Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's Fun To Be A Freeway

It’s no secret that Disney has sought out and enjoyed company sponsorship of its many shows and attractions ever since Crane Plumbing touted a new toilet at Disneyland during the parks earliest years. Companies got top drawer Disney showmanship to help sell the company ethos and Disney got much needed funds to jumpstart the park.

But with guest satisfaction being goal number one, Walt drove a hard bargain with incoming corporate sponsorship, making sure that visitors never became victims of the hard sell. Carny barkers, hucksters and shills had no place in Disneyland and he made this clear to the companies that helped bankroll his new park.

This tradition of the corporate soft sell at the Disney Parks has enjoyed a successful run for well over four decades. From Adventure Thru Inner Space and the Carousel of Progress to Spaceship Earth and Ellen’s Energy Adventure, guests enjoyed a singularly transporting experience while companies enjoyed the assurance that their brand became synonymous with all that was warm, wonderful and Walt Disney.

But as the Disney Company slowly morphed into the corporate monster it once insulated itself from that protective wall between the guests and the corporate sponsors started to show signs of erosion.

Current case in point is General Motors Test Track at Epcot Center. Initially GM’s presence at Epcot was by way of ‘World of Motion’, an extravagant and whimsical ride through the history of transportation, from foot and animal power to planes, trains and automobiles. With a cast of 188 animatronic figures performing on 24 elaborate stage sets, a catchy theme song written by X. Atencio of Pirates and Mansion fame and the wry humor of veteran animator Ward Kimball this was an attraction seeped in the rich traditions of Disney Imagineering at it’s finest.

But somewhere between 1995 when the attraction closed for renovation and 1999 when it reopened as ‘Test Track’, GM somehow had found a way to storm the castle and turn World of Motion into the World of General Motors.

Where once the pavilion was a simple sleek circular statement in perfect harmony with the five other Future World buildings, now the outer shell was festooned with miles of cheap steel girding, plastic canvassing and rows of urban city streetlights. It was as if a hurricane had dropped the tangled remains of a Home Depot right on top of World of Motion.

Inside the pre-show queue visitors are ‘transported’ to a GM testing facility, a giant room full of exposed wires, corrogated tin and wire mesh cages filled to the brim with the detritus of auto wrecking yards. Testing labs throughout buzz, slam and pound around us, all in the glare of harsh white lights while overhead speakers hammer out a musical cacophony of clanking metal pipes. Never before in Disney theme park history was a room so singularly dedicated to the unbridaled joy of the migraine.

Eventually guests are loaded into test cars to embark on a skidding, braking, jittery slog over bumpy pavement, around orange traffic cones and past robotic auto spray painters, culminating in a 65 mph drive on a faithfully recreated freeway.

Yes, the very experience guests had driving into Walt Disney World is the one GM was confident would make a thrilling climax to their very own Test Track. So much for not being reminded of the real world while in a Disney Park.

The artists, designers and storytellers at Imagineering can stand to learn important lessons from the gargantuan anomaly that is Test Track. For all the bankloads of money dropped on this endeavor, for all the state of the art engineering and technology that were employed in its creation, no resource can save an ill-conceived idea.

An idea with little interest in the Disney ‘guest’ and every interest in the General Motors ‘customer’. An idea with aspirations no higher than to transport the public from a GM testing facility back to the freeway where they came from.

Once apon a time it was indeed fun to be free.


Anonymous said...

Boy do I miss that ride! WoM and Horizons were always my two favorites. They were realistically futuristic, optimistic and fun.

Great article.

Matt Arnold said...

Epcot had a problem, in that it repeated the same ride multiple times. The World of Motion was a repeat of Spaceship Earth. Both of them were a little too reminiscent of the Magic Kingdom's Carousel of Progress. I'm the biggest Epcot fan you're likely to find, and even I thought that World of Motion needed to go.

Speaking of the Magic Kingdom, it is not true that Disney Parks should never remind us of the real world. That's only true of the Magic Kingdom. The motto "If you can dream it, you can do it" means that Epcot is all about dreams that come true in the real world.

You can't have the thrill of a Test Track experience while driving into Walt Disney World. Not legally and safely, anyway.

Anonymous said...

A very true but sad post. Disney rides and environments should transport you to a place and time the rider has never been to, and probably never will, instead of a place they have been many, many times.

For example, you would not have a Disney ride that comprises of a maze made out of cubicle dividers, because many people that come to the Disney parks practically live there.

No, they should transport the viewer to an exotic place- another world; not one cluttered by adds of greedy businessmen.

Josh said...

I don't loathe Test Track, but I don't love it either. There's nothing memorable about it, and that's a problem. World of Motion was full of things you'd remember long after you left: The caveman blowing cool air on his hot, overtraveled feet, the impossible-to-get-out-of-your-head song "Fun to be Free," that huge pile-up scene with the cars and horses, etc. World of Motion was good fun for everbody, and it forced you to use your imagination.

Test Track, along with Mission: Space and, now, The Living Seas, has taken out that intangible imagination-inspiring component, and replaced with the ordinary and the commonplace. For all intents and purposes, Future World is no more; the tomorrow has been taken out and today has been put in.


Tocpe said...

I think your point about TT:

“It was as if a hurricane had dropped the tangled remains of a Home Depot right on top of World of Motion."

is very true. It is an ugly pavilion now. It's very chaotic.

“An idea with aspirations no higher than to transport the public from a GM testing facility back to the freeway where they came from.”

is also another very important point. The whole point of Disney Parks used to be to transport us away from the mundane "real" world. Where is that focus in this pavilion?

Anonymous said...

Great post! I was definitely sad to see World of Motion go; I always thought it was a perfect Future World attraction. However, with the intentions of being fair I did try and give Test Track the benefit of the doubt before passing harsh judgment.

