At the end of day 2′s installment, I forgot to share photos of the Swan & Dolphin Christmas decorations. They have an interesting tree that I doubt many people bother going to see, so I figured I’d share it here.
I also want to thank you all for the feedback on poll for the next trip report. I think I might have prejudiced the result, but I’m pretty pleased (and surprised!) that Disneyland Paris won. Expect to see the first installment of that report next Monday. In the meantime, I am requesting more feedback on Facebook, this time requesting tips for visiting Walt Disney World with kids. I’ll be quoting some of you on the blog in that post, so make sure to choose your words wisely! Okay, on with the meat of this installment…
Being the last day of the trip, we knew we needed to get to Epcot again first thing if we wanted to experience Test Track. Sarah took our luggage to Bell Services while I snapped a few photos in the lobby.
From there, we headed to the International Gateway, arriving right as the turnstiles opened.
I want to preface this review with the disclaimer that we experienced no technical difficulties on our many rides that morning, but from what I understand, these difficulties are incredibly frequent. This is really too bad…
Over the years, I’ve learned to temper my expectations for any redo of an Epcot attraction. I’ve been disappointed time and time again, and have come to expect as fact that Disney no longer desires to build attractions fitting of the original EPCOT Center and its vision. I figured Test Track 2.0 would continue this trend, but on the upside, at least it wasn’t replacing anything special.
(Spoilers ahead.) I was blown away by the new Test Track. The entire first time we went through the attraction, I was simply marveling at the design aesthetic. The choices made, as pointed out by just about everyone, are reminiscent of Tron, mostly in terms of colors and grid-like lines. Since Tron itself is dated, I’m glad to see that the similarities are only on the design-motif level. This is not Tron-Track.
The aesthetic is really gorgeous and has much more fluidity than the feel of the original Test Track, which felt like going through an industrial warehouse where testing was actually occurring. In the mid-1990s. While I didn’t necessarily dislike the original Test Track, I was not a fan. It 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 very much unlike the original Future World pavilions.
With the new Test Track’s design, much of this elegance returned. More importantly, it is an attraction infused with a sense 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. 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.
Test Track 2.0 still is somewhat lacking in dimensional sets (something else characteristic of the original Future World), but complaints I had heard prior to the trip that it lacked content as compared to Test Track seemed way off to me. I found the original Test Track to be largely empty warehouse with a few set pieces here and there, and although the new Test Track still lacked fully fleshed out sets, it had much more of visual interest.
The big difference is that the visual interest in the new Test Track are actually things that are of interest. Whereas old Test Track had trash cans, cones, and various other items of clutter, Test Track 2.0 has less in the way of dimensional “stuff” and much more in the way of elements that are actually of interest. In a way, much of this is abstract, but there’s there’s also enough that’s real (my favorite being a city reminiscent of Progress City or perhaps Nova Cite) to tie the whole experience together as a sort of futuristic testing.
Here, much of the interest comes from screens and projections. Ah, screens. Normally, I consider these an enemy and far less engaging than physical sets. Not the case in Test Track 2.0 at all, where the futuristic test environment implicitly is part of a digital world. Not only that, but the screens don’t overpower, and they’re complimented nicely by actual physical props.
My only knock on Test Track 2.0 is that the outdoor speed test is unchanged from the original Test Track. This no longer fits the tone and mood of the attraction, and really should have been enclosed. Hopefully this is done in a future refurbishment.
Designing and testing the car also adds a lot to the experience, and creates an additional layer of engagement as you want your own car to beat the baseline. Guests seemed really into this element of the experience. It should go without saying, but your car doesn’t go any faster or slower based on your design parameters…the “results” along the way are shown as different, though.
When I got off Test Track after our first ride through, I literally had chills, and felt a bit of an emotional response to the ride. It reminded me of the glory days of EPCOT Center, and was something I immediately wanted to experience again. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this strong of a reaction to experiencing a Walt Disney World attraction for the first time.
