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—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.
The miniature cars were designed by Imagineer Bob Gurr. 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 vehicle, 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 new 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, included 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 reopened 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 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 voiced by Matthew Howard. He is said to be the youngest Disney ride announcer as of 2004. 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 (voice of Audrey Wasilewski) were also present, but these were removed at an indeterminate point in time, leaving Dusty's voice the only one still present.
The attraction briefly closed from January through April 2016 prepare for new sponsorship from Honda. 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 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.
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 remodel 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 favor of Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, but the track and vehicles remained the same, as new theming to coincide with the "New Tomorrowland" overlay was 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.
The name was changed in 2008 to Tomorrowland Speedway, resulting in the drop of the Indy portion of the title. The Gasoline Alley and Scoring Pylon features, though, were retained.
At Tokyo Disneyland, the ride exists as Grand Circuit Raceway. This version of the ride has remained open since the park's opening in 1983 and has remained largely unchanged. The ride is sponsored by Bridgestone and features a grandstand for visitors to watch the "races" between drivers. The track is described as a "figure eight" shape, but is actually quite longer. 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 2015, it was announced that the Grand Prix Raceway would be removed for an expansion of Fantasyland. The land is set to be occupied by a new Beauty and the Beast area.
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 1950's retro theme, which differs from the Discoveryland theme. The park has multiple cars that go around for approximately 7–9 minutes.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland is the first Disneyland-type park to not open with a form. Opened in Summer 2006 as part of its Phase I Expansion, the Hong Kong version is different from all the other versions, as it features electric cars, with lighting effects on the cars, and a unique on-board audio-system. Theming includes a lush jungle and alien landscape. Honda Motors is the sponsor of the attraction and there are 3 lanes on this attraction.
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.