After riding several times, I have concluded that Test Track is one of the DUMBEST attractions in any Disney park. Its existence is proof that a poor concept and poor execution yields unfavorable results. Seriously, the theming is cold & sterile, the loading is atrocious, and the ride itself is just not interesting or fun. A GM testing facility is a rather dull setting for a theme park ride. When I go to Disney parks, I expect to be told a story or transported to a place of fantasy. When I go to Epcot, I expect a warm, forward-looking experience that is somewhat educational and enjoyable for the whole family. Test Track doesn’t really fit in Disney’s theme park repertoire, let alone Epcot’s.

I understand that Epcot was lacking on thrill rides and in this day and age, a theme park needs a couple of thrills to keep those turnstiles in motion. So I can understand the addition of Mission:Space. Although I don’t particularly enjoy that ride, at least it succeeds in its execution. Test Track fails on all levels. And it all starts with the idea, which should not have gotten off the ground in the first place. The ride does manage to attract swarms of guests, so in Disney’s/GM’s eyes it must be a total success. But to me, this is hardly a thrilling experience with absolutely no re-ride value.

But what is really amazing to me is how an attraction of this magnitude which cost a bundle to develop and construct manages to seem so CHEAP. I literally laughed at some of the various “theming” (e.g. fake trees, orange cones) while riding in the brake-gas-brake-gas vehicle (Autopia anyone?). Disney is much better than this; just look at Expedition Everest. They’ve still got some ammunition left in their creative forces, it’s just a shame to see them squandered on a turd like Test Track.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Mr. Banks, you are dead right. You have made several points I have not considered, yet I have hated the concept of Test Track since World of Motion first closed to be replace by a car testing ground.

Also, the TransCenter is sorely missed. Wasn't this the most photographed location in Walt Disney World?

Will Robison said...

I never got a chance to ride the big wheel before it closed and was replaced by Test Track. Therefore my opinion might be a little skewed. But the reason I really like Test Track is not for anything that you've written here. It is, however, relevant to your argument.

When I went to WDW in 2002, I took my aging mother for her first Disney trip. She was just happy to spend time with her children and we really didn't expect her to enjoy the roller coasters or thrill rides the way we did. She was approaching 60 at the time and her thrill days were over. Jumping to the point, she LOVED Test Track! In fact, she demanded that we ride it like 10 more times, bought a NASCAR jacket, and is looking forward to a return trip this fall with her grandkids.

To me it wasn't that she fell in love with it as a thrill ride - she still doesn't care for most of them - but that to her it embodied all those things that Disney represented, fun, excitement, adventure. Your last post talked about the fact that Disney doesn't put you in the middle of an adventure anymore, that you are an outsider looking in. But I contend that that is exactly what Test Track does. It allows you to enjoy the ride and fill in the sparse details with your own imagination. Isn't that infinitely better?

Gregg P. said...

That is precisely the feeling I had when we "rode" Test Track a couple of years back. A lot of standing in line and waiting around before getting the singluar experience of being a) jostled slightly (not too much -- wouldn't want to make A GM erxperience anything negative!), warmed up and then cooled down a bit (not too much -- wouldn't want people to catch a chill or break asweat and blame GM!), and then riding for about 30 seconds at the speed I usually do when heading to work each day. About as exciting as letting someone else drive for a change. Whoopie. An utter waste of time and opportunity in every way.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I was definitely sad to see World of Motion go; I always thought it was a perfect Future World attraction. However, with the intentions of being fair I did try and give Test Track the benefit of the doubt before passing harsh judgment.

After riding several times, I have concluded that Test Track is one of the DUMBEST attractions in any Disney park. Its existence is proof that a poor concept and poor execution yields unfavorable results. Seriously, the theming is cold & sterile, the loading is atrocious, and the ride itself is just not interesting or fun. A GM testing facility is a rather dull setting for a theme park ride. When I go to Disney parks, I expect to be told a story or transported to a place of fantasy. When I go to Epcot, I expect a warm, forward-looking experience that is somewhat educational and enjoyable for the whole family. Test Track doesn’t really fit in Disney’s theme park repertoire, let alone Epcot’s.

I understand that Epcot was lacking on thrill rides and in this day and age, a theme park needs a couple of thrills to keep those turnstiles in motion. So I can understand the addition of Mission:Space. Although I don’t particularly enjoy that ride, at least it succeeds in its execution. Test Track fails on all levels. And it all starts with the idea, which should not have gotten off the ground in the first place. The ride does manage to attract swarms of guests, so in Disney’s/GM’s eyes it must be a total success. But to me, this is hardly a thrilling experience with absolutely no re-ride value.

But what is really amazing to me is how an attraction of this magnitude which cost a bundle to develop and construct manages to seem so CHEAP. I literally laughed at some of the various “theming” (e.g. fake trees, orange cones) while riding in the brake-gas-brake-gas vehicle (Autopia anyone?). Disney is much better than this; just look at Expedition Everest. They’ve still got some ammunition left in their creative forces, it’s just a shame to see them squandered on a turd like Test Track.

Roger Alford said...

I miss the World of Motion as much as anyone else, but I think you're off the mark regarding Test Track. It does take you into another place -- an automotive testing facility that many of us have seen on TV, but few have had the opportunity to visit. It's about learning and having fun. And it's a ride that (most) families can do together, which is the hallmark of any Disney attraction.

You can't deny the popularity of this attraction. Test Track has for some time been the top Epcot attraction, challenged only by Soarin'. Even after several years, the FastPasses run out early in the day. Yes, you get to drive into WDW -- in slow-moving bumper-to-bumper gridlocked traffic on I-4, not at 65mph with the top down (and in a smaller car, no less, which increases the sense of speed). That's where it's "fun to free."

"Yeah, seven."

Anonymous said...

