The lengthy refurbishment that almost never was, currently is. Officially, Disney will be closing Test Track for a major overhaul beginning in April 2012. The refurbishment continues through “Fall 2012.” Unofficially, the refurbishment dates are expected to be April 15th through the last week in September, with a whisper reopening date of September 21st. That means Test Track will be open over the busy weeks around Easter, but will be closed for the entire summer.
The official name of the attraction will be “Test Track Presented by Chevrolet,” though we can assume at least half of Walt Disney World guests will continue to call it, “Fast Track.” The cornerstone of the refurbishment seems to focus on a new interactive queue. According to the press release:
As part of the re-imagining, the Future World attraction will feature a sleek new “Chevrolet Design Center at Epcot” immersing Guests in the fascinating world of automotive design. Amid upbeat music, engaging media, dramatic lighting and a collection of Chevrolet concept cars and model vehicles, guests themselves will become automotive designers – and peer into the future of personal transportation in the process.
At interactive design and styling workstations, Guests will be able to create their own custom concept vehicles. The adventure will then shift into high gear as Guests buckle into their 6-person “SimCar” ride vehicle and put their design through its paces on the exhilarating hills, switchbacks and straight-aways of the Test Track circuit.
This seems to indicate that riders will have some control over their experience. It sounds similar to Sum of All Thrills, where guests design a thrill ride before stepping inside of a simulator to experience the customized attraction. Unlike Sum of All Thrills, Test Track will remain a “real ride.”
It will be interesting to see how Disney and General Motors manage a queue with the length of Test Track. Unlike Sum of All Thrills, where you design your thrill ride by yourself or with a friend/family member, Test Track ride vehicles will continue to seat six people. We may see a system where individuals are responsible for just one part of the experience and it doesn’t really matter whether or not they screw it up. That would put it in line with nearby Mission: Space, where it doesn’t really matter if your dim-witted neighbor presses the “land now” button at the appropriate moment. A type of voting system might also be successful. Otherwise, I imagine “discussions” would break out over certain ride elements. After all, I want to go fast and turn hard, whereas I imagine you are more of an “it’s a small world” kind of guy.
Attention will also be paid to the post-show area:
Their performance testing complete, Guests will move into a post-show area filled with special effects and be scored on how well their custom concept vehicle did. And of course, Guests will be able see the very latest Chevrolet vehicles in an all-new state-of-the-art showroom.
“Being scored” sounds like a fun new addition to a post-show area that will likely be very similar to what we have now.
What we don’t know is exactly what will be changing within the ride itself. It’s expected that the track that the vehicles move on will remain the same. What will change is the experience on that track. With the interactive elements, we should see ride vehicles that can perform a variety of moves and effects based on the decisions guests made during the pre-show. Expect variable speeds, bumpiness, brake response, turning radius, etc. Other than that, it’s a wait and see approach. I’m sure we’ll know more about what’s coming in the next few weeks.
What It Changes
Test Track is Epcot’s “second most popular attraction,” behind Soarin’. Closing it puts a lot of pressure on surrounding attractions to pick up the slack of 1,000+ people that would naturally be in line for Test Track instead. We can expect FASTPASSes at Mission: Space and (particularly) Soarin’ to be hotter commodities, as people will only have two FASTPASS options in Future World. With a Park that already suffers from, “So, where are the rides?” comments, we can expect Test Track’s closure to have a more significant impact on attendance and crowd patterns than any other refurbishment in recent history. Will people skip Epcot because Test Track isn’t operating? Most probably won’t, but it may have an impact on where guests spend a second day.
Like Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain, and Expedition Everest, Test Track is also a ride that most people can name and are looking forward to experiencing. Because so many people have no idea what rides will be closed during their vacation, we can expect to see and hear a lot of disappointment. And likely, that disappointment rings true for those of you who have been reading over this announcement on virtually every Walt Disney World blog and website around the Internet.
Like most refurbishments, this one is “for the greater good.” The interactive elements sound neat and I’m sure that Disney has an amazing plan in place. I don’t have as much of a problem with Test Track’s current status as some people, but many of the intended effects don’t work properly. Personally, it doesn’t bother me, as I always find myself with a smile on my face once I start whizzing around outside at 65 miles per hour. Most guests have a similar reaction. While we can both agree that the pre-show video, distinctly shot in the 90s, is hilarious, I guess it’s time for it to go.
Time will tell how Disney plans to overcome the five-month closure of one of its most popular attractions. Will a truck, a DJ, and a dance party be involved? Probably. But it’s not going to be enough. Based on my calculations, they are going to need at least 2.4 DJs.