Rumors have swirled for years that Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith will be reimagined to feature a new band or IP at Walt Disney World. This covers that, debunks what’s likely false, and engages in fun armchair Imagineering about themes, characters, movies, and bands that would work as a replacement. (Updated November 21, 2023.)
Earlier this year, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster went down for a multi-month refurbishment that changed nothing of substance about the attraction. From the outset, Walt Disney World was publicly crystal clear that the rockin’ nature of the roller coaster was not changing. The company informed Cast Members that ride would go down for regular maintenance, and there would be no changes to the guest experience as a result of the routine refurbishment.
At the time, we speculated about two possibilities. The first was that Walt Disney World quietly changed bands while retaining the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster name during the multi-month refurbishment. Obviously, that did not occur. The second was that the extended downtime was essentially important infrastructure work–replacing portions of the track, upgrading the launch system, or otherwise refreshing components of the coaster to extend its life–that would serve as a foundation, and allow for a shorter subsequent closure to reimagine the thematic components of the attraction.
Even though Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster has now reopened and nothing has changed, we still are of the belief that the ride will be reimagined and Aerosmith will be removed in the next few years. Probably before 2026. There are several reasons for this.
First, Steven Tyler was named in a lawsuit that was first filed in December against unnamed defendants. The litigation was brought in Los Angeles County Superior Court after new California legislation extended the window for child sexual abuse allegations. In it, the plaintiff alleges Tyler started abusing her in the 1970s when she was 16, accusing him of sexual assault, sexual battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Nearly a year after that lawsuit, Steven Tyler faces additional allegations of sexual abuse in a new lawsuit that was filed in November 2023. Tyler is now being sued by former teen model Jeanne Bellino of sexual assault in a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court. Bellino claims she met Tyler when she was 17 during a modeling trip in the summer of approximately 1975.
The purpose of this post is not to assess the merit of the allegations against Steven Tyler, the likelihood he’ll settle or prevail at trial, or anything of that sort. We’re going to sidestep that entirely because, frankly, the outcome here doesn’t much matter.
Regardless of what happens in courts of law, it’s fairly undeniable that showcasing a rock band from the 1970s is a liability for Walt Disney World. Not just Aerosmith…pretty much any rock band of that era. Not because they all did unsavory things, but because it’s impossible to vet at this point.
Between increased social scrutiny and Disney’s family-friendly image, it’s simply an unnecessary and imprudent risk. We’ve previously reported that Disney has contingency plans in place that would allow the company to remove all references to Aerosmith overnight. That may be a slight exaggeration–given how long it took to build TRON Lightcycle Run, I’m guessing the changeover would take at least a week. But the point stands.
To my knowledge, this is nothing new–Disney has had such contingency plans for years. (It’s possible this is an urban legend, but I’ve heard the same about other attractions, including one at Universal Studios Florida that now suddenly makes a lot more sense in light of reporting this year.)
Changing the ride is an easy decision for Disney. When you combine the allegations with the risk of more skeletons and weigh that against the current marketing power of Aerosmith, the obvious conclusion, I think, is that it’s time to retheme the ride. And I say this as someone who loves Aerosmith’s music.
Reimagining Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is not just the safe move, but it would be money well spent. It presents an opportunity for Imagineering to easily inject new life in an attraction that’s inherently popular as a thrill ride, and would give the company something to market between now and 2025.
That alone puts the start of serious construction work in late 2024 or 2025. That’s the point at which we’d expect work to begin on the Tropical Americas at Animal Kingdom, meaning that Indiana Jones Adventure and whatever else is planned won’t open until 2026 at the earliest.
Between now and then, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open sometime in 2024, probably before October. That leaves absolutely nothing for 2025, which is the year that Universal’s Epic Universe–a brand new theme park–will debut. Unless Walt Disney World is just going to ‘give up’ and let Universal have 2025, they need to start moving on something soon. About the only possibility at this point is reimaginings–and few attractions have as much untapped marketing potential as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. A redone Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster could be done in 6-8 months and would be a colossal draw with mainstream audiences.
In light of that, what are potential possibilities for a rethemed Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster?
Let’s start with what’s probably, sadly, off the table. Variety is reporting that The Muppets Mayhem has been canceled after only one season on the Disney+ streaming service. The series was originally ordered early last year and debuted on Disney+ in May 2023. The cast of The Muppets Mayhem series included Lily Singh, Tahj Mowry, Saara Chaudry, and Anders Holm.
At the time, the series co-creator, Jeff Yorkes, added fuel to the fire of a Muppets Mayhem overlay to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Posting on Twitter in response to an article discussing rumors of a Muppets takeover of the thrill ride, Yorkes said: “Not gonna lie–this was absolutely part of our original pitch and is another piece of this dream. Fingers-crossed that it happens.”
Yorkes deleted the tweet within hours of posting it, likely at the behest of someone at Disney. While not conclusive of anything, it’s actually a somewhat positive sign that he’d be asked to remove the statement. If this were simply wishful thinking with no teeth to the rumors, Disney would be less inclined to care.
