Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Semi-Informed Test Track 2.0 Assessment

As I write this the new Test Track at EPCOT is in soft openings, and lots of fans and professional blogger types have seen it. I would love to give you a firsthand account of the newly-refurbished pavilion, but unfortunately that’s going to have to wait until the next time I make it to Disney World (which at this point looks like it’ll be no earlier than the first half of 2014)

Fortunately for people like me, there’s always the Internet, and there are quite a few videos out there that give a nice overview of the entire Test Track 2.0 experience. Here’s one of them:

Obviously a video is no substitute for being there, so what I have to offer here is really just a semi-informed opinion. I’m sure it’ll evolve after I’ve actually visited the pavilion a few times.

If you’ve ever read this blog before then you know that I’m a hardcore original EPCOT Center man. If people ask me when the best time to visit EPCOT is, I tell them 1989. I absolutely deplore how the park has been cheapened and dumbed-down over the past 18 years. In fact, a big reason why I haven’t written a lot about EPCOT lately is because I haven’t really felt like going there. It had honestly gotten to the point where the park’s offerings weren’t worth the price of admission to me.

Does the new and improved Test Track erase all my misgivings about the horrible way Orlando’s executive leadership runs the place? Not at all. But for the first time since the Spaceship Earth rehab in 2007, there’s actually something new at EPCOT that I want to see.

Now, I’ve heard folks online claim that Test Track’s redo, while certainly a step in the right direction, is not quite worthy of EPCOT Center. Some of them even complain about the use of the old World of Motion logo here and there, saying that it’s just there to mollify the fanboys and make them overlook any problems the pavilion may have. Now, those folks are certainly entitled to their opinions, but I believe that the new Test Track is pretty much exactly what a 21st century EPCOT Center pavilion would look like if the Florida property had enjoyed the benefit of competent executive leadership these past twenty years.

Believe me, no one loved the old EPCOT Center more than me. But the fact is that all the stuff I loved, the Omnimover rides, the futurism, and the hopeful and thought-provoking shows and attractions, simply does not play well with the average parkgoer. The sad truth is that we do not live in a world where most people are eager to have their thoughts provoked and their horizons expanded. We live in a world with Kardashians in it. People who go to Disney World want to go on rides that feature licensed Disney characters, thrills, or dumb humor. And then they want to stand in line to meet Mickey Mouse.

What the people responsible for Test Track 2.0 look to have done is give us something that will simultaneously appeal to the small number of EPCOT Center-loving futurists like me and the dumbed-down, Kardashian-watching thrill-seekers that comprise the majority of your average theme park audience. It’s a compromise they would have had to make even in a perfect world where the purpose of EPCOT Center was never forgotten.

Yes, there are little issues here and there. The exterior loop stands out even more as a horrible design choice now. But the cost of enclosing it would likely have pushed the refurbishment’s price tag above what GM was willing to pay, and we all know that the Disney’s executives were far too busy dumping truckloads of money down the NextGen Black Hole to pay for it themselves. And while I hope that GM’s sponsorship money will guarantee a higher standard of maintenance than we see just about everywhere else on property, most of the people I know do not seem to be optimistic about that. They envision that the pavilion will be a wasteland of dead touchscreens and broken effects in a few months. But there’s no use complaining about that unless it happens, right?

Final sum-up, at least for now: the new Test Track looks good. It’s a real EPCOT Center attraction. Or the closest thing to it that modern audiences will tolerate. And it even managed to give us that TRON aesthetic I’ve been yearning to see in Future World since I first saw TRON:Legacy.

All is not well in EPCOT yet. But it’s better than it once was.


  1. I haven't watched any of the videos of the new Test Track yet, but I did have the "joy" of reading back and forth tweets between many about why it was good and why it was bad.

    If anything: The sad truth is that we do not live in a world where most people are eager to have their thoughts provoked and their horizons expanded.

    This is so true. I see it so much. In life, in books, in general and it does drive me much. Although, I would like more of THAT and still meet Mickey Mouse at the end of the day. Because I do love Mickey. (Although I will meet him in a space outfit in Epcot, or just in Magic Kingdom... either is fine with me.)

    Over the past year, I've just grown to enjoy your writing even more. Even if we don't agree, you are so level headed and know how to express yourself.

    Thanks again for making this a great reading experience.

  2. I watched one of the videos and was pleasantly surprised by how good Test Track looks. There's definitely an old EPCOT feeling with the futuristic approach to the entire interior. I agree that the outside seems odd compared to the rest of the ride, but it's understandable to give casual visitors a thrill. I really hope it doesn't fall prey to broken screens due to the lack of enough dollars to keep it up to date. That park really needs some high-tech rides that don't feel dated and out of place.

    I haven't commented before, so I wanted to quickly say that I'm with you on yearning for EPCOT in the late '80s (or early '90s at the latest). I fell in love with the place as a kid in the mid- to late-'80s, so it's always going to be the preferred time frame. However, I don't feel that it's just nostalgia that drives my preference. The new EPCOT is still stunning to walk around at night, but the attractions definitely aren't what they once were. I'm hoping this Test Track refurb is just the start of a new focus on Future World and making it closer to its past glory. Imagination and Energy need help!


Thanks for taking the time to comment!