First and foremost, this will be a spoiler-filled post. Do not read if you want to be surprised. Second, I have no pictures to share with you. Mostly because I wasn’t thinking of making a blog post when some CM friends were able to get us in to experience the attraction. (But also because I suck at taking pictures, and there are thousands of sites out there that already have photo- and video-captured the entire experience). This will simply be my personal review and opinions of the new Test Track.
As I said, a pair of CM friends were able to get a group of us entry into the newly re-opened Test Track on Sunday night, 2012-12-02, during CM previews. My overall summary and opinion of the ride is that I enjoyed every single aspect of it better than I did on the original. I consider the attraction’s refurb a huge success. We rode 4 times in a row, and I honestly wouldn’t have minded a fifth – we stopped only because we wanted to see the Christmas tag on IllumiNations.
The first thing you see upon entering the building is that the queue was completely gutted and remade. Absolutely no trace of the original theme remains. No longer are you walking through a mechanic shop where various automotive components are being manufactured and tested. Instead, the new theme is about the concept and design of a car, rather than the physical creation of one. Throughout the queue you will see and hear people talk about their ideas for a car’s design, what they want the car to be able to do, what they’re looking for from a new design. The first big display is what my CM friend described as a “Segway Car”. It is an automobile on two wheels that looks for all the world like a bulky Segway, big enough for two occupants, who are seated but almost vertical. It looks cool and I’ll be very curious to see if something like that actually makes it to the market eventually.
As this was a CM Preview, it was to be expected that not everything is complete yet. And indeed, in that same room as the Segway car, there are two display cases that are currently completely empty. No idea what will eventually go into them.
Around one corner is a very cool display in which a physical car-shaped object is placed under a series of projectors that seem to take advantage of the Magic, Memories, And You technology. The projectors combine to transform the car template into various designs and sketches, just like MM&Y transformed Cinderella Castle. It’s all completely seamless and creates a fantastic effect. It’s great seeing them put to use technology developed for other attractions.
Before you line up for the pre-show area, there are a series of four interactive screens that let you modify the design of a car, dragging your finger along one point of a vehicle to redraw its shape. This is to get you prepared for what you’ll be doing in the pre-show design phase in a few moments. It’s a great idea, in my opinion, both because it provides a bit of interactivity while you’re standing in line, and at the same time serves as a tutorial for the timed design phase.
A CM then lines you up to go into the design phase pre-show. Each person can choose to create their own design, or you can design a car in pairs or a group of 3. Each designer (or group) is given an RFID-enabled card and asked to stand on a colored numbered spot. When the doors open, you go to the design station matching your colored number. From here, you have a touch screen similar to the tutorial screens I mentioned earlier. You have a fantastically wide range of options available. Starting with the overall shape of the car you want to build. After you draw the top of the car using your finger, the computer optimizes it to the closest available pre-programmed shape. Then you get to start customizing. You can move several different points on the shape to other places on the design. The interface is similar to Sum of All Thrills, in which you are moving different points in order to reshape the design. Each time you redraw the car in this manner, the four values at the top of the screen will change. Those values are Power, Efficiency, Capability, and Responsiveness. Once you’re satisfied with the shape, you can move on to other facets of the design, including length, width, face shape, paint and graphics, wheel type and size, and accessories. Again each of these facets will modify the four values. You can try to create a car that balances them out, or you can create a car that is so completely lopsided that you can’t imagine it would ever actually be built. Want a car that’s solar powered, runs insanely inefficiently, but can’t do squat as far as capability? Go for it. Want one that’s so power-hungry and capable that it will probably destroy the ozone as soon as you turn the key? You can do that too. I was seriously impressed with the variety of options available. Much much better than I was expecting. Each phase of the design has a time limit. Once the timer is up, the doors to the next part of the queue open and you get ready to ride.
When you line up to board your ride vehicle, you will see six RFID scanners. Each designer (or group) taps their RFID card to one of the scanners, and the car you just designed is “uploaded”. Because you can design individually or in groups of 2 or 3, you might have anywhere from 2 to 6 designs in one vehicle. This is the part where some people are going to be disappointed. Disney’s language during the construction of this new version of Test Track implied that the design we made would change the ride experience. It doesn’t. We knew it couldn’t, it’s not possible given that there are multiple designs per car. Instead what happens is that after each sequence in the course, each measuring one of those four values, each person/group’s design is displayed on a screen on the course, along with a score and ranking for that value. The actual on-ride experience is the same for everyone. And that’s perfectly fine with me. I’m just disappointed at Disney’s deceiving language and refusal to explain when we asked the natural questions. Once you get past that deception and take the experience for what it is, it’s a great great job on their part.
