#12: Test Track, May 2012 (History, Tribute and Future)

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Test Track License Plate - SamsDisneyDiary.com
SamsDisneyDiary.com Test Track License Plate

“New Test Track puts guests in the designer’s seat this fall.”  It’s a simple enough headline, one we’ve come to expect from Disney.  An arguably classic attraction is getting a facelift.   It happens all the time.  “Re-imagined”… that’s a different story for those of you who remember the “Re-imagined“ Journey into Imagination.  To be clear, that re-imagination removed Figment and the Dream Finder and created a pre-internet fan rebellion that lead to Figment being “re-introduced” into yet another ride.  Even with Figment, Journey into Your Imagination with Figment is a far cry from the original.   Where’s Dream Finder anyway????   Needless to say, re-imaging an attraction can lead to less than desirable results.  After reading the headline, I had two completely different thoughts at almost the same time. (Is that possible?)

First Thought….   I spent the better part of 20 minutes at the D23 Expo (2011) with one of the Imagineers working on the new Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.  The Imagineer was working directly on the Radiator Springs Racer and explained the attraction and ride vehicle.  It was obvious to me that Radiator Springs Racer is the Test Track Disney wanted to deliver back in 1996, when Test Track was being developed.  If you know the history of Test Track, you know that the official opening was delayed over 19 months while “Technical Issues” were being worked out.

Sams Disney Diary Episode #12 Embedded Below:

Hidden Mickey's can be found all over the original Test Track queue
The Original Test Track Queue took over 4 years to complete.  How many Hidden Mickey’s?  The world may never know…

It was a classic case of technology not being able to keep up with the Imagineers.  After all, Test Track was the first attraction where each ride vehicle was a stand-alone system that needed to communicate with a central control system.  The Test-Track vehicle travels along a “bus bar” that provides power, but little else.  Acceleration, deceleration, breaking and all safety mechanisms are controlled by computers on the vehicle itself.  No “omni-mover” pulling all the vehicles here.  Every year the rides get more advances, the technology gets better, and the Imagineers get better at making the most efficient ride systems in the world.

Pushing the technology hallmark is natural for WDI.  After all, that was one of Walt’s philosophies.  Someone has to go first, like Test Track.  The lessons learned have been used on many attractions since its opening.  I’m sure the new Test Track will benefit from the testing recently completed in California for Radiator Springs Racer.  That’s a topic for another Blog.

Second Thought… I couldn’t help but think of my early trips to Epcot and the original transportation attraction, World of Motion.  As a kid, I loved the first traffic jam scene.  There was just so much to see.  I didn’t realize it then, but looking back, it was the Ward Kimble touch I was in love with, and it was over World of Motion.  I’d even go out of my way at Mickey’s Toon Town Fair to find of the chickens from that World of Motion scene.  They were in the Wise Acres Farm barn, the one Goofy’s Barnstormer flew through (Pre-Story Book Circus).   If you see the chickens, let me know.

Florida 97 State Road Sign form the Test Track Queue
The Florida 97 road sign in the Test Track Queue (and in the ride) refers to the original planned opening in 1997, actual opening didn’t happen until March 17, 1999.

I can remember the headlines when Test Track was being developed; Epcot is getting that thrill ride it so desperately needed.  There was a preview center with a detailed video with previews of the attraction and what was happening behind the construction wall.  An early design challenge was getting as much track inside the building as possible; test track would use the same building as World of Motion.  One solution was to take the high speed section of the track “outside”.  A cast member parking lot was repurposed and the track would travel behind the Mexico pavilion around the world of motion building.   The contents of world of motion was entirely removed, the only thing that stayed was the round building.  The building was shaped like a wheel in keeping with the transportation theme.  All 30 world of motion scenes removed and replaced with the test track design.

Test Track has always been a part of our family trips, ( Soarin’ Fastpass, Test Track Fastpass)… maybe not in that order.  So it was natural to dedicate a SamsDisneyDiary.com to Test Track.  No problems, just record the queue, take some pictures, get the pre-show, and take a ride.  Done… upload next video.   It just didn’t work out that way 😉

I recorded a quick introduction, took some video then got it back home for editing.  That usually means looking through “lots” and “lots” of pictures I’ve taken over the years….  That’s when I found some old World of Motion “stuff”.  It just wasn’t right to do a show on Test Track and not mention World of Motion.

EPCOT Center World of Motioin Blue Print
Original Blue Print – EPCOT Center World of Motion

So, my quick video turned into a month long project!  I also realized that my family had grown up riding Test Track.  I had pictures of everyone at various ages in locations in all of the queue and post-show area.  I didn’t realize it, but as you get close to the pre-show doors there is a wall showcasing the crash test dummies sizes (“Large Man”, “Small Woman” etc…).  Without realizing it, I had been taking pictures of my daughter in front of the “Small Girl” for years.

Speaking of crash test dummies….  They are GONE!!!  I’d expect to see a nod to them in the new attraction, but the entire physical crash testing is gone from the new experience.   The New Test Track (“Test Track presented by Chevrolet”) will focus on current design and testing.  As explained in the video by an Imagineer today, just about everything is designed and tested using computers.  Not only does Disney extensively use computers in design and testing, but Chevrolet designs and tests cars with computers.  So in the queue of the new Test Track, everyone will get a design card with an RFID chip.  As you are going through the queue, you will
encounter “Design Stations”.  These stations will allow you to design your car.   Using specificdesign criteria you can design a sports car, an SUV, a hybrid or all electric… lots of choices.   Then you “ride” your design.  Each test will take your car through the Test Track tests (no word on what those tests will be).  Your car also follows you into the post show, and you can get a photo with your car.  You also get a score on how well your design did.

As I mentioned, the crash test dummies are gone; however, the track stays the same.  It’s not clear whatthe tests will be.  Will Bill McKim still take us into the environmental tests?  (Put up 2, 5 and 7…. Yeah, 7).Test Track Blue Print

If I were a betting man, I would bet that there will be something from World of Motion and at least a part of a crash test dummy and reference to Bill McKim.  (Who knows, maybe he will do the new pre-show).

Concept Art for the New Test Track
Concept Art for the New Test Track…. Watch Sams Disney Diary Episode #12 at http://www.samsdisneydiary.com for all the details

SamsDisneyDiary Episode #12 is a labor of love.  If I were looking for the history of Epcot Test Track, this is the video I would want to see.   I hope you enjoy it…   Follow me on twitter @SamsDisneyDiary like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/samsdisneydiary or drop me a line at SamsDisneyDiary@mail.com.

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6 comments on “#12: Test Track, May 2012 (History, Tribute and Future)”

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