Recently, Epcot’s Test Track attraction reopened after a lengthy overhaul that saw a complete facelift of the attraction’s aesthetic. Gone are the old preshow, plot, and postshow area; gone are the Belgian blocks and the silly “tests” and the heat, cold and corrosion rooms. While the ride system and the actual ride profile itself remain the same, the entire show space has been overlaid with a sleek, TRON-esque feel replete with blue neon and special effects. There’s even wall carpet in the queue!
The conceit of the re-done attraction is that you design your own virtual vehicle in the pre-show area, and during the attraction your results are measured against the performance of your virtual car. After the ride there are other opportunities to interact with your custom-designed vehicle, whether through interactive games or photo opportunities. Although the ride itself is, unfortunately, still “Test Track”, there’s no doubt that the changes are a massive improvement and, at the very least, make the ride pleasant to look at. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the old ride and the new:
But of course all these events have made me turn my thoughts to Epcot Center’s original transportation pavilion, World of Motion. This Audio-Animatronic dark ride spectacular operated in Future World from 1982 to 1996 and informed a generation that it was “fun to be free”. It’s a good time, then, to go back and take a look at this classic show.
We’ve spoken before about the promotional videos that World of Motion visitors could obtain, via free mail-order, from General Motors. You might still be having night terrors from this particularly bizarre version. Mercifully, most of the General Motors promo videos weren’t quite as disturbing, and many of them provide a nice little time capsule of what Walt Disney World used to be like.
Here’s one from 1989 – “Make Your Own Magic”. It’s an overview of the three Walt Disney World parks with a focus on Epcot Center and – especially – World of Motion. There’s actually quite a bit of fun footage in this of things that are rarely seen in old promo films and, of course, nowhere to be seen today.
First of all, I think we can all agree Robert Stempel is a total rockstar.
Aside from the general “I miss all of those things” impulse, there are a number of very neat, odd little tidbits that are included in these park overviews that no longer exist. There’s a brief clip of Dick Tracy’s Diamond Double-Cross, a short lived stage show at the Disney-MGM Studios. There’s a few clips – and a picture of the marquee – of Here Come The Muppets!, a… short lived stage show at the Disney-MGM Studios. There are snippets of the Disney Afternoon stage show – featuring DuckTales and TaleSpin! – from the now-defunct Mickey’s Starland. There’s footage of Starland showing just how different it was from its successor, Mickey’s Toontown Fair, and you can see the false-front buildings of Duckburg as well as the leaping fountains featured in its hedgemaze. There’s even a lovingly over-long gaze at Delta’s Dreamflight in Tomorrowland!
At Epcot Center there are, of course, all the attractions we love and miss. There are lots of good shots of the World Showcase Omnibuses, as well as a peek at France’s Au Petit Cafe before it was consumed by the Chefs de France expansion. And there are all the wonders of the TransCenter – The Bird and the Robot, the Aero 2000, and the wonderful Lean Machine. It’s thirty years later, and I still desperately want a Lean Machine.
And, of course, with so many videos of this vintage, there are amazing guest testimonials. Why did there always have to be an awkward kid they forced to sing It’s a Small World? Props to the guy with the UNC ballcap, though. Unfiltered truth!
So the next time you’re peeling through Test Track in your SimCar(TM), take a moment to remember the animatronic traffic jams of yore, the speedtunnels now lost, the dulcet tones of Gary Owens that fall on deaf ears, and the stirring sight of the Centercore. And GM, I’m still waiting to make a deposit on a Lean Machine.