While I agree that Test (Your Patience Getting Out Of The Place Through All The GM Sales Reps) Track is tacky, as you suggest, there have been other transgressions in the past. I went on Space Mountain shortly after it opened (in Florida), and after the ride, the only way to get out was on a moving walkway parading us by RCA products, listening to the cloying serenade, "RCA ... leads the wayyy ... RCA ... leads the wayyyy ... "

Brian said...

I couldn't disagree more with this post. The Test Track is, I feel, one of the few bright spots in Disney's recent past. Everytime my family goes to Epcot, it's our first stop after Spaceship Earth. The only sense of "corporate sell" I ever got was at the exit when you stroll through GM's showroom - and even that was about as soft a sell as car dealerships get. The only thing I'd change on the ride is in fact that showroom. Instead of the latest stuff from GM, I'd rather see the stuff of GM's tomorrow. Put the concept cars in there!

The Test Track is a great ride and a great addition to any theme park. It's perfectly in line with experiencing something most people don't - specifically what it's like in a GM factory. The guest gets to walk into a car testing facility and learn about what goes into this vital part of the automobile business. From the engineering to the design to the analysis of testing data - there's lots of science and learning to be had in there.

Klark Kent 007 said...

The idea of Corporate Sponsorship was great for checks and balances: a company wanted to seel a product and Disney wanted the funding to create an experience.

Disney still controlled the attractions and the outside company supplied an idea to work from.

These days they seem more interested in selling knock off attractions and sub par products in every gift shop (wasn't the idea to have one gift shop per attraction, instead we have more gift shops than attractions).

Anonymous said...

I do miss the old WoM and I think a better attraction would cover all forms of transportation (why just cars?)- However, I do have to say that TestTrack is a VERY popular ride for many kids. My son is going on 7 - he has been to DisneyWorld 12 times and was first able to ride this 4 or 5 trips back. Since then it is his favorite ride at any of the parks (closely followed by BTMR, SpaceM, SplashM and Soarin') He loves the stuff in the line, he loves the ride, he loves the robot factory stuff at the exit - he even likes the shop at the end. I don't LOVE TestTrack, but I don't hate it and I ride it several times every trip. I think Disney could have done something better, but they could also have done something far, far worse.

Anonymous said...

I have fond memories of World of Motion, but the ride itself was so reminiscent of Spaceship Earth that I can hardly remember which is which. My fond memories come more from the design of the pavillion itself -- it was such a great piece of design, integrated into EPCOT, and the initial approach into the ride (rising up above the EPCOT courtyard) was simply magical.

As for Test Track, it's raw and industrial and ugly, but it's also exactly what a Test Track looks like. It doesn't glamorize auto manufacturing and testing, that's for sure. The ride itself is pretty silly, considering that it's basically an auto simulator; when I went last December, the two young boys I was sitting between had way more fun pretending to push the fake buttons inside the car than they did going over the "rough road simulation".

Anonymous said...

"Why do people think Disney is immune from change? .... Some do, but even those get upgrades (ie. Pirates of the Caribbean.)"

An upgrade does not always mean that it has to change the total theme. For instance, when they added Iago and friends to the Tiki room, they changed the whole theme to it. It used to be an escape to a Polynesian thunderstorm. Now we have rapping birds. They still could have added Iago in, and if he HAD to rap, he could've rapped a Polynesian song, at least.

"Disney needs to stay up with the times."

I agree that DIsney needs to stay with todays technology, but not really with todays culture. Disney is an escape from todays culture; it should not contain what it is trying to escape from.

Anonymous said...

incredibles said first:
Every other corporation in the world does this. Why can't Disney?

You have to see a diference between the average theme park company and Disney:

Disney does not only exist by its theme parks.

The need for a corporate sponsorship is not that huge - unless you only look for the "shareholder value" (I am a student of economics). If you take a corporate tie-in which is that showing (Did they already put up a sign saying "Buy a GM car"? -whoops, I'm getting cynical) you probably get guests that are not completely satisfied.

So you have to choose between maximum income or satisfied guests:
You can try to become (and stay) a "quality leader" (which in this case would have meant: "Would Walt have agreed to this experience?") or try to maximise the income by reducing the expenses, which can only be afforded by accepting almost everything the sponsor asks for (otherwise they cound reduce the investment in the park).

It's just my thinking.

Anonymous said...

I must admit that my feelings towards test track are very ambivalent, and so I will "half agree" with Mr. Banks. I really miss the charm of World of Motion, and I wish it could have stayed around. My sense is that there has been an overt move by the budgeteers to rid EPCOT of animatronics to reduce maintanence costs - even those that remain in Spaceship Earth have relatively simple motions. I miss having my kids (now grown) refer to the ride as "Footprints" because of the way we were introduced to the caveman scene. But I do like the current ride for a reason not mentioned here. It is a "Disney style" thrill ride - not too harsh, but not too tame. For those of us who don't measure the thrill in terms of the distance we fall, or the degree of whiplash we get - it's an exciting and fun ride. But then again, I really enjoyed the Rocket Rods!

Anonymous said...

I always thought of World of Motion as the weakest of the three Extinct Titans(the others being Horizons and Journey Into Imagination).

Anonymous said...

Wow. what a debate!

First, Disney came up with the idea for test track as a thrill ride, and sold it to GM, not the other way around.

Second, the GM showroom is there because there was a small one in WOM, and it was extermely popular with a segment of the guests. Obviously, not anyone here. But of all the post how elements, sitting in a new GM car was by far the most popular.

Third, Test Track is a good (not supurb) FAMILY thrill ride that has helped Epcot's attendance for years. If that park still had the original day attractions - less than half the people who go now would.

And here is where people might get angry with me.
WOM was a tired, dated show. It was a formulaic show, like many of the others, that had it's genesis in the 64 worlds fair. Every ride starts with history. How may incarnations of cave men do we have to see...wheather it is transportation or communication, they all seem to be copy cats.

