June 18, 2024

Disney World Announces Test Track 3.0 Reimagining: Best News of Destination D23?!

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Walt Disney World has announced a reimagining of Test Track at EPCOT, which will be the third incarnation of the thrill ride in World Discovery. This post shares all of the details, concept art, and

Walt Disney World has announced a reimagining of Test Track at EPCOT, which will be the third incarnation of the thrill ride in World Discovery. This post shares all of the details, concept art, and everything we know about the plan–plus comprehensive commentary about its changes, inspiration, and likelihood of actually happening.

This news was announced during the “A Celebration of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” presentation at the 2023 Destination D23. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro offered a sneak peek at concept art for the future in addition and teased what was to come in a few years.

This was one of many announcements and reveals at the 2023 Destination D23. Others include a Pirates of the Caribbean tavern in Magic Kingdom, new scene with Ahsoka in Star Tours, a first look at the Audio Animatronics in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and much more. And that’s just what has been shared so far for Walt Disney World!

Let’s start with the official announcement that the popular Test Track attraction at EPCOT is being reimagined!

Disney Imagineer Chris Beatty joined Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro on stage and indicated that Imagineers along with teams from corporate alliance partner Chevrolet are reaching back into history for inspiration from the original World of Motion, and are bringing that spirit of optimism to the next iteration of Test Track.

They promised more to come in the future, but in terms of the actual announcement at Destination D23, that was it. Very brief–along with the flashing of this concept art up on screen:

Turning to commentary, this announcement is seemingly coming out of left field. (That’s why I’ve given it some time to marinate, rather than offering a knee jerk reaction over the weekend.) My first and probably most obvious thought is that this is clearly the fruits of EPCOT’s sponsorship model. That approach catches its share of criticism, but hey, it’s obviously working here.

There’s simply no way Walt Disney World would be touching Test Track without General Motors having a contractual obligation or desire. Test Track is too popular, often with average wait times that eclipse both Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, two newer and family-friendly rides.

In fairness, part of that is due to downtime…but it’s a near-certainty that this reimagining won’t change that. Test Track has had reliability and downtime issues since before it opened (which is why its opening was delayed for years) and likely always will so long as its underlying ride system remains. And its underlying ride system will remain following this reimagining.

Although the announcement of Test Track 3.0 comes as a surprise, it really probably shouldn’t. Test Track was last reimagined in 2012, at which point it was a little over 10 years old. Although we still think of Test Track as ‘recently-reimagined’ around here…it really isn’t! 

Almost as much time has passed since the 2.0 reimagining as passed between Test Track’s opening day and the 2.0 version. (Time is a cruel mistress.) By the time actual work starts on this project and Test Track 3.0 actually opens, there’s a decent chance the 2.0 version will have lasted as long (maybe longer!) than the OG Test Track.

All of that probably indirectly answers the question of whether this Test Track reimagining will actually happen. To put a finer point on it, this project is absolutely a go. Even though the announcement was devoid of detail, this has absolutely been greenlit and is largely being funded by Chevrolet. It’s not contingent upon anything else, and is totally different from pretty much any other announcement made at Destination D23.

In short, the Test Track reimagining will happen because Chevrolet wants it to happen and will pay to ensure that it happens. Aside from maybe Coca-Cola, General Motors/Chevy is Disney’s most successful long-term corporate alliance. At EPCOT, it’s one of the few corporate lounges that still sees a ton of use, and the car company is clearly satisfied with the fruits of the partnership.

So you may not like to see a sponsor’s name on attraction marquees or think it’s lame that the entertainment conglomerate “needs” sponsors in the first place, but we clearly benefit from it as guests. And Test Track 3.0 is a great example of that, as there’s no way Walt Disney World would be touching this ride in the next decade without Chevrolet.

There’s also the backdrop against which both Test Track 2.0 and Test Track 3.0 are set. At the time Test Track 2.0 debuted, Shanghai Disneyland was in development and one of its marquee attractions was slated to be TRON Lightcycle Power Run. That ride would go on to be sponsored by Chevrolet.

While we didn’t know it at the time, with the benefit of hindsight, it stands to reason that General Motors had already seen the pitch for TRON Lightcycle Power Run when Test Track 2.0 was announced. That would explain the TRON-inspired aesthetic–the executives at GM had already seen TRON Lightcycle Power Run and said, “we want something like that for our ride at EPCOT!” So they got Test Track 2.0, which came to be known as “TRON Track” to some fans.

Now that TRON Lightcycle Run has opened at Magic Kingdom–and with Enterprise as a sponsor–Test Track 2.0 looks antiquated by comparison. It still has that TRON-inspired aesthetic, but if you’re mentally comparing the two as a casual visitor, Test Track feels like a dated imitator. If I were a head honcho at General Motors, I probably wouldn’t want that.

