Walt Disney World fuels the need for speed with the brand new TRON Lightcycle / Run
Exhilaration and terror pump through my veins, as I slingshot from a trepidatious standstill to almost 60mph in less than five seconds, into the elegantly curved wave of a 105-feet high canopy pulsing with the same retina-searing electric blue light as my illuminated tyre rims and chassis.
A giddy exhalation of Oh. My. God. is lost to the internal roar of rushing blood and slipstreaming air, as Walt Disney World tilts 45 degrees off its axis and my speeding train of 14 riders arcs over upturned heads of awestruck onlookers queueing excitedly for the resort’s high-octane newest attraction: TRON Lightcycle / Run.
Originally announced in July 2017, the sister roller-coaster to TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland is the largest expansion of Magic Kingdom for more than a decade. The eye-catching 10-acre attraction propels riders along more than 3,000 feet of track into the digitised world of TRON and the 2010 sequel TRON: Legacy, to an insistent electronic soundtrack composed by Daft Punk collaborator Joseph Trapanese.
A 48-inch (four foot) height ride requirement is strictly enforced, and belongings such as bags and purses must be placed in complimentary double-sided lockers before each race. Smaller items, including mobile phones, wallets and sunglasses, can be stored inside a small compartment located between the Lightcycle’s roughly textured metal handlebars.
Mounting a Lightcycle in the Sync Chamber loading station requires impromptu mental and physical gymnastics. Knees and shins rest parallel to the ground inside moulded leg guards, then handlebars slide smoothly towards you to engage a backplate, loosely holding the rider in an aerodynamic crouched position.
Simultaneously, bar restraints press against calves, allowing free movement of everything above the waist. Two test vehicles, strategically positioned at the queue entrance, provide an opportunity to test out the boarding technique.
The sit-down ride mechanism is reminiscent of Avatar Flight Of Passage, but less forgiving on taller riders. Signage in TRON Plaza warns, ‘The seating and restraints on this attraction may prohibit guests of certain body shapes or sizes from riding’. A six-feet-five-inches tall member of our thrill-seeking group found his Lightcycle an uncomfortably tight fit, and was glad the ride time from departure to the final Energy Gate clocked in at under two minutes, less than half the time of Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. I was hungry for more.
A sleek pre-show uploads visitors (known as ‘Users’) into the Grid, a sprawling digital frontier created by Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) in the 1982 film. Human interlopers are recruited to race against a menacing group of Programs christened Team Orange. The first train to slalom at dizzying speed through eight Energy Gates is declared the winner.
Users with mobility issues, knee injuries or arthritis can choose a traditional upright seating position in an accessible two-person chariot with pulldown lap bar, located at the rear of some Lightcycle trains. Availability of these Light Runner vehicles is limited, though.
TRON Lightcycle / Run opens officially to the public on April 4, but a soft opening began on March 20. To manage crowd flow, there is no standby queue. Instead, admission to the Grid requires the purchase of a pay-per-ride Lightning Lane on the day, through the My Disney Experience app (dynamic pricing up to £20 per person) or an allocated boarding group in the free daily virtual queue.
Guests with a valid theme park reservation for Magic Kingdom Park have two opportunities to join the queue at 7am and 1pm via the app, and on certain nights with extended theme park hours, guests staying at select hotels can bid to join an additional virtual queue at 6pm. Demand is fierce, so expect available slots to be filled in less than a minute. Thankfully, Walt Disney World’s four theme parks are brimming with thrills.
The distinctive, angular architecture of Space Mountain’s white spired dome pierces the sky next to TRON Lightcycle / Run. This intergalactic indoor roller-coaster shoots three single-file riders (per car) to the moon and back along almost identical orbits – Alpha or Omega – and is unforgiving on the backs of space travellers in the rear seat, so sit front or middle if you can.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train outdoor steel roller-coasters are both smoother and marginally faster (both exceed 30mph), distinguished by the impeccable theming of an abandoned gold mining town and a gem-encrusted fairy-tale fantasia.
After dark from April 3, an updated version of the Happily Ever After night-time show dazzles with projection mapping down Main Street USA, to complement fireworks, lasers and a special whoop-inducing appearance from a flying, pixie-dusted Tinker Bell.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
An animatronic Yeti affectionately nicknamed Betty mangles the ascending track of Expedition Everest – Legend Of The Forbidden Mountain, and forces a six-car rollercoaster to careen backwards into darkness and eventually plummet down the face of the 199-feet-tall peak.
Descents are even more intense on Avatar Flight Of Passage. The 3D simulator matches guests’ DNA with the avatar of a Na’vi hunter on the back of an airborne mountain banshee.
Jolts and bumps are par for the topsy-turvy course on Dinosaur, a fast-paced off-road dark ride that ricochets back in time to the late Cretaceous period. Circular rafts of the newly-refurbished Kali River Rapids offer a rare opportunity to cool down after a dizzying descent along churning white-water.
With a top speed of 64.9mph on the final straight of its banked outdoor section, Test Track is the fastest ride in Disney’s Florida parks, but the high-octane driving simulator isn’t the most thrilling attraction in Epcot.
That honour is shared by Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the resort’s first reverse launch omnicoaster, which performs 360-degree controlled rotations along an undulating indoor track to a nostalgia-soaked soundtrack, and the extreme orange lane of Mission: SPACE.
The centrifugal astronaut flight simulator marks its 20th anniversary in 2023 and continues to provide sick bags for riders who feel disoriented from the G-forces of a fictional space shuttle mission around the moon.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster in Toy Story Land is deceptively quick, with a second launch into a bunny hill section accompanied by an encouraging bark of ‘Here we go!’ from the eponymous dachshund.
From March 23, the experiential Roundup Rodeo BBQ table service restaurant promises unique surprises to accompany a western-themed menu (adults £37, children £20) and whimsical design. Visiting ‘toys’ can ride to their table astride hobby horses, a giant figure of Bo Peep is a one-of-a-kind design by Pixar and servers freeze on Woody’s intercom command whenever Andy is nearby.
In Galaxy’s Edge, the force is strong on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, an interactive quest to steal precious Coaxium crystal from a moving First Order train. The land’s signature ride, Star Wars: Rise Of The Resistance, sets pulses racing with an exhilarating escape from a Star Destroyer.
Bloodcurdling screams of plummeting visitors on The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror accelerated drop compete with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, the only white-knuckle Disney attraction in Florida with inversions, and a breathtaking initial acceleration to 57mph in just 2.8 seconds. The ride is closed for refurbishment until summer 2023.
How to plan your trip
Walt Disney Travel Company International (0800 169 0737) offers seven nights in Orlando from £5,228 for two adults and two children (aged 3-9) sharing a standard room at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, including Virgin Atlantic economy flights from London Heathrow direct to Tampa International and park tickets. Price based on June 15, 2023 departure.
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