Walt Disney World’s new Tron ride: Gorgeous, but not the next Space Mountain

The skyline of Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland has long been marked by the circular dome and star-reaching spiers of Space Mountain, a cylindrical building whose decorative lines are constantly pointing skyward. In Florida, Space Mountain is nestled near the Contemporary Resort and is easily visible from transportation and walking tours of the Magic Kingdom. It stands as a symbol of optimism, a mid-1970s structure that dreams upward and celebrates the promise of discovery through space travel.

The new Tron Lightcycle/Run—yes, it’s styled that way—doesn’t look like a building at all. Its entrance is a grand canopy, designed to match the sense of speed of the roller coaster located beneath it. All dazzling white curves and ethereal flow, the Lightcycle/Run’s entrance recalls grand architectural works—I think of the Frank Gehry-designed bridge and the pavilion at Chicago’s Millennium Park, where steel panels give us a glimpse of an urban park. Swing through and envelop the greenery and sky with a sense of wonder.

As a look, it’s a win – a building for a ride inspired by a movie about video games – a ride feels Like a video game – that can still create a sense of comfort while not looking like anything else at a Disney theme park. It works with Space Mountain, because both are terminals for other realms – Space Mountain to the horizon and Lightcycle/Run to our digital-centric universe of today and potentially tomorrow. The newest addition to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the ride opens April 4, with a soft opening set for March 20. The attraction brings a unique vehicle to Disney theme parks, and argues that video games are the dominant cultural medium of our time.

Above the words Tron Lightcycle / Run is a bright blue umbrella

Tron Lightcycle/Run entrance to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.


The ride is an import, first opening at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, and announced for Walt Disney World in 2017. It brings a much-needed new attraction to the Magic Kingdom, the most visited theme park on the planet, and stands as one of the fastest coasters ever built by Walt Disney Imagineering. It’s short — the ride is only about a minute long, if one doesn’t count some preshow magic tricks in the queue — but Disney reps said it can hit 60 mph, and it does so quickly. .

While “Tron” may seem like a slightly unlikely franchise to bring to American audiences — “Tron” was a success here in the States, it’s by no means one of the company’s most recognizable franchises — I I see this as an acknowledgment that audiences today were freed from the interactivity of video games and are increasingly expecting content that reflects this. Disney created an elaborate backstory for how the attraction fits into the world of “Tron,” but prior knowledge isn’t really needed: We’re digitized and sent to a lightcycle race against another computerized team. Blacklight is brought into video game territory.

One quick thing to note: The ride vehicles feel great. Even if “Tron” isn’t a brand comparable to Marvel or Star Wars, the neon-lit motorcycles — Lightcycles — are truly recognizable, and one glimpse of them and their panther-like agility and we wish We can meet at one. We can, and the attraction stands out as Disney’s first motorcycle-like coaster, as guests will sit in a seat and lean forward as if on a real motorbike. Pulling back on the metal handlebars and closing in on the attraction is probably my favorite moment of the ride, because immediately we feel like we’re entering a fantasy vehicle.

Early social media reaction has focused heavily on the attraction’s accessibility. Getting on the ride will require some mild flexibility, as these coaster seats are firm, but in several ride-throughs at the pre-release media event I saw only one guest having trouble locking onto a seat. An anecdotal sampling of course, but I know of younger people who have had no issues on the vehicles when they visited Shanghai Disneyland, and until the theme parks more openly accept the restrictions on the new thrill rides , Until then it will be a source of social media speculation and reaction.

But while it’s true that someone’s body type can affect their ability to ride the Lightcycle, some coaster trains have larger-but-standard coaster cars behind them. While some may choose this option to avoid the increased thrill of the Lightcycle, there is a worthy debate to be had on theme park design and rider availability, and as audiences demand more thrills and unique ride experiences, such conversations Not going to disappear. (An Imagineering representative declined to discuss any details about the ride vehicle’s accessibility.)

Let’s move on to the actual ride experience. Good news: Lightcycle/Run is fun. The bad news: It’s small, and the overall look feels flimsy.

The actual ride, for example, doesn’t match the ambition of the building it’s located in. We get off as soon as we get off, and the ride could use an extra 20 or 30 seconds, with the understanding that the faster The more coasters are made, the faster the ride will be. We first travel out and under the canopy – twinkling at night but white-bright during the day. I don’t really have a preference for day or night, as both keep riders ventilated and allow us to feel like we’re traveling somewhere new.

The place is a dark show building like a video game, and the moment we enter is the steepest part of the coaster, as we take a small dip and a sharp turn. As our eyes adjust to the dark, the track becomes largely invisible, and if you’re on a lightcycle, expect a free-flowing sensation when the ride vehicle leans to the left. Our rides are projections of competitors, and through digitized gates we must pass through to successfully complete the game-like trappings of the experience.

A look at the panther-sleek vehicles from Tron Lightcycle/Run.

A look at the panther-sleek vehicles from Tron Lightcycle/Run.


In terms of Disney thrill rides, it’s fast, it’s smooth and it really delivers the thrill. But after spending a few days at Walt Disney World, and revisiting coasters like its Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, our Anaheim version, Space Mountain, compares to Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest In the ever-so-slightly long, Lightcycle/Run felt a little short in ambition. It is more about the theming or even the coaster design than it is about the uniqueness of the ride vehicle and its speed.

It reminded me of the feeling I had the first time I rode Expedition Everest, and marveled at the mysteries hidden inside a vastly expansive mountain. While Disneyland’s Space Mountain is better than Walt Disney World’s version, I think the ride captures the explorer’s sense of optimism, and Big Thunder Mountain, on both coasts, is full of lifts and maneuvers in the landscape to keep us guessing. Turns along the track made from. , With an assortment of critters, fossils, and hazards, there’s no shortage of designs to capture our attention and stroke our sense of wonder. Even the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot, though given a very elaborate setup, puts us in vehicles that turn and feel as if we’re dancing to a track, full of wonder. The sensation created for

The Lightcycle/Run will please guests — after all I was happy the first time I rode it — but I worry that it lacks the repeatability that Disney’s other coasters have (many of which are better built by Imagineering). exposes the famous meditation in detail). And considering how crowded Disney theme parks are these days, the actual time in a coaster vehicle — again, about a minute — seems very short. The computerized insides of the queue, as well as a brief illusion that introduces guests to the digital world, are well done, but for a ride that aims to transport us to a video game, and take us to other Lightcycles, Opportunity To participate in the race against. Track design or show building design missed out to add tension that could have allowed for more detailed estimates of our competitors.

Ultimately, Lightcycle/Run feels like a victim of Disney’s own past successes. Big Thunder Mountain, for example, remains a masterpiece, and when it was introduced to Disney parks in the late 1970s and early ’80s, the design felt epic, arguing that That a roller coaster can tell a story as well as provide a thrill. Lightcycle/Run plays it more simply, with an emphasis on pure fun rather than theme park awe.

However, the new ride has time on its side. In an era when theme park rides are becoming increasingly interactive – and video games dominate pop culture and are increasingly adapted to film and television – a ride that joins us in the video game race is, experiences a moment in 2023. And for having inspired a 1982 film and its 2010 sequel, it may be Lightcycle/Run’s crowning achievement.

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