Not all Walt Disney World’s news involves cartoons.
At Epcot, Test Track, closed for upgrading last spring, reopened before Christmas with Chevrolet sponsorship. The basic ride remains the same – the car still hits 65 mph, the fastest of any ride at a Disney park – but all the visuals have changed. Plus, they’ve added a pre-show and an after-show.
Before the ride, guests design their own custom concept vehicle – shape, wheels, engine, color – on a touch screen at a design kiosk. As they work, the screen shows how the design affects capability, responsiveness, efficiency and power. It’s a game of balance – increase the power, for example, and the car will lose efficiency. Riders get an electronic card that they swipe at the kiosk so their design follows them through the ride and the post-ride show.
While the old ride wound through a mockup of a GM test facility, where it was tested for attributes including suspension, braking and handling, the new one runs through the inside of a computer so riders have the sense that everything is virtual. Some riders compared it to a scene from the movie “Tron.”
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As the ride vehicle is “tested” for capability, responsiveness, efficiency and power, so are the riders’ concept cars, with results displayed during the ride. (This function didn’t work for my design; it wasn’t clear whether there was a glitch or whether it was because I had started my design later than others in the same session.) Then the ride vehicle crashes through to the outside and runs at high speed on the track circling the building, just as it did before the redesign.
“We’ve kept that thrill but also added a design element and a personalization element so you’re a part of it,” said Melissa Jeselnick, Imagineer and assistant project manager.
Afterward, guests can swipe their design cards at a virtual slot-car course and see their virtual cars compete against other riders’ designs. They can make commercials for their cars and take their photos with their cars, too.