Do you know what my comment on WDW was the first time that I went? I thought that if I saw one more movie of oil paintings I was going to throw up!
It is the same formula. Anything that happened before photography had to be represented as an oil painting. Hall of Presidents. Energy. American Adventure. All formula.

There is room for different attractions. I am sad that Horizons is gone, as in my opionion, it was the best example of the genre. But American society and expectations have changed. And Test Track, Mission Space and Soarin are attracting a whole new generation to Epcot to explore.

Digital Jedi said...

I think the point has been missed by some, again. I enjoy test Track, too. I make a point of riding it every year. It's a fairly entertaining ride that sometimes goes faster the 65 MPH. But that's not the point. The point is, was it necessary to remove World of Motion to build it? Was it necessary to build it so cheap looking? Carrying me away to a testing facility is fine and dandy. But what exactly does that have to do with the future? This is Future World, after all.

Put it this way, I think Spider-Man at that other company's Islands of Adventure is one of the most innovative rides EVER created. It incorporates the best that technology and imagination have to offer and does so in a way that makes you seriously believe that you've been transported into the world of the Comic Book creation. You "believe" Spider-Man is there and fighting all around you. You "believe" your going to get electrocuted, burned, frozen, that your falling and getting caught in webbed net. Now for the sake of argument, lets say Disney built it and in their marketing brilliance decided it needed to go inside and in place of Spaceship Earth.

What does Spider-Man have to do with the future? It's a great ride to be sure, but does it have a place in the center of EPCOT Center? Of course not. So why, regardless if the ride is a success or not, would you build a ride with a theme firmly grounded in the present in a section of the park devoted to the Future?

Say what you want about how well the ride was executed. I personally think they did a great job with the ride itself, but the decor DOES feel like the gnarled remains of wrecked Home Depot. All that is not really even the point though. The point, is that building an attraction, I don't care how well or how poorly you do it, should be done for more reasons then for building up turnstile attendance. Stick to your theme.

You know what made Disney so much fun? The fact that it transported you to places that you will probably never get to go AND that it transported you to places you WANTED to go. I don't really hear a lot of people planning their next weekend getaway at a GM Testing Facility.

It has nothing to do with being a bad ride (Though you have to admit, that not everyone is pleased with it). Truth is you can't please everybody. But looking at the ride objectively, which is what I'm trying to do, since I actually like the ride, and you find that it has no place where it is. It had no business replacing what it did.

Mission:SPACE, Soaring, about half of the interactive attractions in Inventions, thematically have no place in Future World. This isn't about attraction worship. This is about sticking to your theme and making a place better, not just more popular. Yes, there is a difference.

Did anyone come out of EPCOT disappointed in the 80s? I'm not asking if they came out board or disliked the place, I'm asking if you came out with the feeling that you had been let down. That was never a major complaint of Disney until recent years. Sure people may have not liked Disney, but that's entirely different from going in with one expectation and coming out disappointed. That should never happen in a Disney Park. You should get what you expect, like or leave it. If you do it right, more people will like it then leave it.

Quality theming and guest experience requires you actually take theming and guest experience seriously. Cross pollinating EVERY single attraction across the board with a Disney tie in, with no regard for whether it makes it a better attraction or not, is not taking that seriously. Deconstructing or destroying an attraction to replace it with one that has no thematic qualities with the area it's in, is not taking that seriously. Building thrill rides and just slapping them wherever attendance is slow with no regard for whether it fits where you've put it, is not taking that seriously.

Even if your intention is to strip away the theme of a given area, have some kind of direction for your new theme. Future World is not really about the Future anymore or anything in paticular. It is clearly rooted in the bias of the bottom line.

Future World is a great theme. Storytellers from all walks of the entertainment industry have been mining the future for innovative sagas and adventures that none of us will ever have. But this vast well of ideas is not being mined for EPCOT's Future World anymore. It's being ignored. And that makes absolutely no sense. Would a future-based Test Track with a little mix of Sci Fi adventure have killed the popularity of Test Track or enhanced it? It certainly would have made it fit the theme of the Future. Would Soaring over different lands have made more sense in the back section of the park where all the foreign countries actually are the primary theme? It certainly would have been more entertaining in, say Japan, and made more sense for the attraction to have been centered around a singele country and placed there, then in a Pavilion themed on the agricultural possibilities of the tomorrow.

Money is great. You need to keep the park going. You need profit to make working worthwhile. But all these previous managers have cared about is profit. Not on my experience in the park, not on your experience in the park, not on theme. All that has been done to Disney in recent years is make really big, noisy, shiny attractions that don't really fit, but that really drive attendance up. The guys in charge up to now have only been interested in what they could get out of me. Walt was interested in what he could give to me. I like Walt's way of doing things better. He was generous with his gifts.

pariartspaul said...

Well, I don't know. I loved World of Motion and it definitely was a great big extravaganza of a ride - yes kind of a repeat of the Spaceship Earth theme, but still a big splashy thing that was always fun to ride. There was gosh, maybe a hundred great AA figures and all those great sets to look at. It was filled with gentle, corny old fashioned Disney humour and you could just sit there and take it all in - yes like a great world's fair attraction. They just don't make'em like that any more. It was a shame to see it trashed - just like Horizons.

I would rather have seen a new building built for test track, and World of Motion updated rather than just torn out.

Anonymous said...

An Imagineer drives up to a locally owned bar, parks his Segway outside, walks in, sits down and orders a diet micro brew. The bartender slides him a cold one and asks, "Hey buddy, let me ask you somethin'. How would you re-imagineer Epcot?"

The Imagineer takes a sip, pushes his acid-free doodle pad to the side and responds, "Test Track fucking sucks!"

Ouch. Test track won't be updated any time soon because Test Track packs 'em in. Focus here! So far this site has just been picking out a given ride / property and bitching about how lame it is. That's not re-imagineering, that's just complaining!

