Epcot’s Test Track attraction is now closed for refurbishment until this fall 2012. To help fill the void of the popular attraction, Disney has added an A cappella group that is performing multiple times daily outside the construction walls. [Read more…]
Say your last goodbye to Little Red. Today the Disney Parks Blog announced some changes are coming to the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Starting this spring, Disney Imagineers will begin the removal of some of the end show elements, including the Audio-Animatronic elephant known as Little Red, to make room for more live animals. [Read more…]
Disney and General Motors have renewed a multi-year agreement and will be reimagining the Test Track attraction at Epcot. After a refurbishment, this fall guests will design custom Chevrolet vehicles and test out their design on the test track.
As part of the redesign, the focus of the attraction will be on Chevy and on the design portion of auto manufacturing. The testing theme will be changed to the “Chevrolet Design Center at Epcot.” The queue area is expected to include music, media, dramatic lighting and Chevrolet concept cars and model vehicles.
The attraction is expected to become more interactive with guests designing their custom concept vehicle at interactive stations, then they’ll board their six-person “SimCar” vehicle as the ride begins, going onto the Test Track course. In the post ride area, guests will be able to see how well their design scored on the test track. The latest Chevrolet cars will still be on display as well.
The current Test Track attraction will close in April and will reopen sometime this fall with the new changes.
The Sheraton Safari Hotel and Suites near Downtown Disney has been sold and the new owners are planning a $25 million redevelopment project that should be completed by spring 2012. [Read more…]
Upon hearing of Space Mountain soft opening to guests yesterday after a seven-month refurbishment, I rushed over to the Magic Kingdom only to be denied a ride as the roller coaster was shut down for further maintenance and testing.
I returned to the Magic Kingdom today at around 1 p.m. to find Space Mountain once again open for testing with guests. Around twenty minutes later, I finally had a chance to board a vehicle and blast off into space once again. The verdict on the update? The same classic ride experience, but better.
Before I elaborate, let me share a full POV (point-of-view) ride video from the back seat. I’ll warn you now that the majority of this video is nearly pitch black, as the star field projections along the ceiling are too dark for my camera to pick up while zooming by. However, you do catch a great view of the updated launch and reentry tunnels as well as the on-ride photo preview and purchase areas after the ride. Plus the ride portion of the video features binaural audio, so put on your headphones to enjoy it the most.
Other than the overhauled queue, load area, and post-show scenes that I posted video and photos of yesterday, the ride itself is largely the same as it has been for many years. The single-row seating configuration remains the same in the ride vehicles and the seats feel the same as I remember them. The paint scheme on the vehicles is updated with a shiny metallic blue color for the main body and grey replacing the former glow-in-the-dark stripes along the sides.
The launch tunnel features the same blue flashing lights but with all-new sound effects. At the end of the launch tunnel is one of the only major differences during the ride. Just before the sudden U-turn toward the lift hill, a multi-colored star field of sorts appears straight head (it’s slightly visible if you watch closely in the video above). Just as the car takes the hard turn, the on-ride ride photo is taken. It’s an odd place for a photo as the ride hasn’t really started yet at that point, so the resulting photo is less “I’m having fun on a roller coaster” and more “What was that bright flash?”.
Photo preview area just after getting off the ride
The area surrounding the lift hill, like everything else, is improved but basically the same. Everything looks better, with more colored lights along the walls and up and down the spaceship in the center and the upside-down astronauts are new and look modern, not decades old.
Once you reach the top of the hill and begin the ride, it’s the same Space Mountain you remember, but darker. Projections along the ceiling and walls are crisp and brighter but are mainly the same swirling cosmos and shooting stars – nothing new. Throughout the ride, the track is practically invisible due to the lowered light level, presumably as a result of enclosing the load areas. I didn’t notice any difference in the track itself. The layout was the same as I remembered and it was no more or less shaky than before the refurbishment. Some have reported that the ride is a little smoother now. I didn’t think so, but I have a high tolerance for rocky rides. The near-total darkness did enhance the thrill level a bit.
On this second day of guest testing, the Space Mountain arcade and gift shop has now reopened as well. In the center is the photo purchase area with Disney’s usual prices of $18+ for each print. I noticed one retro-style Space Mountain shirt but no any other new merchandise related to the ride.
In the end, Space Mountain is still the same classic attraction you’ve ridden your whole life, but now it has been brought into the 21st century. The average guest will likely notice the changes to the queue and load area (especially the new inability to see the actual ride above) but not on the ride itself. However, most visitors will be happy to be able to once again experience world’s first Space Mountain just as they remember it.
Space Mountain officially reopens on Nov. 22. It is likely to open for guest testing in daily soft openings between now and then, though it may only remain open each day for an hour or two. For a look at the newly-updated queue and post-show scenes, read my post from yesterday’s first soft opening. We also have new photos from today’s trip through Space Mountain added to our photo gallery.