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Epcot's Test Track in trouble?

By Robert Niles
Published: March 3, 2009 at 8:00 PM
This was inevitable, given the current state of the economy, but Jason Garcia makes it official with his report that GM is looking to end its sponsorship of the Test Track attraction at Walt Disney World's Epcot.

GM's in deep doo, asking the federal government for billions in bail-out money, while staying just steps away from bankruptcy. With millions of Americans now without bubble-money home equity loans to pay for cars, GM's market has dried up. Throw in a recession depression, and GM's barely gonna have enough cash for one of those little tree-shaped air fresheners, much less a multi-million-dollar theme park sponsorship.

Even if GM gets enough cash from the feds, it'll have a hard time justifying a theme park deal. After all, the money would be to bail out GM, not Disney. Other companies that took federal cash have been excoriated for spending that money, even in part, on sponsorships. Northern Trust just got excoriated in the press and on Capitol Hill for sponsoring a PGA tournament in LA last month. Chrysler opted to bury all references to itself during the tournament in Palm Springs it sponsored a few weeks before that.

But without GM, what does Test Track look like? The entire theme is bound to GM, not to mention the pre- and post-shows. Perhaps if another car maker stepped forward... but there aren't exactly many (okay, any) with extra cash to spend these days.

Readers' Opinions

From Ryan Sanford on March 3, 2009 at 8:25 PM
Thats really sad. I hope it stays and they figure it out.
If not, maybe Cars from Pixar is an option? I'd actually rather them use that theme on the speedway at MK though.
From James Rao on March 3, 2009 at 8:26 PM
Key item from the story: "Theme-park analysts also say they are certain Test Track would continue operating even if GM pulled out, as the ride's capacity is vital to managing park crowds."

That's all I care about. I like Test Track. I think it is a fun attraction, and a singular experience - something hard to find at most parks. I would hate to see it close down.

Who sponsors the ride is somewhat irrelevant to me, but keeping the attraction up and running is vital.

Besides, I sorta like the sound (and alliteration) of "Toyota Test Track."

From Vincent S on March 3, 2009 at 8:36 PM
Im not shocked by this. In fact last time I was at Epcot 2 months ago, I said to myself since GM was in trouble what would happen if GM went under? If GM ends the Disney deal, that means Disney would have to shut down the ride and revamp it for a few months.
From Robert Niles on March 3, 2009 at 8:38 PM
Epcot history shows that expensive rides without sponsors don't get the same level of upkeep and attention as they did when they carried a sponsor.
From Dan Babbitt on March 3, 2009 at 8:44 PM
They will keep the attraction if they lose the sponsorship! Or if anything change it to Nissan, Toyata or someone thats doing better. They can also get a tire company to sponsor the attraction because of how many tires they go through a year or for that matter a year! So somebody will jump in sooner or later!

But its one of the premier attractions at the park and they have a long relationship with GM so I'm sure they will they will work something out to keep it open!

From Anthony Murphy on March 3, 2009 at 9:05 PM
Not a suprise. I am pretty sure that it will survive well. They will need to fix the postshow though with the cars and stuff. Still, unless GM completly disappears,I do not think they will pull out. Its basically a free ad for them in EPCOT.You have to walk through the post show anyway!
From Robert Niles on March 3, 2009 at 9:40 PM
I don't think that everyone gets the gravity of this situation. It is very possible that GM will cease to exist as a private entity, within the next few months. It, simply, will not have a choice about remaining at Disney. They're done.

Disney World is freaking out about capital expenditures right now, not approving *anything*. Take several million out of its budget from sponsorship losses, and the situation becomes more grim.

Unsponsored attractions without a Disney franchise theme go to the bottom of the priority list for rehabs, promotion and staffing. Without GM, and without another automotive sponsor, Test Track may hang on for a few years. But its days are numbered.

From Anthony Murphy on March 3, 2009 at 11:20 PM
I doubt its finished though especially since its EPCOTs thrill ride.


Here are some attractions from the top of my head that lost sponsorship:

Space Mountain
Its a Small World
Carosel of Progress


I guess I am on the positives here!

From Raymond Sydowski on March 3, 2009 at 11:57 PM
Last time I checked, the Carousel of Progress wasn't open at all times of the year, and its' interior had seen better days.

Of course, it's been at least two years since I rode it, so perhaps I'm behind the times on that one.

I think Disney will weather this one, but it's going to go leaner than most of us would like.

From Don Neal on March 4, 2009 at 6:41 AM
I am sure some other automotive manufacturer or supplier (ie tire company) will jump on this. Awesome opportunity for marketing and take another shot at the US automakers that are struggling. And they'll probably get a whale of a deal with Disney looking for capital.

The KIA Test Track is on it's way! LOL

From Derek Potter on March 4, 2009 at 7:41 AM
The only real solution is to try and find another sponsor. All of the auto makers are taking a hit right now, it's just to what extent. I could see a Honda or Toyota coming in to take over sponsorship.

