Disneyland: July 17, 1955
Autopia is a Disneyland attraction, in which patrons steer specially designed cars through an enclosed track. Versions of Autopia exist as Anaheim, California, Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallee, France, and at Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Other versions of the attraction can be found at the Magic Kingdom as the Tomorrowland Speedway and at Tokyo Disneyland as the Grand Circuit Raceway.
The name Autopia is a portmanteau of the words "automobile utopia", which was popularised in academic circles by British architecture critic Reyner Banham to describe Los Angeles in his 1971 book "Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies".
- Take the wheel of a gas-powered car and speed through a winding track to Victory Circle.
- Stroll past classic racing marquees and make your way to the racing pit, home to growling, multi-coloured speedsters. Designed to look like the famed Indiana Motor Speedway, the racetrack includes well-known backdrops of the motoring world, including the Scoring Pylon, Gasoline Alley and the Yard of Bricks.
- At the pit, hop inside a streamlined race car, unique in colour and design, and strap yourself in for an exciting and challenging drive. As the checkered flag is waved, you're off!
- Accelerate at 7 miles per house around a scenic 0.4 mile-long racetrack. Careen around sharp bends, past lush foliage and pick up the pace underneath a small bridge. Along the way, listen to an announcer call the race overhead, as you pass such iconic attractions as Space Mountain in the not-too-far distance.
- Go for a personal best or race against a family member or friend. In the end, coast into Victory Circle, at the top of your game, champion of the track!
The Disneyland Autopia, in one form or another, is one of the few current attractions that opened with the park on July 17, 1955. When it opened, it represented the future of what would become America's multilane limited-access highways, which were still being developed. President Eisenhower had yet to sign the Interstate Highway Legislation at the time Disneyland opened.
Before the park opened, the cars were tested without the bumpers, and were almost completely destroyed by the test drivers. Bumpers were fitted around the vehicles, but there were still problems with collisions, as a guide rail had yet to be implemented on the ride. Eventually the vehicles were fitted with spring-loaded bumpers to discourage collisions. The first fleet of Autopia cars were dubbed "Mark I". Throughout Disneyland's first few years, Autopia went through a few fleets, as the cars took a hard beating. Though basically the same look, they went through Mark I, II, III and IV by 1958. When the Monorail, Submarine Voyage and Matterhorn debuted in 1959, so did a new fleet with an all-new look, the "Mark Vs". The next design, Mark VI, came in 1964. It was at this time the center guide rail was first installed. 1968 brought another design, the Mark VIIs. They would remain in service through 1999, till a breed of Mark VIIIs would hit the Autopia roadway.
The Tomorrowland version was not the only form of Autopia to exist at Disneyland. Other versions, separate from the Tomorrowland version, including the Midget Autopia, Fantasyland Autopia (Rescue Rangers Raceway) and Junior Autopia. Of these, the Tomorrowland Autopia existed the longest.
The Midget Autopia opened in 1957. It was the smallest and was the third Autopia track, after the Tomorrowland Autopia (1955) and the Junior Autopia in Fantasyland (1956). It was located next to the Storybook Land Canal Boats and the Motor Boat Cruise at the very edge of Fantasyland. It was closed in 1966 and dismantled to make way for "It's a Small World". The ride was donated to the city of Marceline, Missouri, where it operated for a few years.
The Fantasyland Autopia began originally as the Junior Autopia in 1956. It closed in 1958, and re-opened in 1959 as the expanded Fantasyland Autopia. It was a duplicate version of the Tomorrowland Autopia and featured the same theme of the original until 1991, when part of the Disney's Afternoon Avenue makeover of Fantasyland, the ride was transformed into the Rescue Rangers Raceway. The theming was kept until 1992, when the promotion ended. The ride remained open on an interim basis until 1999, when both the Tomorrowland and Fantasyland Autopias were closed.
In 2000, Disneyland replaced both existing Autopia tracks with a new, much larger Autopia sponsored by Chevron. The colourful Chevrolet Corvette Stingray-style cars were replaced by three different kinds of cars: Dusty, an off-road style car; Sparky, a sports car; and Suzy, a Volkswagen Beetle-style car. Each was designed to be tied into the Chevron line of animated "Chevron Cars", and 4 versions of the Autopia cars were sold as toys during the 2000 summer season at Chevron stations nationwide. The voice of Dusty the Autopia car is voiced by Matthew Howard. He is said to be the youngest Disney ride announcer as of 2004. The ride safety spiel was re-recorded in 2004 to remind parents to watch their children due to several minor incidents.
Walt Disney World
The second Disney theme park to open was the Magic Kingdom. An opening day attraction, the Grand Prix Raceway was based on an international car race rather than the futuristic roadways of Autopia. The original sponsor was Goodyear, as it supplied all of the tires on the Mark VII vehicles.
The ride was expanded in 1973 and remained unchanged until the 1994 re-model of Tomorrowland. Part of the track was also shortened to make room for Mickey's Birthdayland sometime between late 1987 to early 1988. The Grand Prix theme and name was dropped in favour of Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, but the track and vehicles remained the same, a new theming to coincide with the "New Tomorrowland" overlay was installed.
On December 20, 1999, Walt Disney Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway partnered to change the theme of the track. The ride was changed to add items from the famous speedway, such as the famous Yard of Bricks, the Scoring Pylon, Gasoline Alley and the wheel and wing logo. The loading area featured panels with the three Indy events: the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400 and the United States Grand Prix.
The name was changed in 2008 to Tomorrowland Speedway, resulting in the drop of the Indy portion of the title.
In Disneyland Park in Paris, the attraction, which opened with Euro Disneyland on April 12, 1992, uses the original Disneyland name of Autopia, but has a unique sense of style and theming. The cars are more rounded and feature a toy-like quality to go with a 1950s retro theme, which differs from the Discoveryland theme. The park has multiple cars that go around for approximately 7-9 minutes.
- Autopia was featured in a 1987 special in which Ernest P. Worrell recounts his childhood when he visited Disneyland. In it, the young Ernest goes with his father, in which the dad drives the wrong way and crashes into a wall. They are ejected from Autopia by a Disneyland employee dressed as a motorcycle policeman, who gives them a "ticket" which bars them from returning to Autopia for the rest of the day.
- In Disney INFINITY a blue Autopia car appears as a vehicle.