If I told you that the world’s most-attended theme park was getting a new ride that would take five years to build and cause two other attractions to temporarily close, you’d expect the final product to be an astounding, innovative experience, right?
Well, what you got was Tron Lightcycle Run.
This launched roller coaster, a clone of a 2016 ride from Shanghai Disneyland, is undoubtedly the most thrilling attraction at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The ride also brings an appealing, durable aesthetic of futurism into Tomorrowland, along with the added extra kinetic energy.
For its most popular park, however, Disney can and should do a lot better – and we know it can when it comes to themed roller coasters.
Entering Tron Lightcycle Run brings you under its immense canopy, a towering display of futuristic architecture that is perhaps the ride’s best addition to the Magic Kingdom.
During the day it allows you to stay out of the sun in the mostly outdoor queue. At night, the canopy really dazzles, with its blue lights punctuated by bits of orange to mirror the Team Blue vs. Team Orange race that anchors the ride’s (thin) story.
That canopy encompasses not just the ride’s entrance and the outdoor queue, but a larger section free for any guest to peruse. It certainly makes for a great opportunity for coaster photography.
The actual queue, however, lacks the appeal of Disney’s better efforts to set up a story. The outdoor portion is nothing more than switchbacks, while the interior resembles a black box with bits of Tron-like color patterns. Its best feature may be when you catch a glimpse of the coaster launch.
In a first for Disney, the queue ends with a mandatory locker system to store loose items. The lockers are double-sided, can easily fit a backpack and are opened with a MagicBand or whatever ticket you scanned to get into the park. (Scanning your phone won’t work. Ask a Disney employee and they’ll give you a card to access a locker.)
The ride experience
The light cycle-style coaster cars are not what most riders have seen before. The proper position involves leaning forward to grab the bike’s handlebars, with restraints around your legs and back keeping you secure.
This setup has caused some larger riders to have issues. As a man of about 5-foot-10 with a not-so-healthy belly, I didn’t have any trouble fitting. (For accessibility, there are regular seated coaster cars available for people who don’t fit on the bike.) In fact, what I found most uncomfortable was the fact the handles were bare metal, with no foam or padding.
The silver lining was I didn’t have to grip that metal handle for very long thanks to Tron’s short ride time. The 59 mile-per-hour launch sends you outside through the two swooping turns you’ve seen before getting into the queue. The restraints were more comfortable than I expected, meaning if there were moments of airtime, I think I would have felt them here; alas, you’ll have to settle for the speed.
You’ll hit a set of brakes as you enter the main show building, and from here on out, you’re in Space Mountain territory – meaning you’re zooming around in the dark. Those unexpected turns are punctuated by screens showing your mock race with Team Orange, but those visuals are secondary to the thrill of not knowing exactly where you’re going.
But less than 60 seconds after the launch, the ride is over. In contrast, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – the far superior themed coaster at Disney World – gives you another 30 seconds of prime ride time, not even counting the show elements experienced before the launch.
The too-short ride experience places Tron Lightcycle Run below Expedition Everest, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Cosmic Rewind on my rankings of Disney World coasters. It edges out the other Magic Kingdom coasters, only just by sheer thrill.
For being the most-attended theme park in the world, Magic Kingdom has for years lacked a headlining attraction worthy of its stature.
Tron Lightcycle Run does not solve that problem.
It’s thrilling for a Disney ride, but it pales in comparison to other thrill rides and coasters in Orlando. It’s not as well-themed as some of those competitors or as Disney’s last themed coaster. And it’s short. Much too short.
That’s not to say many of you won’t enjoy Tron Lightcycle Run. A fast launch, along with riding a coaster in the dark, will always be fun. Plus, it enhances the look and feel of Tomorrowland, especially at night.
Yet I can’t shake the feeling that the ride is somewhat of a letdown. The Magic Kingdom deserved something groundbreaking. What it got was just a good – but far from great – attraction.
DISCLOSURE: This review is based on my own opinion and perspective. I paid for my own park ticket. Disney World did not grant me any special access to Magic Kingdom or the attraction in order to conduct this review.