Test Track

Five years. 1,875 days. That's how much time will have passed between the first signs of construction for TRON Lightcycle Run on February 14, 2018 and its opening on April 4, 2023.

For those of us who've seen TRON's construction start and stop, ebb and flow, speed up and slow down, every day of the last five years has felt something like a big joke with us as the punchline... Why can't Disney just open its cloned copy of an already existing off-the-shelf roller coaster in a box? It's understandable to feel that TRON Lightcycle Run represents an agonizing new low when it comes to the time it takes to build a theme park attraction.

... But guess what? Today we've collected a list of long-delayed attractions whose infamously extended construction periods meet and even exceed TRON's five year build. From rides that missed their announced openings by years to rides that sat closed for nearly a decade, these examples from Disney, Universal, and beyond might leave you thinking that TRON was actually a rush job!

1. Sylvester McMonkey McBean's Very Unusual Driving Machines

Image: Storybook Amusement

LOCATION: Universal's Islands of Adventure

Combine the breezy heights of the PeopleMover, the thrilling joys of driving on the Autopia, and the chaos and crashing of bumper cars and you've got an idea of what Universal envisioned for its "Very Unusual Driving Machines" – an elevated, aerial attraction meant to debut alongside Islands of Adventure in 1999. The idea was that guests would board one of a handful of wacky, Seussian vehicles that traveled along elevated tracks winding through the land. But on this unique ride, guests could actually increase or decrease their vehicle's speed, bumping into other riders like a chaotic cartoon highway in the sky.

Tremendous effort and huge expense when into the experimental ride, whose single-rail track weaved through the land, supported by custom-made bent and bulging steel supports (to match Seuss Landing's commitment to having no right angles or straight lines.) But when the park opened, the overhead rails were curiously quiet.

Image: Storybook Amusement

Allegedly, Universal had run into two significant issues: a dispute with the ride's manufacturer and an issue with emergency egress and how the ride would be safely stopped and evacuated during a power outage. (Fans of Disneyland's Lost Legend: The PeopleMover can tell you all about the problems such rides face.) By summer of 2000, two ride vehicles had found their way onto the tracks – but there were merely props meant to carry waving characters, add to the land's kinetics, and disguise the unused tracks in plain sight.

Especially when Islands of Adventure was criticized for having too few rides for kids, Universal doubled down on getting the Driving Machines working, apparently testing new vehicle arrangements and requesting proposals for how to make the ride work. It wasn't until 2006 that they found the answer.

Image: Universal

Trusted ride manufacturer Mack was hired to add new, tubular steel tracks over the single-railed originals and the ride was reimagined from single, guest-powered vehicles to self-driving, 20-passenger trains that slowly dip and drive through the land. After more than seven years, the tracks above Seuss Landing finally had an attraction: The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. 

2. Mission: Ferrari

Image: Faisal Almalki, rcdb.com

LOCATION: Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi opened in 2010 and pretty quickly made a name for itself with two particularly cutting edge attractions: The Speed of Magic (one of few rides then or now to re-use the still-spectacular SCOOP ride system developed for the Modern Marvel: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man) and Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster (launching from 0 to 149 miles per hour in less than 5 seconds). 

But for the better part of the last decade, the most fascinating thing about Ferrari World was a ride that no one knew much about... Construction began on "Mission: Ferrari" in 2014, but aside from a single track element that pops out from a showbuilding, inverts, then dives back into the unknown, guests really didn't know much about what the ride could entail. Designed by Dynamic Attractions (who, among many other projects, contributed to the high-tech KUKA arm technology in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and the "4D" track elements in Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts), Mission: Ferrari was said to be an unthinkably complex "SFX Coaster."

Image: Ferrari World

Immense secrecy still surrounds this ride – which officially opened in January 2023 – but it involves a combination of 3D screens, launches, dark ride sections, forward and backwards motion, a tilt track section, and a unique sideways slide... No wonder it took nine years to open.


Image: Disney


Today, TEST TRACK is one of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World. But in 1997, it was the cause of a whole lot of headaches, frustration, and anger for fans, executives, and Imagineers.

Disney had closed the Lost Legend: World of Motion in January 1996 with the expectation that its high-speed, high-thrill replacement would be ready to launch in May 1997. Suffice it to say that if you visited EPCOT in summer 1997, you did not ride Test Track. As we explored in our in-depth history of the original version of the ride, the highly advanced, high-speed slot car technology that powered Test Track was incredibly unreliable, allegedly frazzling computer systems that tried to keep track of each vehicle and its block spacing as each vehicle independently accelerates. 

Image: General Motors

The ride was so frustrating that Disney allegedly fired the company they'd contracted to build the ride control software and decided to start from scratch on their own with an in-house program. General Motors – the company that sponsored Test Track – was so distraught about the mess that they famously pulled their funding of a planned Disneyland ride meant to use the same ride system – the Declassified Disaster: Rocket Rods.

Ultimately, Test Track didn't just miss Summer 1997 crowds. It also missed the Summer of 1998. In fact, the ride only managed to soft open in December 1998, working intermittently as Disney fine-tuned the hardware, software, and operations for another half year. It wasn't until March 1999 – nearly two years after its Grand Opening had initially been scheduled – that Test Track finally debuted.

But another Disney ride has been delayed even longer... Read on... 


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