This site/group should maybe consider a more organized approach to problem solving. How about re-imagineering our way out of the over crowding issue?

What are the top three issues that need to be addressed at DL / WDW? What are the top ten? I don't think Test Track is on that list. I don't think bouncing from ride to ride is going to solve anything.

Anonymous said...

First, to those fondly remembering World of Motion, you must admit that after having tremendous animated tableauxs (I particularly loved the three "wheel" inventors), it had a real lame ending. If I recall correctly you were put in a dark room and looked at moving lights representing the "future" of motion. Seems to me there was also a mirror room, like the old If You Had Wings attraction, but I may be confused. My point is that the ride was not all classic, it seems that when they got to the end, they ran out of time/money/ideas. None the less, I do miss the rest of the old ride and agree that it is a shame that Disney could not have both.

As to corporate sponsorship and active "selling", would you rather have GM sponsored Test Track or more non-sponsored Primeval Whirls? At least Test Track is not off the shelf.

Attendance is a big driver. Almost all of the extinct rides had one thing in commom, low ridership. I wonder what was different between the extinct rides and the "classics" like Pirates and Haunted Mansion. Despite little substantial change since the late 1960's these rides remain popular. Perhaps this Blog could consider why those attractions continue to attract while World of Motion, Horizons and Imagination did not. They seem to have the same classic feel, designed by many of the same designers, yet they fell short on attendence.

As to themeing to "Future World", what ever was future about Future World? Horizons, maybe. But every other attraction was about where we had come from, where we are, and, perhaps, a minimal nod to where we may go. Rather than worry about theming to the name, the name should be changed (as it appears it may about to be).

Where does this leave me? I like Test Track. I liked (and constantly rode) World of Motion. I would have prefered some expansion of World of Motion, or, at least, a combination of the two. However, if my choice was between Test Track and Auto Primeval Whirl, I'll take Test Track.

Mr Banks said...

Finishdish. To say this post merely states "Test Track Sucks" is WAY too easy. There's a lot to recommend Test Track to a certain audience. And certainly World of Motion needed a giant overhaul. But the points to be made, and they're points that cannot be overstated, are that Test Track is corporate heavy, grounded in reality, out of place in the overall scheme of Epcot both in tone and in internal and external design, gaudy, off-theme, uninformative and empty headed. World of Motion may have been a little corn-ball but it was also extravagant, beautifully designed and had the advantage of painlessly giving audiences a look at the history of transportation and then inspired its audience to dream up new ways of getting around. It was true to the theme of Epcot and a great compliment to Future World. And it gave audiences lasting impressions.

Test Track?

A step in the wrong direction. Epcot was a powerful park when it never stooped to giving audiences what they brayed and pawed for, but instead gave them something that delighted them, challenged them, enlighted them, inspired them and surprised them in unexpected ways.

Mr Banks said...

Digital Jedi. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Most of the complaints in this post (and many others) stem from the fact that the ride in question doesn't fit thematically with the original intent of EPCOT. But let's face it, EPCOT as built doesn't fit with the original intent of EPCOT. I visited EPCOT in its opening week, and I can't tell you how disappointed I was (speaking as an architect) with the bland 1970's-style corporate office park buildings in Future World.

The rides themselves also had a pretty stale vision of the future. In WOM, there was loving attention paid to the representations of transportation's past, but what did it really show of the future?--a pretty lame, poorly detailed, abstract model of a future city. Horizons, which attempted to correct for this lack of "future" in Future World, went back to the 1960's for its vision. Take a look at photos of GM's Futurama II from the '64-'65 World's Fair---same undersea city, same desert farming, etc. If you want to see futuristic looking attractions that still hold up today, take a look at what was done at Osaka Expo '70. Amazing stuff.

Given the direction of the new attractions, it is pretty obvious that the "future" theme of EPCOT has been pretty well abandoned, and from a clarity-of-marketing point of view it probably makes a lot of sense--- The Magic Kingdom is the little kid's park, and EPCOT is the big kid's park (with some crossover so no one gets too bored). Thus, the elimination of good scary attractions from the MK (ExtraTERRORestrial), and the inclusion of things like Test Track at EPCOT.

This is pretty evident even in the design of the new attraction buildings at EPCOT. Take a look at Mission Space. It isn't really a futuristic building, but a large expressionistic sculpture, and not prone to becoming dated. The Living Seas is similar in approach, and Test Track is a "functionalist" variation on the trend. It probably won't be too long before Imagination is remodelled to look like a giant brain.

For those of us wishing for a new vision of the future, perhaps we should be putting together a proposal to the BIE (Bureau of International Expositions) to get an EXPO in the US. How about in New York again? And maybe Disney could once again have the testing ground it had in the mid '60's.

Anonymous said...

Maybe what needed to be done was a new ride that was a combination of the two.

World of motion was a slow ride. You went from one scene to another, with each scene rich in detail, needing much time to see it all, and admire it all. There was so much detail in it. So, because of the time requirements, it was generally slow.

Test Track is the exact opposite: its all about speed. Go fast over here, go fast over there. The overall thought must have been: "The faster we make them go, the less destail work we have to do!"

What could have been done is a combination of both. Do an overhaul of all the Audio Animatronic figures. Make it look better, more complex motions, and keep the detail work.

Then, between these Audio Animatronic segments, you could have some more high speed thrills. Maybe after seeing a portion talking of horse-drawn wagons, you could have the vehicles going through a crowded cobblestone street, at night, in London (or some other unnmaed city), dodging wagons and people alike.

Then, after telling of airplanes, you could have a small airplane adventure, or something similar.

Then, at the end, you could have some sort of conclusionary speech, possibly similar to the one in Ellens Energy.

The que line might be like a small museum of travel artifacts: train spikes, early automobile wheels, a replica of the Wright plane, et cetera.