The actual layout of the course and track has not changed at all since Version 1. The interior sets/designs/props/theming, however, are 100% different. Not a trace of any of the old stuff. Gone are the blocks, the heat/cooling/acid chambers, the ABS test, the “barrier test”, etc. Instead, we go through different tests to determine how the simcar and our designs stack up in each of those four values (Power, Efficiency, Capability, Responsiveness). The graphics and props are about 20x better and more interesting than anything in the old version.
The last of the four qualities to be tested, of course, is Power, and here is when you will exit the building and go out for the high speed loop. Of note is that the camera has moved to a second or two after you exit the building, rather than right before the “barrier test”. This means you’ll get a picture of yourselves actually enjoying the ride, rather than pics of you looking confused or expectant or fearful of hitting the barrier.
Once the power test is over, you see your designs’ final score for that value, and then get out of the car. But the attraction is not over. Not by a long shot. Now you enter the first of several post show rooms. You scan your RFID card again, and see the score your design got for each of the four values, along with an overall score, and a “trophy” for your best value’s score. It also lists the 10 best designs that day in each value.
The next room allows you to again scan your RFID card and this time create a “commercial” for your design. Your design is used, and you get to choose from among many different options for the setting, narrator, music, value to emphasize, etc. Again, I am very impressed at the customizability of the entire attraction. This commercial thing is fun and cute to do a couple times, but I imagine eventually most people will skip this room.
The next room on the other hand, whoa boy. Here there are 3 or four different stations set up as a virtual R/C Race course. They were all closed off during our CM preview, but we can see what the idea will be. We’ll scan our cards and be able to race our designs against other guests’s, using an actual steering wheel (and shift? Can’t remember). The course looks like it’s created entirely by that same MM&Y projection technology, which means it too might be endlessly customizable. I predict very long waits in this area. In fact, also in this area is a smaller bank of design stations, for people who couldn’t or didn’t want to design their own car on the actual attraction – they can design one now and participate in the R/C race.
The final post-show room is one part Chevy showroom, one part custom photo department. There are four or five different photo sets to choose from, each with their own customizing options. For example, one has a large “planet”, a vehicle, and a space-themed backdrop. On the touch screen, you can choose the look of the planet, what is happening in the background (space invaders, starship battle, etc), and other aspects of your backdrop. When the group ahead of you is done, you scan your card, then take your positions in the scenery. The camera is in front of you, along with a screen showing your picture as it will appear. The camera takes three pictures, in 15 second intervals, and then sends them via email to the address you provided when you were customizing this backdrop. This is all very cool, excellent use of technology. Someone in our group remarked that these are the first things he’s seen that will make him actually use those “send a picture home” devices, since mobile phones and digital cameras came into prevalence. Finally, you return your RFID card and exit through (of course) a gift shop.
I should point out that we did encounter a couple problems with the attraction during the previews. I’m optimistic and hopeful that they are the result of it being a “preview” and thus will be repaired in time for grand opening on Dec 6. First was that there were multiple problems getting our designs synced to the on-ride experience. Sometimes our car didn’t upload at all, sometimes it said that it did, but the results displayed on the course didn’t include any of our group’s designs. It did work some of the time, however. So again, I’m hopeful that it can be easily addressed and repaired. The other problem was that on the 2nd or 3rd (out of 4) rides, our vehicle stopped just after the Responsiveness test. We were at a standstill for 2 or 3 minutes. The ride then resumed its normal course, however, and we didn’t “miss” anything or have to drive slowly through the rest of the course. Again, as far as I’m concerned, these are the results of pre-opening bugs and I have optimism that the imagineers will get them worked out soon.
I seriously have to say I was completely impressed by this entire experience. From the queue, to the design preshow, to the on-ride experience, to the series of post-shows, the whole thing is a gigantic home run for me. Members of my group agreed that this redesign now makes Test Track the major headliner at Epcot, with Soarin’ taking a back seat and playing second fiddle. I expect waits to be insane in the extreme once the popularity of this ride becomes known, and honestly, they just might be worth it.
Test Track went into soft openings today, 2012-12-03, with the grand opening scheduled for Thursday the 6th. If you’re in or around Orlando any time soon, make sure to put Test Track onto your Must-Do list.