“The Grid. A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships, motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then, one day, I got in.”
― Kevin Flynn, TRON: Legacy
It’s no secret that Walt Disney World has been working on Tron Lightcycle Run for many years, but is it worth the wait? I was among the first users to enter The Grid during this public preview, so let’s take a look at what it’s like to ride a lightcycle through this digital frontier in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. Note: There will be spoilers for the ride experience in this article.
The queue for Tron is very interesting because the ride experience starts before you even get in line. The plaza that the ride is interwoven with is beautiful, elevated pathways traverse over the launch and back towards the exit, allowing ample viewing for many angles of the ride, including a pathway that sits right over the exit of the launch. The Upload Conduit, which is the big canopy that sits over the outdoor portions of the ride, is breathtaking and the level of detail etched into the structure is mesmerizing.
After waiting in a small outdoor switchback area underneath the digitization laser, groups are ushered inside the main building to wait for the short preshow. The preshow is more of a presentation and a clever way to keep the line moving while showcasing the ride. Riders wait in a small room in front of a frosted glass screen that digitizes and then suddenly turns transparent, giving oncoming riders a stunning view of the launch track area.
After walking around the launch area, a larger switchback area awaits with some signage featuring the various teams competing in the race inside The Grid, with riders being a part of Team Blue. If you are looking for an experience as immersive as Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, this is where the experience is likely to falter. This is much more of a traditional roller coaster ride than a complete immersive experience. There is not much storytelling happening, other than the fact that you will be competing in a race. But in this case, that’s okay. Tron is a good example of the fact that not every new experience has to be hyper-immersive, it can just be a thrilling experience with some high quality pieces of theming.
Next up is the locker area, which operates very similarly to the lockers on Jurassic World VelociCoaster where the double-sided lockers will be accessed before boarding the ride and after exiting. After the lockers, riders proceed down boarding ramps to the dual load station, with the Tron: Legacy soundtrack playing over a large video screen showcasing the lightcycle teams. The station is massive, with a very high ceiling and two separate loading areas.
Once riders have been sorted into their rows, the gates open and one rider crosses over the train to the far seat while the other rider boards the lightcycle in front of the gate. Then, in a lying position, riders pull the handlebars and the back restraint lowers into place, securing the shins and back. The back restraints have identity discs on them, which is a great touch that adds to the theming. After making a turn out of the loading area, the lightcycles pause on the launch track under a series of pulsing energy gates. This whole loading and pulling forward portion of the ride is extremely exciting, and is the closest I’ve gotten to the hype that I feel on Cosmic Rewind before the backwards launch.
Then, the train launches forwards and outside the building, swooping up under the canopy and over guests looking from the paths. This is my favorite part of the ride, and the feeling of launching in a lying position while feeling the power of the lightcycle pulsing under my chest while the incredible Daft Punk music plays through the on-ride speakers is unmatched. The launch is forceful, and in the front seat, feeling the wind rushing through the train is exceptional. The very high swoop above the paths gives way to a drop that flies by the exit area, and then hoists back up to enter the indoor portion.
Inside the Grid area on Tron is the part that initially fell short for me, but on a re-ride I enjoyed it much more. There are three trim brake sections inside, and that was discouraging initially, but I didn’t notice it as much the second time I rode. The visuals inside are stunning, and the mirror effect of the orange cycles racing side by side is genius. The screens inside are very realistic, especially when paired with physical effects like the energy gates and other neon lighting that the trains fly by.
While the ride time is short, it still feels like a substantial experience and everyone on my train was smiling from ear to ear each time we pulled into the final brakes. As a roller coaster, this ranks third or fourth at Walt Disney World, behind Cosmic Rewind, Expedition Everest and Rock n Roller Coaster, but as an overall experience from the outdoor plaza through the queue and on the actual ride, it’s easily second. It’s the perfect addition for Magic Kingdom, which was lacking a truly high tech modern ride experience that provides a higher thrill but can still be enjoyed by most park guests and isn’t too intense. I would recommend riding in the back row, because you truly feel the force of the launch, and dive down the drops and turns on the inside section while seeing the rest of the train in front of view for a full view of the effects.
Overall, Tron Lightcycle Run is a great addition to Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World as a whole, and will keep me coming back to The Grid again and again.