This way, you could include both the aesthetic value that many poeple want, and the thrills, that the others want, as well. By satisfing both audiences, you attract much more people than going either way. You also are able to keep the theme of Future World, EPCOT, and everything Disney.

Anonymous said...

^^Agree entirely...but unfortunately that's not the way Disney rides are made these days. I think it's an excellent "Compromise" for lack of a better term.

I liked WOM and I really enjoyed the ending...realistic or not. I also thought the large screens that surround you were cool and if new technology was used to make it less warped, picture wise, that could be a cool new element to the experience.

The fact is that Test Track isn't a bad ride, it gets people in line because they want one of the few thrilling rides offered on Disney property, and Epcot especially. Before M:S opened, the only other thrills to be had were in Body Wars.

Test Track is not futuristic in the least, they could have put a nice vision of the future at the end of the ride also, not just in the exit area.

I do think the queue is a bit overdone, noisy and tacky, especially bad if you're waiting in line for more than a few mins.

There have been IMO large disasters in Disney ride replacements, but this ranks lower on the list than others.

Anonymous said...

Just a reality check here. And I'm not trying to be negative, as Epcot is my favorite park in FL.

Epcot has NEVER, repeat N E V E R come close to meeting the original attendance figures set for it.

The park is great for adults. But this park ALWAYS has had trouble attracting a child and teenage following.

Countless families come once, and on return visits the kids bitch and moan that Epcot is no fun. They don't want education. They want fun. Return visitation is nothing like the other parks (at least MK and MGM - AK has it's own issues).

Last year (according to AB), Epcot did just 1,247,000 more than MGM did, a park that's, what, 1/5 the size or Epcot?

Disney is adding thrill attractions to get the entire family back, and keep them from going to IOA. Period.

The bottom line is the bottom line. Make rides that turn the turnstiles.

I love the Audio-Animatronic extravaganza. But most people don't. I used to be able to do Horizons 5 times in a row, withoout getting off. I could only do that because the vast majority of the public thought the ride, with zero wait, was not worth going on.

Anonymous said...

Nice post!

My question to the PIXAR crew bringing this issue up: what are some solutions that can help alleviate this problem?

Part of the problem is speaking about it (that's the easy part), and part of the problem is coming up with (a) feasible solution(s).

What are your thoughts?

Hrundi V. Bakshi said...

It seems while Disney parks try to please all age groups - they sometimes HIT some groups and MISS others.

My parents are 74 and 65 - they live in Northern Florida - and have annual passes.

They absolutely LOVE Test Track. It's probably the fastest theme park attraction they HAVE ever (or WILL ever) ride. In fact, had the ride been installed ANYWHERE else other than a Disney park they probably would've never set foot on it. I have neices and nephews under the age of 10 who also think it's a gas.

Me? eh.

I don't hate it, I don't love it.

It has found an audience, it does educate to some degree about automotive testing - (though the post-show and pre-show elements leave me cold - I can't get out of the show building fast enough once I'm out of the car) - it might have been a good fit in Walt's original Tomorrowland @ Disneyland . . . . . . y'know?

"Here we are in 1961 and you are about to experience how automobiles will be tested in 1999 . . ."

Probably would've been a smash - but now?

Well it's not at all 'future' (though it is exposure to 'science' - sort of) it's not so much a 'thrill ride' (though the last 30 seconds is undeniably fun for those of us who don't own convertables) - it just sort of - IS.

It's a "ride" in a park that hasn't much to offer in that respect, probably wasn't supposed to. . . . I don't avoid it and unfortunately - what I know of World of Motion is (are?) the figures that are now here at Disneyland in POTC.

And I can't say that any of those World of Motion AA's were much of a help to a storyline that grows continually more convoluted @ the original POTC- ever more contrived in the months to come . . .

As someone who has only known EPCOT WITH Test Track, I probably add nothing to this argument - other than I know that there are those who DO enjoy the ride.

I think it's a bit dull- for an attraction that seems to be DOWN every other time I've tried to ride it. :(

I tend to spend most of my time in this park on the World Showcase side of the lake. I guess - that's kind of sad. The thing I like best in Future World on the trip last Fall more than anything else was the Segway Tour FROM Future World around World Showcase before the park opened to the general public.

Hmmmmm . . . . . doesn't say much for Future World in general I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Banks, Thanks for your response. Wether or not this post states simply that "Test Track Sucks" is truly irrelevant (to my point). It could just as well state "Test Track Rules"! Either opinion would only make for an example, and unfortunately that's all I'm reading here are piles of examples that have *yet* to support a solution.

The thought of "re-imagineering" Disney is infinitely appealing, and I came to this site looking forward to that opportunity. The opportunity to take back some of the mistakes, and put forward solutions.

While obviously there is great value in a discussion of Test Track / Tiki Birds / Swiss Family / Ellen's Energy / etc, I think maybe I was mistaken as to the purpose of this site.

"A forum for Pixar and Disney professionals passionate about the Disney Theme Parks to catalog past Imagineering missteps and offer tenable practical solutions in hopes that a new wave of creative management at Imagineering can restore some of the wonder and magic that's been missing from the parks for decades."

Since I'm not a Pixar professional and don't work for Disney maybe I don't get to participate. Really! Unless you work for Disney corporate, how is reading about problems going to make a bit of difference? You need to read and discuss the problems (here apparently), then go back to a drawing board (inside Disney apparently), then come up with a great solution (with your other team members inside Disney I guess), then take that idea to Disney corporate and convince them to do / undue whatever it is.

For what it's worth, I think that jumping from topic to topic to topic to topic is diluting the power of this forum. Does Test Track / Tiki / Swiss Family have issues? Yes! Most everything in the parks have issues that could use some tweaking and/or demolition, but do you really want to walk around tweaking every "ride" on an individual basis? You need momentum. You need to gather the troops, and take out the biggest baddest mistake and replace it with the biggest baddest solution unimaginable.

