It was the middle of July, 2017. Despacito was the #1 song in the country. Garbiñe Muguruza had just defeated Venus Williams at Wimbledon. In the U.S., gasoline was $2.25 a gallon. Filming of Avatar 2: The Way of Water was about to start in California. And Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, announced that TRON Lightcycle/Run was coming to the Magic Kingdom.
Five years and seven months have passed. Thankfully, Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber, and Garbiñe Muguruza are all still playing. Avatar 2 is doing well. Gas is 50% more expensive, though, and someone should really check on that Chapek guy. But TRON Lightcycle/Run is just a couple more months away from its official opening.
Yesterday I got to ride TRON. Here’s what it’s like.
The walk up to the TRON ride building is through the central part of Tomorrowland, as if you’re headed for Space Mountain. Just before you reach the Space Mountain line, you’ll turn left and follow a pathway past the Tomorrowland Light & Power gift shop that serves as Space Mountain’s exit, across the Walt Disney World Railroad, and on to TRON.
What’s TRON’s Queue Like?
TRON’s outdoor architecture is some of Imagineering’s best work. It’s futuristic, sure, but it’s in Tomorrowland where futuristic is the name of the game. The undulating curves of the white canopy, coupled with the glimmers of sunlight they let through, make the overall effect cool, instead of industrial or sterile. Disney smartly put part of the ride track above the extended outdoor queue, also covered by the canopy, so that guests in line see what they’re waiting for.
Before going inside, guests can try sitting in a TRON test vehicle to see if they fit. Similar to Flight of Passage, the rider needs to hold a specific position on the bike. We expect that current concerns about fitting on the bikes will die down some as tweaks are made and Cast Members learn to help riders get into the correct position. In the images below, you can see the body position and the leg restraint that has to close at the back of the knee.
Cast Members have told us that so far the biggest issues have been taller people and those with larger calves. If you don’t fit on the bike – and don’t assume you won’t until you try – there are regular-style coaster cars for accessibility.
Once inside, the interior standby queue is a long series of lines through mostly black rooms, punctuated with a couple of colorful queue elements. It’s not as elaborate as Guardians of the Galaxy’s queue, more like the second half of Space Mountain’s.
A nice touch inside is how the Imagineers have designed the TRON locker system. Lockers are big enough for a school backpack and maybe a bit more – perhaps a touch over one cubic foot of space. Each locker is numbered, and the numbers are illuminated on empty lockers. Once you choose a locker, you’ll tap your Magic Band or admission media to open the locker. Stuff your stuff inside and you’ll be on your way.
The lockers are double-sided, so you can place your stuff in on one side as you enter the ride and remove it from the other as you exit. (If you forget your locker number, touch your Magic Band to the terminals at either end of the lockers, and it’ll tell you what locker number you have.)
Loading for TRON
The loading platform for TRON looks a lot like that of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. And like Cosmic Rewind, a Cast member at the top of the platform directs parties with even numbers of riders to one side, and odd numbers to the other. This helps ensure the maximum number of seats are filled on each train, because two odd numbers added together are always even, and two even numbers added together are always even. That means TRON shouldn’t need (or have) a single-rider line.
What’s it Like Riding TRON?
Riders board TRON’s ride vehicles similar to how they board Avatar Flight of Passage – a bit like getting on a bike or motorcycle. You end up sitting forward, with your head and hands out in front of the rest of your body. It’s supposed to give a heightened sensation of speed once you’re moving. And it does.
TRON is a launch coaster, so you go from standing still to very fast in just a few seconds. That launch takes you from inside the show building to outside, where you roar (briefly) over the crowds waiting to ride. The ride is supposed to follow a plot of some kind … a contest, I think? That part wasn’t explained in the preshow, it definitely didn’t come through on the ride. I don’t think it matters.
Will I Feel Sick Riding TRON?
The ride experience is fun, fast, and short – I timed it at just under 60 seconds start to finish. It didn’t make me dizzy or nauseous in the way that Guardians and Everest sometimes do (Star Tours is a hard no for me). So that aspect of it should allow more guests to ride TRON. I definitely got a bit of the “look, mom, I’m flying” feeling, too.
What’s TRON Like Overall?
I’m pretty sure Disney’s first goal with TRON was to add another ride to the Magic Kingdom. They did that. In terms of how it rates as an attraction … it’s just okay.
I use five criteria to judge an attraction:
- Scope and Scale: Big rides are harder to do than small rides. And a ride has to be long enough to make it worth the wait.
- Attention to Detail
- Appeal to Everyone: A great ride – even a thrill ride – has something for everyone who can ride
- Catchy Songs
- Do I Want to Ride Again?
Using these criteria, Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean are great rides. So’s Rise of the Resistance (even with the ride breakdowns), Kilimanjaro Safaris, Spaceship Earth, and several other Disney rides. Over at Universal, Hagrid’s and VelociCoaster get top marks, and there are others.
TRON is a good ride, but not great. It’s over too soon. There’s no real detail to see (and no story I could discern). The soundtrack fits well into Tomorrowland, but it’s not something I’m going to leave humming. Will I ride it every time I’m in the park, like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway? No.
But that’s okay. TRON’s a much-needed new ride in the Magic Kingdom. It’ll help pull crowds away from Fantasyland and Frontierland. And it looks gorgeous at night. Four stars out of five.