Thrillseekers have a new reason to visit Walt Disney World. TRON Lightcycle / Run officially opens at Magic Kingdom Park on April 4 but soft-opened on March 20. It’s the fastest rollercoaster in any Disney theme park in the world (alongside its sister coaster, TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland).
Inspired by the seminal 1982 Disney film “TRON” and the 2010 follow-up “TRON: Legacy,” this lightning-swift indoor/outdoor coaster is a generation-bridging, futuristic addition to Tomorrowland and a thrilling reminder that Magic Kingdom isn’t just for kids.
The Backstory Has a Cult Following — But You Don’t Need to Know It
TRON Lightcycle / Run might be Disney World’s newest ride, but it checks the nostalgia box big time for fans of the films. Haven’t seen them? No problem.
“The ride is designed so that guests who are familiar with the franchise versus guests who’ve never seen the films before are going to have an incredible experience,” said Walt Disney Imagineering creative director Missy Renard. “Fans are going to relive those moments from when they were younger when they see the Lightcycles, and younger guests are going to be enamored with the idea of riding this new kind of coaster.”
The ride picks up where “TRON: Legacy” left off. Guests board Lightcycles and enter the “Grid,” the digital world introduced in the first film and accessed in the second film through gateways opened by Grid creator Kevin Flynn’s son, Sam. If you’re already lost, don’t worry — all you really need to know is that TRON Lightcycle / Run is a high-speed, competitive Lightcycle race through the Grid. Guests are “Users,” humans who must be digitized to enter the Grid, and members of Team Blue. Once you board your Lightcycle, you’ll race against “Programs,” digital beings who exist on the Grid, known as Team Orange.
A Stunning Expansion to Tomorrowland
Just beyond Space Mountain, TRON Plaza, the new expansion area that houses the attraction, is covered by a massive canopy that’s illuminated at night with more than 1,200 lights in shades of blue and orange. An original musical arrangement for the plaza and attraction was created by “TRON: Legacy” composer Joe Trapanese.
“The music is a really significant component to the attraction because it was so important to the film as well,” Renard said. “The music is epic and aspirational — it’s also synced to the lighting at night and it really draws you in. It’s kind of like a character itself within the attraction.”
A new dining kiosk, Energy Bytes, will also open with the attraction. Inspired by foods served at Shanghai Disneyland, where the first TRON attraction is located, the kiosk will serve a lineup of sweet and savory snacks like dumplings and mochi.
Boarding Your Lightcycle
A very brief pre-show “digitizes” Users, sending them onto the Grid, where they’ll board Lightcycles in the “Sync Chamber” (loading area). Lightcycles are not your traditional rollercoaster seats and restraints, and the boarding process can be a bit confusing for first-timers. Guests are assigned in pairs to a numbered row, and then will board either Lightcycle A or B. Boarding the Lightcycle on the far side requires you to walk across the vehicle and across the track (normally a big no-no at rides), so be sure to look at the Loading Procedure diagram before your vehicle pulls up. Check out this video for a firsthand look at boarding the far cycle.
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There’s an Accessible Vehicle Option
People with certain body types or disabilities may find the Lightcycle ride vehicles inaccessible and there are test vehicles outside the ride’s entrance for those who are unsure. If the bike-style Lightcycle isn’t for you, there is a wheelchair-accessible option — a more traditional rollercoaster car with a lap bar at the rear of some trains.
I was comfortable in the Lightcycle vehicle but had the opportunity to try the accessible vehicle during the media preview and while the experience is different due to the different body positioning, it’s still a thrilling, enjoyable ride with great views.
Prepare to Launch
TRON Lightcycle / Run is a launch coaster, and having tried several different rows, nothing compares to riding in the front. You’ll hear a countdown before being catapulted along the “Upload Conduit,” the outdoor section of track beneath the canopy. This portion of the ride — with its spectacular, ever-changing lighting effects — is without a doubt more breathtaking after dark, but a daytime ride is nearly as good. Once you enter the enclosed portion of the ride (the “Game Grid”), it’s the same amount of fun day or night and the neon lights and effects come fast and furious as you race opposite Team Orange through eight digital markers called “Energy Gates.” The first team to capture all eight wins the race. Get a firsthand look at the on-ride experience in this video.
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Riding with Kids
TRON has a minimum height requirement of 48 inches, the tallest at Magic Kingdom. Guests visiting with kids who aren’t tall enough or anyone unable to ride can use the Rider Switch service, which allows one adult to wait with non-riders while those who are able to ride experience the attraction. When the first group returns, the adult who didn’t ride can return and skip the queue, entering through the Lightning Lane.
While this is definitely a high-speed thrill ride, it’s not “scary,” and there are no sudden drops or major nausea-inducing moments, so most kids who are tall enough and like rollercoasters should love this one.
How to Secure Your Spot On the Ride
Starting March 20 there are two ways to ride TRON: Guests can purchase an Individual Lightning Lane reservation for an additional upcharge or join the virtual queue at no additional charge. There will be two opportunities daily to join the virtual queue:
- 7 a.m.: You must have a theme park reservation for Magic Kingdom but don’t need to be inside the park to join.
- 1 p.m.: You must be inside Magic Kingdom to join the virtual queue.
Starting April 5, an additional opportunity to join the virtual queue will be available to guests staying at Walt Disney World Deluxe resorts at 6 p.m. on dates when there are extended evening theme park hours at Magic Kingdom. You do not need to be in Magic Kingdom to request to join at this time, but you do need to have entered a park at some point (and have Park Hopping privileges if your starting park wasn’t Magic Kingdom).
Know Before You Go: Lockers
Loose items are not permitted on TRON Lightcycle / Run, so before you enter the loading area, you’ll have the chance to put everything in a complimentary locker. Just scan your MagicBand or park ticket to open a locker and scan again on the other side to pick your items up. There’s a very small compartment on the ride vehicle where you can drop your phone and any other very small items like wallets if you don’t want to leave those in a locker.
A massive line of new merchandise celebrating the attraction and the franchise’s legacy will be sold at the ride’s new gift shop, Tomorrowland Launch Depot. Three different merchandise collections will debut — one themed to the attraction itself, one to “TRON: Legacy,” and a nostalgic throwback collection themed to the original “TRON” film.
The most buzzworthy new offering is the TRON Identity Program, a new retail experience where guest can customize an action figure with their own face and voice and choose a helmet, body type and team color. The figures are $89.99 and reservations to get one are highly recommended.
In addition to the opening of TRON Lightcycle / Run, there’s another new reason to visit Magic Kingdom this April. Fan-favorite nighttime spectacular “Happily Ever After” makes it triumphant return April 3 after a hiatus during Walt Disney World’s 18-month 50th anniversary celebration, which ends March 31.