’s integrity. Very disappointing, and I was a big fan of the ride.

    • *sigh

      Let’s discuss again when you’ve actually ridden it

    • Too bad half your information is wrong…

      The brake tests are exactly the same movement and they still take an on-ride photo, just outside now instead of during the building exit. They never took your photo at the “evasive maneuver” and that truck is still there so it’s exactly what it was before..

      Like i said before.. you’ve only seen it on youtube and are stating misinformation as if you’re braindead.

      • I’ve seen several youtube videos. They are all the same. I can’t tell from the ride what they are testing. The narrative from the female and male voices are saying they are doing the testing, but there are no visual cues that anything is being done. You’re moving very quickly through the ride. Certainly the tron-like track is visually exciting, but that’s all you get and it seems to not have much variety.

        I just don’t get it.

  10. I agree with you Kevin that people’s opinions are going to be based on their expectations. I enjoyed Test Track 1.0 for what it was but was disappointed it wasn’t more futuristic. I expected Epcot to be futuristic. Now I am sure that everyone who enjoyed whatever realism they got with Test Track 1.0 expect they are going to be disappointed that the 2.0 “track” is going to feel overly simulated. The videos do make it seem like they went over the top with the “Sim Track” concept. What I suggest to the naysayers is give it a chance until you experience it for yourself. I had my doubts about Splash Mountain until I rode it the first time and was pleasantly surprised. Kevin, thanks for your encouragement!

  11. Kevin, the city in the background and the entire attraction itself, is the Centercore ending from the World of Motion. There’s no music on the attraction itself? I hope they bring back the “It’s Fun To Be Free” song in some form or another, maybe on a new Epcot album maybe?

    Timekeeper

    • The attraction itself has incidental music, but no continuous score. The scenes just don’t play out that way.

      As for the city, it’s a nod to the old ones but it’s not particularly based on any of them – the closest one it resembles visually it’s a cross between World of Motion’s Centercore and Horizon’s Nova Cite.

      • And if you don’t recall Nova Cite – it was the background of the “Urban Habitat” scene from Horizons:

        http://www.lostepcot.com/images/horizonsfuturehouse.jpg

        In fact, it might actually be meant to be Nova Cite considering how similar parts of the architecture are.

      • True, it could be more closely related to Nova Cite.

        Timekeeper

  12. She thought it was only “ok”. wow. I am with you. It was the first time in a long time that I had an immediate need to re-ride ASAP!!! Except that the exit post ride experience was neat enough that it succeeded in distracting me from that re-ride ASAP goal. And totally in a good way.

    @waymire01….. YT does this NO justice and you are very wrong. The tests ARE still there, but they too are re-skinned. But the motion of the ride is the same. You still lose control on the first test and maintain control on the second. The difference is in 1.0 they were two parts of the same test. In 2.0 they are different tests with different results.

  13. Have to say I agree 100%. Here on vacation, and new Fantasyland is just fine. BUT, Test Track surprised me. Before, it was ok but I never went out of my way to ride it. Today, I got to ride it for the first time, and was glowing about 5 minutes into the queue. My kids were also very excited, and the design a car feature was a huge thing for them. They’ll be super mad if I make them go with a fast pass now!

    Great improvement and now a must do ride that felt “EPCOT” from the first moment.

  14. This is what Epcot, Disney World for that matter needed. It looks epic, the New Fantasyland wasn’t something I was going to go back to WDW for. This however is another story.

  15. So, the reveal/conceal turntables in the showroom – gone?