In short, it made sense to refresh Test Track back in 2012 to draw inspiration from an as-yet unopened and unannounced ride that would debut in China. No one was going to ride the two attractions back-to-back and make negative comparisons. Fast-forward a decade, and the circumstances are very different. It’s time for a refresh to differentiate Test Track from TRON Lightcycle Run.

To that point, would could be the new aesthetic that distinguishes this from TRON? Test Track 3.0 being inspired by World of Motion is obviously intriguing to old school EPCOT Center fans. That’s me!

Honestly, I have to admit that my firsthand memories of the original attraction are pretty fuzzy—brief snippets that could’ve been formed from wearing out my copy of Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center as much as riding World of Motion as a child with my parents. (Journey into Imagination was my attraction, followed by Universe of Energy, Kitchen Kabaret, Wonders of Life, and the Living Seas.)

Anyway, what I do remember most about World of Motion isn’t the optimism. To me, World of Motion was memorable for its goofiness, humor, and visual gags. Of course, I was a kid—so I’d probably enjoy jokes more than optimism—but this is reinforced by watching ride-through and tribute videos. World of Motion definitely skews more towards the ‘tainment portion of edutainment, with a lot that would make guests laugh.

Honestly, I hope that Imagineering leans into this with the Test Track reimagining. I don’t have anything against the current version. It’s fine and was an improvement over the woefully dated 1990s aesthetic of the original Test Track. The latest incarnation embraced a bit of a TRON aesthetic and offered its own EPCOT sensibility. It succeeded in a lot of ways, and was a nice refresh and modernization. But it also fell short of both World of Motion and the original Test Track in some regards.

To be clear, I don’t want to romanticize the original Test Track and criticize the current incarnation of the attraction. I still remember being blown away by the new Test Track back in late 2012. The first time I rode Test Track 2.0, I had chills. I couldn’t get enough of the reimagined ride, and was so excited about how it evoked the spirit of the original EPCOT Center with its design.

The aesthetic was gorgeous and had much more fluidity than the original Test Track, which felt like going through an industrial warehouse where testing was actually occurring. In the mid-1990s. The original Test Track was loud, and although it did have edutainment components concerning the test process vehicles undergo, it felt clunky and utilitarian rather than elegant and optimistic. In this sense, it was a sharp contrast to the original Future World pavilions.

Test Track 2.0 brought back that elegance and sleekness, infusing the attraction with a spirit of futurism, and one that makes guests actually want to know more about the subject matter. The original Test Track treated guests like dummies in the literal and figurative sense of the term, and prominently featured the worst impulses of the mid to late 1990s stylistic sensibility that hurt so much of Future World.

With Test Track 2.0, you’re no longer just a dummy going through the motions of a test in a warehouse. You’re a vehicle designer putting your test through the paces on a beautifully designed course. The different approach was clear from the outset of the queue, which was less noisy and more stylized than the previous version. (Most of the above is lifted from our Christmas 2012 trip report, so it really was my contemporaneous view of Test Track 2.0 when it debuted.)

But the changes with Test Track 2.0 were not all positive. In the process of creating a sleeker and more elegant attraction imbued with futurism, Test Track also lost its personality. The original Test Track had its quirks and quotable lines, even if it was very much a warts and all ride in one very much in need of a reimagining.

Frankly, I’ve come to appreciate Walt Disney World attractions with ‘character’ and think this is immensely important (and undervalued). Over a decade ago, i remember criticizing the script for the then-reimagined Spaceship Earth. More recently, I did the same with Flight of Passage. (Thankfully, I’ve always loved the Soarin’ preshow, proving I don’t hate fun completely.)

I now realize the error of my ways. Even as an EPCOT Center purist, I’ve come to recognize the value of cheesiness and camp. These little eccentricities in the attraction and its script become beloved, and they’re idiosyncrasies that fans embrace with open arms—even if it takes time. Test Track 3.0 has the chance to lean into its predecessors—World of Motion and Test Track 1.0–and create a quirky quality that’ll make it remembered by fans for more than just being fast fun.

If Test Track 3.0 manages to do this, it could cement World Discovery as the funny area of EPCOT. Walt Disney World “defines” World Discovery as the place “where stories about science, technology, and intergalactic adventure come to life.” But that’s pretty vague, and feels like working backwards from what’s there to create a description. It isn’t the same as a personality or unifying characteristics.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is obviously hilarious. It has the trademark humor of that Marvel film franchise, so of course it is. Even beyond that, Cosmic Rewind has some great low key humor and quotable dialogue that’ll make its way onto Etsy shirts and stuff once it’s a few years older. There will be tons of nostalgia for that script among Walt Disney World fans down the road—it just takes a bit of time.

It’s not just Cosmic Rewind, even though that’s the big one. Mission Space is campy fun, and probably should lean a little more into that. There’s also Space 220, which breaks up its beauty and majesty with stuff like space dogs. Play Pavilion is like one big conceptual running joke, what with it being perpetually paused and all.

