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

Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland skyline has long been marked by the circular dome and star-reaching towers of Space Mountain, a cylindrical building whose decorative lines constantly face the sky. In Florida, Space Mountain is located near the Contemporary Resort and is easily visible to hikers and transporters to the Magic Kingdom. The icon of optimism stands in the mid-1970s as a structure that dreams upward and celebrates the promise of exploration through space travel.

The new Tron Lightcycle / Run – yes, stylized that way – doesn’t exactly look like a building. Its entrance is a large canopy designed to match the sense of movement of the roller coaster underneath. All the bright white swirls and otherworldly flows, the entrance to Lightcycle/Run reminds me of magnificent architectural works – think the Frank Gehry-designed bridge and the mansion of Millennium Park in Chicago. with a sense of curiosity.

Image-wise, it’s a triumph – a building for a stroll inspired by a movie about video games – feels like a video game — unlike anything in a Disney theme park, it can still evoke a sense of comfort. It works with Space Mountain because they’re both terminals to other places – Space Mountain to horizons and Lightcycle / Run to our digitally driven universe of today and possibly tomorrow. The latest addition to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the ride opens on April 4, with a preamp set on March 20. Attraction brings a unique tool to a Disney theme park and makes the argument that video games are Disney’s dominant cultural medium. it’s our time.

Entry to the Tron Lightcycle / Run at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.


First opened at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016 and announced for Walt Disney World in 2017, this ride is imported. It brings a much-needed new attraction to the Magic Kingdom, the most visited theme park on the planet, and it remains so. One of the fastest coasters ever made by Walt Disney Imagineering. The ride is only a minute or so long, not counting some pre-show magic tricks in the short-queue—but Disney reps said it can hit 60 miles per hour, and it’s super fast.

While “Tron” may seem like an unlikely franchise to bring to American audiences—here, in the United States, “Tron” was a success, but by no means one of the company’s most recognizable franchises—I see it more as an acknowledgment today. viewers have given up on the interactivity of video games and increasingly expect content that reflects this. Disney has created a detailed background on how the charm fits into the “Tron” world, but no prior knowledge is really necessary: ​​We’ve been digitized and brought into a dark video game arena to race a Lightcycle against another computerized team.

One quick thing to note: Driving vehicles feel great. Even if “Tron” isn’t a brand on the same level as Marvel or Star Wars, these neon-lit motorcycles – Lightcycles – are truly recognizable, and one look at them and their panther-like slickness and I wish we could ride one. . We can, and the attraction stands as Disney’s first motorcycle-like train, as guests will sit in a seat and lean forward as if they were on a real motorcycle. Pulling back the metal handlebars and locking into the shoot is probably my favorite moment of riding because it suddenly feels like we’re getting into an imaginary vehicle.

Early social media backlash focused largely on the accessibility of the attraction. As these coaster seats are sturdy, going on the ride will require some flexibility, but I’ve only seen one guest having trouble locking into the seat in a few passes at a pre-release media event. An informal sampling of course, but I know of not-so-little people who haven’t had a problem with vehicles when they visit Shanghai Disneyland, and until theme parks more openly accept restrictions on new exciting rides, this will be a resource. social media speculation and reaction.

But while it’s true that one’s body type can affect their ability to ride a Lightweight Cycling, some coaster trains are equipped with fairly large but standard coaster cars in the back. While some may choose this option to avoid the escalating excitement of Lightcycle, there is a valuable discussion to be had about theme park design and rider accessibility, and such a conversation will not go away as audiences demand more excitement and unique riding experiences. . (A Imagineering representative declined to discuss any details about the drive’s accessibility.)

Let’s move on to the real driving experience. The good news: Lightcycle / Run is fun. The bad news: It feels short and generally light.

The actual journey, for example, does not match the claim of the building it is in, because once we land, we are on our way and the journey may use an extra 20 or 30 seconds with the understanding that faster is faster. The faster the coasters, the faster the journey. First we travel outside and under the canopy – glowing at night but shining white during the day. I really don’t have a choice of day or night, as both frame the riders with airiness and make us feel like we’re traveling to a new place.

It’s a blackened show building with the taste of a video game, and the moment we enter, it’s the strongest part of the train as we do a light dive and a quick turn. As our eyes adjust to the dark, the road becomes largely invisible, and if you’re riding a Light Bike, you can expect a sense of freedom as the drive vehicle leans to the left. There are projections of our driving rivals and digitized gates we must pass to successfully complete the game-like traps of experience.

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

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


In terms of Disney’s thrill rides, it’s fast, stylish, and it really provides a thrill. But after spending a few days at Walt Disney World and revisiting trains like the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which is only slightly longer than our version of Anaheim, Space Mountain, Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest, Lightcycle/Run are a bit of ambition. felt the lack. It relies more on the uniqueness and speed of the ride vehicle than the theme or even the coaster design.

I miss the feeling I got after first boarding Expedition Everest and marveling at the mysteries hidden inside a finely detailed mountain. While Disneyland’s Space Mountain is superior to Walt Disney World’s version, I feel like the ride captures an explorer’s sense of optimism, and Big Thunder Mountain is on both coasts full of lifts and turns, with a cleverly constructed track to keep us guessing. . With a variety of creatures, fossils, and dangers, there’s no shortage of designs to grab our attention and spark our curiosity. Even the new Guardians of the Galaxy at Epcot: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot places us in vehicles that spin, spin, and feel like we’re dancing on a track, a sense of made-for-surprise, even though a very detailed setup is provided.

Lightcycle / Run will delight guests – After all, I was happy the first time I used it – but I worry it lacks the level of repeatability that other coasters from Disney have (many of which better emphasize Imagineering’s famous attention to detail). And given how crowded Disney theme parks are these days, the actual time on the coaster vehicle – again about a minute – feels very short. The computerized interiors of the queue and a brief illusion that introduces guests to the digital world are well done, but for a journey that aims to transport us to a video game and put us in a race against other Lightcycles, opportunities are in the design of the runway or in a showhouse design that could allow for more detailed projections of our competitors tension. abducted to increase.

Ultimately, Lightcycle/Run seems to be a victim of Disney’s previous successes. Big Thunder Mountain, for example, remains a masterpiece, and when it was introduced at Disney parks in the late 1970s and early ’80s, it felt epic in design, arguing that the roller coaster could tell as much of a story as it could provide a thrill. Lightcycle/Run plays simpler, emphasizing pure fun rather than theme park awe.

However, the new ride has timing on its side. In an age where theme park rides are becoming increasingly interactive and video games are dominating popular culture and quickly being adapted for film and television – a journey that puts us in a video game race in 2023. Inspired by a 1982 movie and its 2010 sequel, this may well be Lightcycle / Run’s greatest success.

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