The name Autopia is a portmanteau of the words "automobile utopia," which was popularized 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-colored 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 color 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 hour 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-off 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—the champion of the track!
The Disneyland Autopia, in one form or another, is one of the few remaining attractions that opened with the park on July 17, 1955, and the only remaining opening-day attraction in Tomorrowland. 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.
The miniature cars were designed by Imagineer Bob Gurr. Tests of the attraction prior to the park's opening proved problematic, as aggressive drivers repeatedly collided with each other and almost completely destroyed the vehicles. In an attempt to remedy this, bumpers were fitted around the vehicle, but collisions between drivers remained a persistent dilemma, as the central guide rails used on the attraction today did not yet exist. Eventually, the vehicles were fitted with spring-loaded bumpers to discourage collisions.
The first fleet of Autopia cars was dubbed "Mark I." Due to rough treatment at the hands of guests, the entire fleet needed to be replaced three times between 1955 and 1958. The replacement vehicle models were designated Mark II, Mark III, and Mark IV, respectively, all of which were nearly identical in construction to the Mark I. 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, was introduced in 1964, and approximately one year after that, guide rails were finally installed on the roads. This simple alteration to the attraction extended each vehicle's service life exponentially, to the point that the Mark VII fleet, introduced in 1967, was able to last for over three decades without replacement. The Mark VIIs were finally retired in 1999, and the Mark VIII vehicles that took their place are still in use at the park today.
The Tomorrowland version was not the only form of Autopia to exist at Disneyland, though it was the one that existed the longest. Other versions, separate from the Tomorrowland version, included the Junior Autopia, Midget Autopia, and Fantasyland Autopia.
The Junior Autopia opened in Fantasyland in 1956 and closed just two years later. In 1959, it reopened as the expanded Fantasyland Autopia. The Fantasyland Autopia was a duplicate version of the Tomorrowland Autopia and for over three decades, it featured the same theme as the original. This changed in 1991, when, as part of the Disney's Afternoon Avenue makeover of Fantasyland, the ride was transformed into the Rescue Rangers Raceway, themed after Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. The ride was reverted to its previous state when the promotion ended in 1992 and remained open on an interim basis until 1999 when both the Tomorrowland and Fantasyland Autopias were closed.
The Midget Autopia opened in 1957. It was the third Autopia track, after the Tomorrowland and Junior Autopias, and was smaller than either of its predecessors. It was located next to the Storybook Land Canal Boats and the Motor Boat Cruise at the very edge of Fantasyland. It was closed and dismantled in 1966 to make room for It's a Small World. The ride was donated to the city of Marceline, Missouri, where it operated for eleven years at the Walt Disney Municipal Park.
In 2000, Disneyland replaced both existing Autopia tracks with a new, much larger Autopia sponsored by Chevron. The colorful 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 provided by Matthew Howard, who, as of 2004, is said to be the youngest Disney ride announcer. The ride safety spiel was rerecorded in 2004 to remind parents to watch their children due to several minor incidents. In earlier years, spiels with Sparky and Suzy (voiced by Audrey Wasilewski) were also present, but these were removed at an indeterminate point in time, leaving Dusty's as the only one still present. After Honda took over as sponsor, Dusty's voice remained in the safety spiel, albeit with all references to the character removed.
The attraction briefly closed from January to April of 2016 prepare for new sponsorship from Honda, as the attraction Say Hello to ASIMO was closing at this point. The queue structure and signage were repainted in shades of blue and white to match the rest of the paint scheme Tomorrowland received in 2005. The existing cars, already powered by Honda engines, received Honda badging and were repainted in colors available on current Honda automobiles, such as Kona coffee metallic and white diamond pearl. Similar to the Circle-Vision 360° queue area from the short-lived Rocket Rods attraction, the loading area's Jumbotron-style video screen was updated to show clips from the 1950s-era animated short films from the Walt Disney anthology series based around the future of transportation, such as 1958's Magic Highway, U.S.A. In March of 2017, new show scenes were added along the route featuring Honda's robot ASIMO and a robotic bird simply named Bird going on a camping road trip and using Honda vehicles. A new safety spiel with the voice of Bird also debuted, replacing the modified Dusty spiel.
The second Disney theme park to feature an Autopia-like attraction was the Magic Kingdom in Florida. 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.
During 1994, remodel of Tomorrowland, the attraction was renamed the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, but the track and vehicles remained the same, as new theming to coincide with the "New Tomorrowland" overlay were installed. On December 20, 1999, The 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.
In 2008, the Indy portion of the title was dropped, resulting in the attraction being renamed the Tomorrowland Speedway. Despite this, the Gasoline Alley and Scoring Pylon feature introduced in 1999 were retained.
In 2017, rumors began circulating that the Tomorrowland Speedway would be bulldozed to make way for a clone of the Tron Lightcycle Power Run from Shanghai Disneyland. The ride was confirmed at D23 Expo that same year, however, concept art released for the new attraction showed the Tomorrowland Speedway remaining intact, with the Tron attraction instead occupying a long-vacant plot of land that had been reserved for a Florida clone of the Matterhorn Bobsleds when the park was originally constructed.
Since its opening in 1971, the length of the track has gradually and dramatically decreased. To create enough room for Space Mountain in 1974, the two southernmost curves in the track were reduced in size, as was the northernmost curve. The construction of Mickey's Toontown Fair caused the track to be shortened even more drastically in late 1987 or early 1988, with almost the entire north portion of the track being removed. A much more minor alteration in 2012 saw the final curve slightly pulled back to allow space for the new Storybook Circus, and during a temporary closure in early 2019, the northeast bend was shortened once more to accommodate for the construction of TRON Lightcycle Power Run. As it stands today, the track is approximately only two-thirds as long as it was when it first opened.
At Tokyo Disneyland, the ride existed as Grand Circuit Raceway. This version of the ride opened alongside the park in 1983 and remained largely unchanged throughout its lifespan. The ride was sponsored by Bridgestone and featured a grandstand for visitors to watch the "races" between drivers. The track was described as a "figure eight" shape but was actually quite long. A new ride, Aquatopia, opened at neighboring park Tokyo DisneySea in 2001, but other than the name similarity to the Disneyland car ride (it's an homage), Aquatopia is closer (as an attraction) to Disneyland's former Motor Boat Cruise.
In Disneyland Park in Paris, the attraction, which opened with the park on April 12, 1992, uses the original Disneyland name of Autopia but has a unique sense of style and theme. The cars are more rounded to go with a 1920's retro-futuristic theme. This is also the only Autopia style attraction to have a storyline. The story is you drive your cars, called "Astrocoupes", around a nearby city to Discoveryland, "Solaria".
In 2012, the "Solaria" prop was removed from the attraction and all Discoveryland logos were removed from the fleet of cars. The original storyline was also removed, turning it into just a simple driving track, just like its American and Asian counterparts.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland was the first Disneyland-style park to not open with a form of the Autopia. Opened in summer 2006 as part of its phase one expansion, the Hong Kong version was different from the other versions as it featured electric cars with lighting effects and an onboard audio system. Theming included a lush jungle and alien landscapes. Honda was the sponsor of the attraction. Hong Kong Disneyland's Autopia closed on June 11, 2016, to be replaced with a Marvel ride.
Autopia was featured in the 1987 special in which Ernest P. Worrell recounts his childhood when he visited Disneyland with his father. In it, the latter drives the wrong way and crashes into a wall. They are ejected from Autopia by a cast member 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, while a red one is also added in the second game.