Point being, the new neighborhood concept is kind of stupid and unnecessary if you ask me, but that could change. If it ceases to be a pointless internal exercise in vision-making and branding or whatever, and starts to have clearer distinction to average guests walking around the park, and not just in a corporate slide deck. “Oh, World Discovery? That’s the fast, funny, and futuristic rides!”

I would also add that the former Future World (as a whole) could use more personality. The Central Spine behind Spaceship Earth is going to be very vanilla. Even though not everything has opened in World Celebration, it’s safe to say that this area is going to be bland based upon Connections Cafe, Creations Shop, and the concept art for CommuniCore Hall and Plaza.

Honestly, this is not necessarily a knock. World Celebration could very well end up being the ‘neutral’ area that’s surrounded by ambitious and engaging spaces in both World Discovery and World Nature. Already, Connections Cafe and Creations Shop “shut up” in thematic sense and instead utilize airy spaces and large windows to let the outside do the talking.

I know those who are nostalgic for the Epcot of the late 1990s and early aughts mourn what was there before for whatever weird reason (a misplaced sense of nostalgia and rose-colored glasses for the past), I think the current World Celebration is already an improvement over its immediate predecessor. In my view, a lot of damage was done in only a few short years to EPCOT Center with the redesigns of the mid-to-late 1990s. Way too much crap was added, and it became a visual assault with a bunch of clashing styles that, only a few years later, gave the area big time dead mall vibes.

But in order for the more neutral energy of World Celebration to truly work, it has to be surrounded by areas with personality and distinct themes. Now that will make the new neighborhoods make sense, and also a true upgrade. If only we weren’t subjected to years of construction walls and hype about flooring in the process. But I digress.

While I’m already pretty far off topic, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, which is one of the best dark rides anywhere. There’s absolutely no chance Test Track 3.0 drives fully in this direction, but I’d love to Imagineering learn some lessons from that and incorporate them into an attraction. (It’s only a few minutes from their offices in Glendale, so hopefully they’ve already made a few field trips!)

Test Track 3.0 may not be the perfect choice for this type of attraction–and although there aren’t any ostensible thematic similarities between dogs, cats, and cars–where Off the Leash truly excels is humor via visual gags. In a weird way, it feels like a spiritual successor of sorts to World of Motion. (I know these aren’t the only two rides ever to leverage visual gags, but SLoP really reminds me of World of Motion!) So perhaps there are some lessons from Off the Leash that can be applied to Test Track 3.0!

Anyway, my first hope is that Imagineers hosted General Motors executives for the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind last year, and they said, “we want something like that.” My second hope is that someone at GM fondly remembers World of Motion from back in the day, and said “we want something like that.” My final hope is that Imagineers have done Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, and said, “we want something like that.

All of these scenarios are actually possible. The real pipe dream is connecting the dots to get an attraction that juggles all of these things, and does so effectively. Managing to balance humor, whimsy, visual gags, optimism, and futurism in a thrill ride about transportation that would satisfy General Motors as a corporate sponsor is a tough ask. And one that probably won’t happen, to be frank.

(Honestly, I’m kinda surprised General Motors was happy with the original World of Motion–unless it was all about the pre-show. With that said, I think the brand awareness on these sponsorships is huge and underrated. As a kid–you know, the target audience that has zero disposable income–I always wanted to ‘support’ the sponsors because I thought they gave me a connection to Disney or something like that. Kid logic–hard to explain.)

When it comes to prior incarnations of Test Track, I’d love some of the personality and cheekiness of the original–but without the 1990s industrial and utilitarian style. Although Test Track 2.0 did a great job of getting back to the spirit and style of EPCOT Center, it also arguably took itself a bit too seriously and is devoid of character–there’s nothing specific about the current version that’ll be missed years from now.

Then of course there’s World of Motion. I would love to see not just its optimism make a comeback, but also its humor, visual gags, and fully dimensional sets and show scenes. That last one has been largely missing from both versions of Test Track, and even though it’s a thrill ride, it also has a ton of track that’s essentially Sunday driving. Filling the twisting track indoors with interesting and engaging scenery would be awesome. Nothing would make me more optimistic.

To summarize since this is long-winded and rambling, Test Track 3.0 is positioned to pull from the best aspects of all its predecessors. That’s precisely why this could end up being the best announcement of Destination D23, as it seems like Disney and Chevrolet are positioned to learn from past successes and failures, making improvements in Test Track 3.0 on those bases.

There’s also the fact that a Test Track reimagining was unexpected by pretty much everyone. Test Track 3.0 being a pleasant surprise, almost certain to actually happen, and a low-downside, high-upside reimagining is a recipe for success. We’re excited for this, and it’s potential in fitting into the new-look EPCOT while drawing from the past in the process.

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Your Thoughts

What do you think of the Test Track reimagining announcement? Excited for Test Track 3.0, or will you miss the current version? Think it’s time for a replacement to TRON Track now that TRON Lightcycle Run exists in Magic Kingdom? Which version of this ride is your favorite? Hopeful that World of Motion inspires more than just a sense of optimism in the new ride? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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