Overall, Test Track 2.0 is exactly what I’d expect of an EPCOT Center Future World 2.0 (or in this case, 3.0) attraction, and that’s the highest praise I think I could have for the attraction. It’s futuristic, exciting, and makes learning about vehicle design and testing a lot of fun (from the start of the queue until the end of the post show). We found ourselves doing the attraction again and again (5 times in a row before the crowds started to catch up with us), and once things got busier, we found much of interest in the post-show area. I discovered something new on each subsequent ride through and wandering of the post show, and were it not for being crunched for time, I would have wanted to experience it several more times.
In a park where it seems like every redo of an original attraction has been decidedly worse than the original on an intellectual and imagination level, Test Track 2.0 excels. It’s still not perfect, but it’s as good as can possibly be expected as a successor to Test Track. I really hope General Motors sees a substantial return on its investment with Test Track 2.0, and Disney is able to use it as a case study to demonstrate to other potential sponsors the value of sponsorship. Think of the innovative companies that could show off their tech in as sponsors of a high quality Journey into Imagination! Imagine that post-show with a company that (unlike Kodak) is truly pushing the envelope!
Putting aside the whole technical issues bit, I’ve been surprised by much of the negative response to Test Track 2.0. I suspect your own reaction will likely hinge upon which version of Epcot you experienced first. If you knew and loved EPCOT Center of the 1980s until mid-1990s, I suspect you’ll love this new incarnation of Test Track. To me, it perfectly captured the spirit of these attractions, even if it did so in a manner of design that’s basically the antithesis of those attractions. If you didn’t visit until 2000 or so and consider the original Test Track a “classic,” you’re probably far less likely to share my views of the redo.
Test Track 2.0 isn’t as good as Radiator Springs Racers, but it is definitely a step in the right direction for Epcot. I hope that the frequent technical concerns that have popped up can be addressed, as I think many opinions have been tainted by these problems.
This post might as well have been titled “Test Track 2.0 Review,” as that’s the only exciting thing we did that partial day at Epcot…with one notable exception.
I received quite possibly the largest sandwich in the history of Sunshine Seasons. As I said on Instagram, it was a Festivus miracle! It’s hard to tell from the photos, but the thing is the size of my head.
I also substituted whatever funky vegetables normally come with the burger for the excellent mashed potatoes, making the miracle even more glorious. This meal more or less overshadowed the Test Track experience, but I don’t have a whole lot more to say here that hasn’t already been said. Sunshine Seasons is patently awesome, and I assume everyone reading this blog already knows that so I won’t belabor the point. After Sunshine Seasons, we did Living with the Land, per tradition.
After lunch, we only had time to do a few more things. Obviously Spaceship Earth was top priority, and I put the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 I borrowed from Kingdom Camera Rentals through its paces there. Overall, this lens was incredibly impressive, and the 35mm focal length is a great focal length for a prime lens to use at Walt Disney World. It’s wide for dark rides and scene-oriented portraits, and can even work for landscapes or fireworks photos. The f/1.4 aperture is great for subject separation, and the out of focus area quality is superb. It’s not a lens I can see myself buying anytime soon (too expensive), but to play around with on trips, it’s absolutely great.
Next stop was FountainView, where we stopped for some Christmas ice cream. We really struck out with the seasonal options here in 2011, but this year, they were glorious. Was really pleased with everything we had dessert-wise this trip.
I wanted to test the Nikon 35mm lens in Maelstrom, so we headed to the World Showcase. Maelstrom is in awful shape, but it’s still good, campy fun. I just really hope it receives some TLC soon, as it’s embarrassingly bad in some parts.
From there, we wandered World Showcase waiting for the next showing of Impressions de France. It was glorious as always, and was a great reminder of our Europe trip, but also a great reminder of just how little of France we actually saw. How much of the world we have not seen is both saddening and exciting: much like books or films, I know we’ll never be able to see/read/watch everything I’d like. At the same time, it’s exciting knowing that there’s always something out there that is new to us and exciting.
After Impressions de France, we walked back to Boardwalk, returned our borrowed camera equipment, and waited for the Disney’s Magical Express bus. It was a short trip, but we sure crammed in a lot to those ~2 days!
For full size versions of some of the photos in this trip report installment, check out the last few pages of our Disney Photo Galleries.
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