This wasn’t the only time there’s been notable discussion this year about the Muppets taking over Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. In response to another tweet suggesting a reimagining, former Imagineer Kevin Lively said, “if only someone had pitched that a few years with a full preshow script and treatment…”
Look, I love the Muppets. This site has a clear pro-Muppets bias and will not tolerate slander to their good names. But a few things can be true all at once. First, that the Muppets are awesome but still somehow don’t resonate with mainstream audiences. Second, that the Muppets have fans in Burbank and Glendale and have been given chance after chance due to that. Finally, that Walt Disney World is not going to green light a ride reimagining based on a cancelled series. They just aren’t. That’s the opposite of a marketable overlay.
As much as it pains me to say it, I think we can safely rule out a Muppets takeover of…pretty much anything, but especially one of the park’s most popular attractions. The best we can hope for is more entertainment offerings, like Holidays in Hollywood at Disney Jollywood Nights.
Earlier this year, there were also “rumors” that Imagineering plans to retheme Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Walt Disney World to the band Queen. The source of this rumor is actor Ken Marino, who plays the sound technician in the current pre-show for Rock’ n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. (And is also in the excellent Party Down, which you can catch on Hulu!)
The actor made a matter-of-fact but offhand comment on YouTube that Aerosmith was going to be replaced by Queen on the roller coaster at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios ride. Marino is in the preshow and actors from attractions have been the source of leaks in the past, so this seems plausible.
However, Marino conceded that this is not a credible rumor after being inundated with questions from diehard Disney fans. He tweeted: “I have no idea what they are changing it to. Some one said that to me at some point so then I said it. It was more of rumor than anything else I suppose. Maybe it’s gonna be the new Billie Holiday ride. Could be good.”
Oddly enough, celebrities regurgitating online speculation as fact is another thing we’ve seen in the past. In fairness to Marino, unless you are deep in the Disney fandom, it can be very difficult to separate wishful thinking from rumor. A normal person might hear speculation and take it at face value. After all, what kind of Disney dork would give so much thought to theme parks?! (Harsh but true.)
This one kind of makes sense. Queen has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to Bohemian Rhapsody, the band’s back catalog is great, and there are a few songs that would lend themselves to a roller coaster. If the goal is to replace Aerosmith with another timeless band that won’t feel dated in a decade, Queen might be the best possible pick.
Nevertheless, I’m skeptical of Disney going that route. Centering the ride around just about any band presents a potential long-term liability–it’s different from simply featuring their music, which offers more of a disconnect. I also question just how much cultural relevance any of those bands have with young people. Queen might be enjoying a resurgence, but is that enough to justify a reimagining?
If a different band wouldn’t attract a broader audience or have improved drawing power, and wouldn’t present synergistic opportunities for Disney, what’s the point? It’d simply be spending money and making a change for change’s sake. If it won’t be a marketable addition that incentivizes people to book trips to Walt Disney World, it probably isn’t going to happen.
For that reason, I’d rule out the possibility of Queen or almost any musician (except Taylor Swift or Hannah Montana).
That brings us to other potentially great ideas that are likewise doubtful. One option would be to have a redone entrance to Pantages Theater, Amoeba Records, or Roxie Theatre. Inside, have characters from one of Disney’s franchises in the queue and pre-show, but features a random ride soundtrack of actual rock music from various bands.
This is part of Cosmic Rewind’s recipes for success, would offer the desired disconnect between band and music, while also giving the coaster infinite re-rideability.
Another option I’ve heard mentioned is turning Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster into a Max Goof “Powerline” ride. Wait a minute…I love that idea! Seriously, I wish I could take credit, but it’s not mine. (I don’t recall who originally did mention it, but I’ve seen it a few times in the comments here and on our Facebook page. Props to whoever first had the thought!)
Not to be a buzzkill, but just because something is an awesome idea doesn’t mean it’s practical. Sadly, this country doesn’t appreciate culture, and both the Muppets and Powerline enjoy limited popularity with small but passionate fanbases. It’s one thing to feature them in low-budget, low-capacity entertainment or meet & greets; it’s another entirely to center a high-capacity thrill ride around them. Then again, I also thought TRON was too niche for a major new roller coaster, so what do I know?!
However, there’s also another problem with redoing Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to characters from animated movies: it’s the most intense ride at Walt Disney World. It also has the highest height requirement at 48 inches. I could see this giving Disney pause about tying the attraction to family-friendly animated characters, which would signal it’s appropriate for all audiences.
The Muppets probably escape this concern, but Powerline doesn’t. Even as a character who’s primarily known by Millennials (and most of us are taller than 48″ by now), he’s still in the Goofy family. The height limit could take a lot of characters and movies from Disney and Pixar out of play.
You could point to Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure as being a similarly-intense roller coaster that also has a 48″ height requirement. That’s fair. My counter would be that DCA has different demographics, and Imagineering was backed into a corner with a Paradise Pier reimagining.