This movement needs a focal point. This movement needs a target.

Anonymous said...

One way to 'fix' it would be to install the "history of transportation" show around the base of the building.

Then take a continuously loading vehicle system and put it on the outside of the ride facing in towards the center.

As you ride this, you are actually in the 'queue' for the final Test Track ride and don't even know it.

You are watching the show, almost like a modern Carosel of Progress, or the original imagination ride.

This movement can be slowed down to adjust for backups at the test track side of things if needed.

At the end of this preshow, you would have the option to go to the Test Track ride, or skip it and go to the End Show section (where all the GM cars are now) which would provide a look at all the concept cars that are at the auto shows every year, and some displays/shows about alternative energy choices and hybrid cars etc...

This also solves some of the problem of TT being down, since you could go on the preshow no matter what, even when TT is down.

Mr Banks said...

Finishdish: Addressing the 'solution' means thoroughly understanding the problem. The most important solution is for new management to adhere to the guiding principles that made the Disney theme parks such a success in the first place. And this blog has been an incredible resource for informing readers as to what those are. As for SPECIFIC solutions, this is a tricky area. As Disney staffers its against the law to share company plans or ideas. As for personal feelings, it's my belief that we're in good hands and that the people with the power to influence change in the Mouse House truly "get it".

And if you, too, want to "get it" then keep reading.

Scott M. Curran said...

You know from my previous few comments I have been completely with you all on your take on things. This time I'm a little less on board and a little more understanding of those who think you're nitpicking a bit too much in order to argue in favor of the storied (and, I agree, timeless) attractions of old.
I think the answer lies not so much in that we should have a World of Motion instead of a Test Track, but that we should have a World of Motion AND a Test Track.
Not every ride is for everyone. Not every educational Epcot attraction is going to teach its lesson in the same mild, non-migraine inducing manner that some prefer over others. But you can't completely ignore the appeal of Test Track to the thrill ride seekers who need that "something more" at Epcot that the other thrill destinations in Orlando have to offer.
So my perfect world, which loves and appreciates the classics as much as you all do, is one where the World of Motion and the Test Track complement each other.
I know it isn't a perfect solution, but it seems to reflect the notion of many comments here along the lines of "I don't hate Test Track, but I do miss World of Motion."
Just one perspective.

Anonymous said...

While we're on this subect of a "what if" scenario for Test Track, I read all of the comments and didn't see any mention of what could happen if GM truly does go into more serious trouble, declare bankruptcy or other problems. I dont know how long their sponsorship is set for, but what if Disney is left without GM for Test Track? Would they continue it unbranded or try another kind of attraction?

Anonymous said...

OK, how about debating this idea for "fixing" EPCOT---Get rid of the name.

The awkward acronym certainly has a storied history, but it is really inappropriate for the park that exists today, and has built up a negative connotation amongst many visitors and in the public consciousness.

Think of the casual, non-Disney-fanatic visitor. The names of the other parks are simple, descriptive, inviting, and clearly understood--Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney MGM Studios. Unless you know the history of EPCOT, or have done some research as to what it is about, it can be confusing at best, and a turnoff at worst.

The name change could be something that goes beyond mere marketing as well. It could be a chance to re-launch the park, give the theme more direction and clarity, and guide the way to coherence of future development.

Just a kickoff idea-- "Walt Disney's World's Fair". It has a positive ring to it, accurately describes the park, makes the place seem fun, and still implies a sense of "future and progress". One of the attractions at the park--maybe a true showcase of ideas about future living-- could even be called EPCOT.

Would love to hear some feedback on this.

Anonymous said...

I am a technologist by training, and was captured at a very young age by the science of "Mr. Wizard" and the Disney vision of technology. I was awed by the "wonder of it all", and it is this "aesthetic view of technology" that captured my imagination. Only after I got well into my career did I realize how devoid of aesthetics the technology world really is. The inside of a factory, or a car assembly line is not a pretty place. The true industrial world is alot like the backstage area of Disney - better off left to the imagination.

When people talk about EPCOT, they talk about education. Quite frankly there has never been much real education going on there. The original Future World was an aesthetic masterpiece with an education theme. I used to love to walk between the wonderfully themed areas, each with their unique outdoor music to match the mood of the area. I never think of what I learned at EPCOT - I think of how I felt as I was transported into a world of beauty and wonder.

Now we have the spartan "techno basic" queue in Test track. It's like backstage has moved onto the mainstage, and it is anything but inspiring. And the mishmash of background music in Future World makes feel like I'm in a WalMart on steroids. Hand tools on pegboard is something I can see in my own garage.

Mr. Banks is precisely on target - we need a resurgence of what Disney really means. The Test Track image is ok for Six Flags, but the time is right for a resurgence of all that is Disney. Disney parks are all about how they make you feel - they transport you to another place and time, and they inspire you with a sense of awe and wonder. That sense should not be the involuntary cringe every time I see a McDonalds cart.

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you something. I don't pay and come to Walt Disney world to ride a car through an empty warehouse with some stupid guy in my face every two seconds saying stupid stuff like "ARE YA FEALING AN INCREASE IN LATERAL FORCES?". Test Track and Mission: Space are two perfect examples of money wasted by the Walt Disney Company that could have been used to build 1 really grand attraction. Instead we get two barebones attractions.

Anonymous said...

Here's one that I'm strongly going to disagree on. World of Motion was a decent, do-it-once ride, while Test Track is something I can go on multiple times during a single visit to Epcot. There's a reason the lines are enormous and the ride is so popular. I only know a handfull of people that don't outright love Test Track. Of Epcots many failures in change, I don't see how Test Track is one of them. If the ride is popular with guests, how could it be a failure?

