As automobile design becomes more prevalent in the mainstream, Disney is moving forward towards recreating an optimistic view of futuristic transportation and how these ideas are fostered. Set to open at Disney World December 6th, the new Test Track attraction gives new meaning to ‘Tomorrowland’ by letting kids (and their parents) design and test the cars of tomorrow.
A (short) History of Disney and Automobile Attractions
When the first Disneyland Park opened it’s gates in 1955, one of the most popular rides at the time was The Disneyland Autopia. The ride was defined as a ‘representation of the future of America’s multilane limited-access highways’…something we have now taken for granted as an everyday part of our lives. To put things into perspective, the Interstate Highways legislation was still a document sitting on President Eisenhower’s desk, waiting to be signed at the time the attraction opened.
The attraction, as well as the other attractions in Tomorrowland, were innovative and exciting for those able to experience them in 1955. As the decades came and went, the ‘futuristic’ side of Autopia started to lose it’s charm when ‘Tomorrowland’ literally became ‘today’s reality’. Over time, this became a constant refresh challenge as cars had to be constantly updated to stay ‘futuristic’, as opposed to history or fantasy rides such as Splash Mountain.
Eventually, Disney would re-engineer the track-car attraction concept into ‘bigger’, ‘longer’, and ‘faster’ iterations across the globe as the company opened additional parks. For example, The Grand Prix Raceway at the Magic Kingdom is based on an international car race rather than futuristic roadways, among others.
With the success of Autopia and the need to reinvigorate it’s position in the theme park market, Disney opened the Test Track attraction under the sponsorship of GM in 1999 at Disney World. Unlike the freewheelin’ vibe presented in previous track-car attractions, guests rode in ‘test vehicles’ in a re-imagined test facility that gave riders a glimpse of how auto design prototype testing is conducted. The attraction was best known for being one of the fastest Disney rides ever, with the ride ending in a speed-test that clocked in at 65 mph.
Inspired by the Disney-Pixar 2006 film Cars, Disney’s next car-related attraction came in the form of not just one attraction but an entire ‘Land’ within the California Adventure Park (located next to Disneyland in Anaheim) devoted to the automobile and it’s surrounding culture. Among the many shopping, dining, and ride attractions is the Radiator Springs Racers—-a randomized track-car ride similar to the prototype-oriented Test Track, however this time branded with Cars characters and storylines.
The New Test Track : From Prototype Tester to Designer
As the design process becomes more prevalent in today’s mainstream culture, it comes with little surprise that Disney would adopt the design process into a car attraction as their next car-based ride iteration:
“The re-imagined Test Track portrays an optimistic view of the future, and reflects the deep collaboration between Disney and Chevrolet on both the design and the overall experience……It’s a thrilling attraction supported by rich exhibit displays and interactive elements that bring guests directly into the design process – with a few surprises thrown in.”
-Eric Jacobson, senior vice president, Walt Disney Imagineering
The new and improved attraction is bound to have certain dads (and moms!) just as excited to don the Mouse Ears as little Johnny. While full details are not currently known, what is known is that prior to the ride attraction there will be a ‘design studio’ where guests will essentially design their own concept car.
While on the ride, the guests will be able to test their car designs through capability, efficiency, responsiveness, and power-based tests. Additionally, the designers will be able to test their designs against other designers and present themselves in a TV commercial with social media sharing abilities.
The ‘Design Software’ Interface
The interface of the design software appears to be similar to the tried-and-true car customizing features in modern day video games. I’ll give Disney a +1 if they can make this a holographic experience:
So what do you think? Will that overly-delayed ‘promise’ to your kids finally happen now? Or is this just a glorified video game experience?