They could probably keep it going if they wanted to without a sponsor, but that costs alot of money, something that Disney isn't in the mood to spend these days. IMHO, the ride is tired anyway, and I wasn't impressed that much with it. I'm thinking it's time to go to the drawing board and get some fresh ideas. If they lose the sponsorship, I say keep it afloat for a while, but if they can't find another company, it's time for an overhaul.

From Anthony Murphy on March 4, 2009 at 8:58 AM
See, I do not want to see this go because it seems to me to be one of the few educational thrill rides out there!
From Joshua Counsil on March 5, 2009 at 9:19 AM
Good riddance. A mediocre company and a mediocre ride. The only reason I like having it around is because it swallows the crowds so that the worthwhile rides are emptier.

Though I do like the sound of, and would have much more respect for, a Toyota Test Track, James.

From David Graham on March 4, 2009 at 6:03 PM
Ok, going way out there, since ALL the car companies are struggling, why not a joint partnership, like an auto show. I'm sure all the car companies have some similar testing process, so not to much would really have to change other than adding the other company names in there and at post show with their cars too. GM can keep their cars there to advertise, and payless for sponsorship, and other companies get a shot at people seeing their cars close up. Not sure on the name though, Test Track Auto Show?
From Dan Babbitt on March 4, 2009 at 9:11 PM
If Toyota does take it over then we have the 4 T's.

ToT........Tower of Terror
TTC........Transportation and Ticket Center
TTA........Tomarrowland Transit Authority
TTT........Toyota Test Track

Any else?

From Robert Niles on March 4, 2009 at 9:24 PM
You really needed to close that post with a TTFN, Dan. ;-)
From Corey Romberg on March 4, 2009 at 9:35 PM
TT- Turtle Talk
From TH Creative on March 5, 2009 at 4:38 AM
I have to say I think the words "freaking out" might be a bit of a hyperbole.

Do we have a source that indicates exactly how much the GM sponsorship is worth?

From TH Creative on March 5, 2009 at 4:40 AM
And Ryan, your idea of re-theming the attraction for 'Cars' is outstanding. The Grand Prix raceway in the Magic Kingdom should have been demolished years ago.
From 68.16.153.226 on March 5, 2009 at 12:58 PM
EPCOT doesnt need any more pixar branding on ANY of its attractions. No im not a pixar hater, they make great films, but there is a place for everything in WDW and EPCOT nor Tomorrowland is the place for Cars...if it goes anywhere, put it in the Studios...after all this is a park dedicated to the movies, it only fits...this all of course in my opinion.
From Nate Mitchell on March 5, 2009 at 12:59 PM
EPCOT doesnt need any more pixar branding on ANY of its attractions. No im not a pixar hater, they make great films, but there is a place for everything in WDW and EPCOT nor Tomorrowland is the place for Cars...if it goes anywhere, put it in the Studios...after all this is a park dedicated to the movies, it only fits...this all of course in my opinion.
From Tim W on March 5, 2009 at 3:19 PM
It could never close just because of a loss of a sponser. its the second biggest ride at epcot and signified the great changes for epcot when it first opened. Its a fun ride and i think epcot might lose even more audience then. imagine the wait for soarin with no test track. honestly they could expect over 3 hour waits then since they dont have people flocking over to test track. it should remain open and that said there should also be at least 2 coasters open to counter the massive crowds of test track and soarin
From 98.140.236.37 on March 6, 2009 at 3:18 AM
Re: TH Creative's comment

I don't agree. That attraction has it's place. For we jaded thrill ride people, it's a waste of space, but for the family of 5 with the 4 year old who wants to be a big boy and drive like daddy does... They'll get a lot more fun out of that than another Mountain.

From Larry Zimmerman on March 6, 2009 at 2:41 PM
Maybe they could upgrade it to "Journey to Imagination with Dreamfinder and Figment Test Track"...?
From TH Creative on March 9, 2009 at 11:00 AM
The raceway at Magic Kingdom should absolutely close. It's labor intensive, the cars have operating and maintenance costs. The through-put on a busy day is lethargic at best. And it takes up sooooo much space on a chunk of land that is (most likely) per square foot some of the most valuable commercial property in the country.

And, let's face it, the go-carts on International Drive are more fun to drive than the vehicles at the Magic Kingdom.

And while Finding Nemo has established a Pixar presence in EPCOT I still think 'Cars' would be a great idea for re-theming Test Track.

From Chris Danger on March 10, 2009 at 9:54 AM
With sponsorship of major attractions, its going to be tricky over the next couple of years. GM will either cut loose of Test Track altogether and give it over to another company, such as a Toyota or Nissan OR possible look for a co-sponsor to the ride. Im looking at this as a positive, as it may also give the ride/attraction a fresh approach accordingly.

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