And when was Epcot supposed to take you away from the real world? It's supposed to be what is and will be fun and good about the real world. It's not total escapism in the way the Magic Kingdom is.

Anonymous said...

And, just so you know, edatdisney, Expedition Everest is a GREAT ride. A true E ticket. It is not merely good.

Most of my friends, roommates and coworkers now consider it the best ride here. And these are the folks that like Splash, Pirates, Mansion and Tower. I personally put it just below Splash and Space and just ahead of Pirates, Mansion and Tower.

Off topic, I was just shocked that Everest could be considered merely good.

Anonymous said...

And, just so you know, edatdisney, Expedition Everest is a GREAT ride. A true E ticket. It is not merely good.

Most of my friends, roommates and coworkers now consider it the best ride here. And these are the folks that like Splash, Pirates, Mansion and Tower. I personally put it just below Splash and Space and just ahead of Pirates, Mansion and Tower.

Off topic, I was just shocked that Everest could be considered merely good.

Anonymous said...

I always think back to the first times I visited EPCOT and miss The World of Motion. Disney seems to have a disregard for returning guests - we go back because we love what we saw the first time. they have plenty of land to create new things as well as keep the originals.

Anonymous said...

I can see how people loathe this ride. The first time I rode this ride was during a soft opening, it was the day after my birthday, and it always left an impression in my mind. I rode World of Motion, and I did not care much for it because I basically just rode the same thing over at Spaceship Earth (I miss you Tomorrow's Child), and I felt like Test Track was a good replacement. Yes, it might be considered 'cheap thrills', but sometimes, parks have to adapt. Disney has their POTCs and HMs, but Disney also has their Test Tracks and Everests. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

First let me say this is a great site. Comments made by the originators are right on point. If I had to make a list of things I would like to see changed in WDW (or even DL) then I need go no farther. [How did you folks know what I've been saying all these years!]

That being said, I have to strongly disagree with the assessment of Test Track. Sure I miss World of Motion (and Horizons for that matter...) BUT Test Track is great. The themeing (inside, not outside) the corny gags, the high speed rush. This is Disney Imagineering at its best. Don't believe me? Check out the lines every day! It's right up there with Splash Mountain, Pirates and Haunted Mansion...

Sorry to disagree here, because I love the other points. Now hopefully someone can make all these great ideas into reality?

Anonymous said...

I agree with edatdisney who said that EPCOT needs two Holy Crap attractions. The sort of rides that you'd get a fastpass for, and then after that get in the normal line and ride it again (which I often do with rides like Splash Mountain and Rockin Rollercoaster).

I personally think something amazing needs to be put in Journey into Imagination. I mean, come on, it's the Imagination! Imagination can hold infinite possibilities, and the best they can come up with is a crappy show? I love Figment to death, but I'd prefer to see him gone than be stuck in a mediocre "ride." Sigh.

As for the article, I got the impression that it was quite a bit biased against Test Track, due to nostalgia for WOM. It always sucks when old favorites are taken down (I was in love with Horizons when I was younger), but EPCOT desperately needs more ways to convince people to come, and Test Track was a way to hook younger people. It just makes sense. And I think the ambiance in the queue works with what the ride is. It wouldn't make any sense to have a prettied up queue, the whole point is that it's in a car testing facility, which aren't generally known for their beautiful or creative atmosphere.

I think that EPCOT really needs to start focusing on the Experimental and Tomorrow parts of its name. There are very few things in EPCOT that focus on those. Humans have already been to space, and we've already driven in cars, and we've already played computer games, and we can already communicate with people around the world, now show us something that we can't do now but MIGHT be able to do. I'd be sad to see old attracations at EPCOT go, but I think it'd be worth it to have a park that can create the same spark that the others can for future visitors.

Anonymous said...

I agree with much of what is said on this blog here, but not this article. I really enjoy this ride and the only complaint I have against it is the after-show area where they are trying to sell cars... that I did not like. However it is very interesting and fun to become a 'test-track dummy'. No puns intended so please keep it to yourself. But seriously, I support this particular attraction. I don't think it's like driving in my car at all anyways, seeing as I usually do not drive through tests on my way to work or vacation.

Lou said...

I have to admit that we really enjoyed the 65 mph portion of Test Track, but only because it was fast and thrilling, not because it was even the least bit interesting.

In fact, the first 9/10ths of the ride was my wife and I talking about Soarin' and the great dinner we'd had at Marrakesh our first night in EPCOT, interrupted only by a quick "Hey, isn't that the guy from 'Best in Show'?".

I like cars. In fact, I love cars. But I don't work on them, I don't really know how they work and for the most part, I don't care how they're tested. I certainly don't want to be a part of that process.

I never got to experience the original. Pity. I think I'd really enjoy that one.

Greg said...

As I think about it, I suspect that Imagineering let GM dictate the show too much. Does anybody really care about the first 3/4 of the ride? We're all just waiting for the straightaway, right? The S-curves have the potential to be fun, but aren't. The brake-test portion is just jarring and unpleasant. If you ask people what the most exciting part of a car is, not many will say brakes. Theme park guests aren't interested in the brakes, but GM thinks GM customers are.

GM wanted to push the message that their cars are safe (brake-test), durable (hot/cold room), and exciting (straightaway). When we're shopping for a car we probably care about all three of those things, but when we're on vacation we're only interested in one. The ride should have focused on that one more throughout.

Ultimately, GM's agenda for the ride is shortsighted anyway. People can see through their obvious sales pitch. "Yeah, obviously GM wants us to think their cars are safe and reliable, but I'll do my own research into how they really stack up against the competition." Whereas the reaction to the excitement part is visceral. You experience and might be willing to believe it without comparison shopping. Besides which, 6-year-olds who ride the ride today won't remember a thing about the safety and reliability of GM vehicles years later when they're buying their first car. They'll just remember being inspired by the excitement and speed and think a GM is a pretty cool ride.