Former Disney Imagineers Recall Terrifying Disney World Accident

Test track
Credit: D23

Disney Imagineers are some of the most creative minds in the theme park business. They were the originators of the audio-animatronics that are now found in theme parks worldwide. And they have created some of the most iconic theme park attractions in the world — the Haunted Mansion, “it’s a small world”, and Pirates of the Caribbean, just to name a few.

Creating an incredible and memorable ride or attraction is no easy task. It takes years for an idea to come to fruition. And each attraction must undergo an inordinate amount of testing before it is given the okay for guests to ride.

The Haunted Mansion

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney’s Newest Walking Animatronic Will Blow Your Mind!

In 1999, an exciting new attraction opened at EPCOT in Walt Disney World. That attraction was Test Track, and it took guests through a series of fun tests to see how a car functioned in different situations. Then, the car shot out onto a high-speed loop, reaching speeds of almost 70 miles per hour.

Walt Disney Imagineering’s top priority was ensuring the ride was safe for guests. And they went through A LOT to get there. Including one of the cars flying off the track during a test run!

Ride Vehicle

Credit: Disney

Related: EPCOT’s Test Track Is Being Reimagined: Here’s What to Know

Former Imagineer Frank Mezzatesta recently shared a picture of an original Test Track toy car and alluded to the scary incident.

From 1997 GM Test Track car. This project gave me PTSD so I bought this and then just put it away. It’s the story that can not be told and few Imagineers are left that know what happened that year.

Even though Mezzatesta said that Imagineers were not allowed to talk about the accident, there were some who spoke to The Orlando Sentinel. An article was published in 1997, with anonymous Imagineers sharing what happened during a test run.

The sources say it happened after a test vehicle – which was carrying sandbags, not people – neared the end of the track. Instead of slowing down and making a turn, the car slowed down but left the track and hit a wall at about 20 mph, sources said.

Without discussing the incident, Kalogridis [EPCOT Vice President] said the ride’s testing process is rigorous. Not only does that ensure that the ride will be safe, but it also has given designers new ideas for making it even better, Kalogridis said.

Test Track wdw

Credit: Disney

Thankfully, Imagineers were able to tweak the attraction and open it two years after the crash. When it finally opened, Test Track became one of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World Resort. It is located in the World Discovery neighborhood of the theme park – the area formerly known as Future World East.

That same type of ride system has since been used on multiple Disneyland attractions. The first was the ill-fated Rocket Rods, which replaced the popular PeopleMover attraction in Disneyland Park. Rocket Rods was only open for three years and, after a series of mechanical issues, it permanently closed in 2001.

Radiator Springs Racers

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Parks Are So Crowded, Lightning Lane Queues Are Now Extending Through Entire Lands

However, Disney had much more success when it used the Test Track ride system to create Radiator Springs Racers, which opened in Disney California Adventure Park in 2012. The attraction is very similar to Test Track, but has a really fun theme based on the hit 2006 Disney/Pixar film, Cars. Radiator Springs Racers frequently has waits of nearly two hours, and its Lightning Lane has often been seen stretching through Cars Land.

Do you love riding Test Track in EPCOT? Let us know in the comments!

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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