I hear it echoed each time our family starts to plan out it’s next trip to Disney, “Daddy, can we go on ‘Test Track’ first?” Always among the most popular rides at EPCOT (and rivaling as one of the most popular rides at any of the Disney theme parks), “Test Track by GM” is an iconic racing adventure that offers the thrill of high speed turns and the fun of an immersive environment that is truly a Disney original.
According to Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Disney Social Media Manager (as posted on the Disney Parks Blog), the ride as it currently exists will close in April of 2012 and open at an undisclosed date this Fall. Yes, you read that correctly, this is truly an “out of the ordinary” schedule of Rehab for Disney World as they focus on ride closures (typically) across the months of January, February, and March. But the difference here seems to be that we’re not talking about a refurbishment of the current ride. Instead, according to Fickley-Baker’s article and follow-up comments, this will be a completely new imagining of the ride experience.
Changing it’s label from “Test Track presented by GM“, to”… presented by Chevrolet“, Disney continues it’s long-held partnership with the automaker. Guests will enter a new realm in which, rather than simply walking through a snaking line that takes them past samples of “test facility” wares (as is the current queue structure), they will immediately become a part of the ride as they design their own custom vehicles before taking them out on the course to run them through the test.
This change in queue seems in line with the current Disney trend, as presented in this recent article about the “Big Top” at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Even though initial responses online are skeptical, with guests hoping the thrill of taking the car out on the open track isn’t lost; first replies from Disney suggest it will be all that the previous ride was … except with a more personalized investment for the rider. Since this ride has a “Sim” quality to it, guests also inquired regarding whether or not this meant it was now stationary (like Mission:Space or Star Tours), Fickley-Baker assured the inquisitive readers that it is still an actual, moving ride.
This writer, then, pictures a ride experience which places guests into booths or at computer stations upon entering the test facility. Taking time to choose various model vehicles; equipping them with all the bells, whistles, and gadgets you can dream-up and imagine; then arriving at the actual ride portion with the Disney Imagineers somehow having you “plug in” to the vehicle you’ve created (perhaps a card that you carry with you from the design portion?). Once strapped in, rather than an open view car as is the experience in it’s current ride form, perhaps there is a personalized screen that riders will peer into giving them an individualized sensation that, while riding through the previous Test Track arena – and subsequent race turns – will make the ride’s thrill quotient markedly different from rider-to-rider dependent on the vehicle they’ve designed. Again, this is a lot of conjecture on this reporter’s part, but it seems in line with the information that’s been released so far.
Exciting news to be sure, but also likely very frustrating news for upcoming Disney travellers. Anyone planning to visit the parks from April through perhaps September or October will have to do so with the understanding that “Test Track” will not be in operation. In and of itself, that is disappointing, but this move will also likely create even more demand and longer lines for the other limited ride options at Epcot (two-and-a-half hour waits for “Soarin” anyone??).
As always, thank you for reading! I welcome your comments – weigh in on what you think the new Test Track will hold and please consider subscribing to my Newsletter (below).