Toy Story Midway Mania made Pixar the most obvious choice, and from there, The Incredibles is about as “adult” of a Pixar movie as there is. (Well, Wall-E–but that’s not exactly coaster material.) There’s no such consideration with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which is isolated from the rest of Sunset Boulevard.
I’m sure you’ve already guessed the most obvious options that would leave: Marvel and Star Wars. Even before summarily dismissing the other armchair Imagineering candidates, these were always the most likely brands in the Disney portfolio.
There’s precedent for a Star Wars overlay, which Disney has done before with multiple different Space Mountains around the globe. I know many purists hate it, I think Hyperspace Mountain is shockingly good for what it is. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s intensity and speed might make that type of effects more difficult, but there’s also more that could be done in the pre-show.
However, I’m skeptical of this because Imagineering and Lucasfilm have been dead set on consolidating Star Wars into Galaxy’s Edge. As a result of that, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has already lost other Star Wars entertainment elsewhere in the park. There’s another good reason not to do this: DHS doesn’t need another high-profile Star Wars ride. (All ages and well-rounded entertainment is a totally different story.)
By process of elimination, this leaves us with Marvel. You might recall that back in November 2018, the New York Times did a piece about how much Disney was spending on expansion that included a tidbit about Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster being rethemed. The company quickly issued a denial–that there were “no current plans” to retheme Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster “at this time.”
My belief then and now was that the story as originally published was accurate, and Disney unintentionally let the cat out of the bag early. The company clearly participated in the piece and its author is a seasoned Disney fan, not just some random journalist who would’ve confused Paris and Florida. It still hasn’t happened since, but March 2020 derailed a lot of plans.
Marvel made the most sense then, and it still makes the most sense now for a Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster replacement. Walt Disney Studios Park has already done exactly that with its incarnation of this attraction, turning it into Avengers Assemble: Flight Force. That reimagined roller coaster has received a mixed response from fans, but that’s not really relevant.
Walt Disney World couldn’t do an Avengers attraction due to Universal’s Marvel contract. With that said, future negotiations between the two park operators are always a possibility, and that’ll likely be necessary in the next few years if Universal wants to continue using the Simpsons. Perhaps they don’t, in which case, different characters would necessarily need to be chosen for a reimagining of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
There are still plenty of possibilities, including Black Panther and a number of other recent films and Disney+ shows from Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four. Heck, it could be an mash-up of characters that Imagineering finds an excuse to put together, along with an eclectic and randomized roster of songs from various Marvel movies. Perhaps I’ll get my wish for Led Zeppelin after all–few more memorable fight scenes than the one with “Immigrant Song.”
Personally, I think Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster becoming a Marvel attraction is likely. As noted above, my bet is that it happens between now and 2026, but I’d be downright shocked if it doesn’t occur in the next decade. Iconic as Aerosmith may be, it’s probably fair to say that the band doesn’t have the same cachet or name recognition with younger guests. They’ve had a good run, but it’s time for something new–and probably not another band.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind has already proven massively popular, and there’s an appetite for more Marvel at Walt Disney World. While it obviously wouldn’t be identical, a thrill ride following that template–with a mix of music and humor–would be really well-received, and could be accomplished with a reimagining Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Ultimately, advocating for a Marvel replacement of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster probably isn’t going to endear me to a lot of longtime fans who either dislike super heroes or would prefer to not see Marvel shoehorned into another area where it doesn’t make perfect thematic sense. I’d counter that more Marvel at Walt Disney World is an inevitability at some point. More attractions will be built or repurposed; it’s a matter of when and where, not if.
Recognizing that inevitability, I would ‘sacrifice’ Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster before gambling on a new location or another reimagined ride. For one thing, this spot is fairly isolated from the rest of the park and could be transformed into almost anything without disrupting broader thematic integrity. For another, it’s Walt Disney World’s studios park, which is synonymous with IP dumping ground. Personally, I’d rather see Marvel here than in World Showcase or Animal Kingdom. (I’m not saying those are serious alternatives–I just don’t want to risk it.)
There’s also the reality that budgets are finite. Doing a Marvel reimagining to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster–rather than a new ride or land–is the most cost-efficient possible option, and leaves more money for expansion plans in Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom…and a much-needed second phase to the EPCOT overhaul that includes a reimagined Journey into Imagination.
In a nutshell, that’s my “pitch” for a reimagining of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Above all else, I hope something actually happens. Walt Disney World is going to need something marketable in the next few years, and reimaginings are really the only card they have to play since they haven’t broken ground on anything else. Marvel would maximize marketability, and give Walt Disney World something “new” to advertise after Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens in 2024. It just makes too much sense…so it probably won’t happen!
What do you think about a potential reimagining of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster? Hope that it’ll still be “Starring Aerosmith” forever or would you like to hear other music? Thoughts on potential bands, brands, or super heroes to replace Aerosmith? What would get your vote, so to speak? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!