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Test Track Rehab-First Impression…

December 10, 2012
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After much time, the long anticipated opening of the refurbished “Test Track” is finally here. Originally presented by General Motors, it is now sponsored by another GM division, Chevrolet. GM wanted the new ride experience to spotlight on one brand.  When you first arrive, the outside looks very much like the Test Track we all are familiar with. The only big difference is the monikers outside proclaiming the new sponsor.

But as soon as you enter the attraction, you will immediately notice the changes. Gone is the familiar queue line, replaced by an ultra-modern and sleek showroom, which showcases an ultra-modern Chevrolet future car. Neon lighting abounds as single rider, standby and fast pass line riders pick up a white “Sim” card (RFID) and pass kiosks at the “Chevrolet Design Studio” where they place the Sim cards against a sensor and the guest can design a car with different parameters to be tested against the track to be driven. The track is now called the “Sim” track. You even get to choose from different futuristic body styles so you can identify your car at the end of the test. Your vehicle is tested against four criteria… capability, efficiency, responsiveness, and power. The loading area again is completely different. Gone are the tools, tires and other automotive paraphernalia. It is futuristic and streamlined. At each gate, you place the Sim card with your personal design against the sensor, board the car and off you go. Even the ride vehicles are re-themed, with new paint and graphics.

 Now about the attraction itself…The track course is the same, but every show scene from the original is gone, or dressed up in a different way. The most recognizable scenes (At least for veteran Test Trackers) will be the three testing rooms, Corrosion, Heat and Cold and the one original prop still in use, but most definitely re-dressed is the tractor-trailer. Remember the one you almost hit just before the final run? It is outlined in bright blue and green neon, as is almost every scene here. For me it is like riding through the movie “Tron”, just very surreal and futuristic. The scenes also utilize the black light effect to a great degree. After the seat belt check (That has not changed!) you enter the former “Hill Climb” which is bordered on both sides by colorful moving graphics. As you begin, you will notice that although the ride track is the same, there are no familiar “landmarks” so to speak to go by. In the former attraction, all the tests were announced, as in the new, but it seems to me at least, most of the show scenery appears the same, just melding from one area to the next. But what a job the Imagineers did with the effects. The video scenes bordering many sections are remarkable, and the black light effects on the trees, rocks and even the tractor-trailer are eye catching. There are green and blue hued lines bordering the track and brilliant colored grid lines all throughout. Along the way, video graphic depictions of your ride vehicle can be seen.

It’s astounding how the Imagineers re-imagined the show scenes along the familiar route, and the countless times I have rode this attraction, I had somewhat of a difficult time cross-referencing from the former route. That is why even with the same track it is a totally difference experience and ride.

After you are almost creamed by the tractor, you continue on to the last section, the over 60mph ride over the test course. It’s just as exhilarating as you remember. Gone also is the thermal camera at the end. Exiting the vehicles, you come to the new area to view your Test Track photos. It’s when you leave the photo area that you see the added goodies for this attraction…You enter a room with a huge screen on the right, with “What’s your Score” overhead. With a video display of the track and the four criteria goals displayed, you hold your Sim card against the sensor and your vehicle (The body style you selected) appears with the statistics of how well it did against the ride vehicle, and its final score.

From there, you enter a domed room with surrounding video screens, where you again swipe the Sim card, pick out a course, music, vehicle etc. and the computer will create a quick (about 15 seconds) video of your car on the track you chosen. You can then upload this to a friend via social media. The next area is really nifty. Like the old car race sets you had as a kid, there are several virtual tracks, complete with steering wheels and throttles. (Very similar to the radio controlled boats in the Jungle Cruise). Again, swipe the Sim card, your vehicle appears and you can race it along with other guests, crashing and getting back on the track. Amazing!

There is of course the Chevrolet Showroom, aping the GM showroom of old. All of the latest and greatest vehicles are showcased…You can even talk to a Cast Member about seeing a particular vehicle you are interested in. There are also several booths where you can get pictures taken against different backdrops and scenes and send them home. All work off that Sim card! And last but not least, don’t forget the customary gift shop at the end. This is of course festooned with everything Chevrolet. One thing. I never got a chance to wait in the stand-by line.  By 9:30am, the line was over an hour long, even the fast pass line was snaking out of the building. But single rider was practically empty. I rode seven times today, never waiting more than a few minutes. But by 12:30pm, that ended! Single rider was at the doorway.

All in all, I think the Imagineers did an amazing makeover of this popular attraction. I spoke to several Cast Members who said the majority of the guests love it. There were few negatives. Remember when Pirates and the Haunted Mansion were due for a slight rehab? Remember the panic that ensued from the Die-hard fans of Disney’s “Classic” attractions? The purists were worried that the flavor of a classic Walt Disney attraction might be ruined. But the Imagineers proved them wrong; if anything they enhanced the experience. Walt would have been proud. Walt always looked for new and better experiences for his guests, and never intended for his park to be a museum.

Since the attraction just opened, get your fast passes! Stand-by was over an hour long all day. It’s worth the wait and the post show activities are an attraction in themselves.

 

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