TRON Lightcycle Power Run is coming to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in time for the park’s 50th Anniversary in 2021! Most importantly (and contrary to the rumors we reported), the Tron roller coaster will be an expansion to Magic Kingdom, sitting on a plot of land next to Space Mountain.
Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, made the announcement today during the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts presentation at D23 Expo. He also released concept art for Walt Disney World’s TRON Lightcycle Power Run, pictured below.
While he did not explicitly indicate as much, the placement of the attraction seems to indicate that Tomorrowland Speedway is safe, albeit with the possibility of a slightly altered track. (If that means an update to Tomorrowland Speedway, we are completely on board with this idea.) What follows are our thoughts on this, when it was originally rumored to be replacing the Tomorrowland Speedway…
With this roller coaster already proving to be a hit in Shanghai Disneyland, plus flashy visuals that play well on YouTube, plus Tron’s enduring popularity as a cult classic, there has been a lot of hope that TRON Lightcycle Power Run will make its way to Walt Disney World. I enjoyed TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland, but I did not enjoy it that much.
With that said, I thought I’d share some thoughts on TRON Lightcycle Power Run coming to Walt Disney World as someone who has experienced the attraction…
First of all, I’m in favor of pretty much anything that replaces Tomorrowland Speedway. If you told me there was a rumor that it was being replaced by a bunch of spinners based on Home on the Range featuring “authentic” farm animal flatulence for an extra-sensory experience, I’d say that it “seems like a modest upgrade.” (Update: TRON Lightcycle Power Run will not be replacing Tomorrowland Speedway–it’s being built on an expansion pad and isn’t replacing anything.)
I get that Tomorrowland Speedway is a rite of passage attraction for kids; it’s still a weak attraction and one that time has passed due to a failure to make upgrades over the years. It also occupies a large plot of valuable real estate in Magic Kingdom. If I had to choose one attraction in Magic Kingdom to replace, it wouldn’t be Stitch’s Great Escape or the Magic Carpets of Aladdin–it’d be this.
Moreover, I think an attraction based on Tron is an incredibly sensible pick for Tomorrowland. Multiple concepts have been tried for Tomorrowland, and I think the one that makes the most sense is fantastical visions of the future through the prism of science fiction. In other words, SciFantasyland. (Actually, no new term is required. There’s already a name for it: Discoveryland.)
Tron works very well for this, both in terms of substance and aesthetic. Even though the original movie is now old and dated (sorry, fans), it’s premise and visual style both hold up. I’d go a step further and say the Tron meets Tomorrowland (the movie that flopped) meets Progress City aesthetic is a good choice for a timeless Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland is overdue for an aesthetic refresh, and TRON Lightcycle Power Run could serve as the cornerstone for the land’s new look. As recent changes to the land have demonstrated, something is in the works in terms of placemaking. Hopefully, this TRON roller coaster could help kick that into high gear. Bring back the Tomorrowland entrance spires and now we’re talking!
Okay, so far so good with the TRON coaster. What, exactly, are my concerns…
What gives me pause about this rumor and/or desire to get TRON Lightcycle Power Run to Walt Disney World is that I don’t think it’s a great use of resources. I think we all know that budgets are finite, and each announcement has an opportunity cost–a competing rumor or concept that did not get funded because the announced attraction concept won out.
TRON Lightcycle Power Run was an incredibly expensive attraction to build at Shanghai Disneyland. The roof (of all things) cost an exorbitant amount, and other components of the attraction were likewise expensive.
In fairness, one rationale I’ve heard for the roof costing so much was the development of the plant cell-like effect that maintains the biomimicry motif of Shanghai’s Tomorrowland. Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland does not have such a motif, and although I’d expect a lot of placemaking in Tomorrowland to give it a cohesive feel, I would not expect it to follow the biomimicry model.
In other words, the roof for Walt Disney World’s TRON Lightcycle Power Run could be cheaper. With very little R&D work necessary, there could potentially be a significant cost-savings in cloning the attraction. Given that the core coaster seems quite similar to one used at Knott’s Berry Farm (Pony Express, which was manufactured by Zamperla; whereas Lightcycle Power Run uses a Vekoma coaster), I’m guessing the roller coaster ride system itself is not all that expensive.
So, perhaps this is not necessarily a big-budget attraction? Giving Magic Kingdom a flashy and marketable new E-Ticket thrill ride while most financial resources are allocated towards Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios certainly makes sense.
My other main issue with TRON Lightcycle Power Run is its duration. It’s a really short roller coaster. Don’t get me wrong, it is a ton of fun and has some great visuals, but it’s too short. Magic Kingdom already has one too-short roller coaster that recently opened and has incredibly high wait times. TRON Lightcycle Power Run would be a repeat of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, both in terms of ride duration and lengthy wait times. I don’t see Magic Kingdom getting a cloned version that’s longer, but I sure would love for that to be the case.
My final concern is that TRON Lightcycle Power Run’s seating arrangement is impractical for a mainstream American audience. There was a lot of outrage when Avatar Flight of Passage opened about its seating being restrictive to a diversity of body sizes. This was eventually addressed via tweaks in the seats and Cast Member training, but it was a big deal at first.
TRON Lightcycle Power Run is even more restrictive. This is not a huge issue in China where there’s more ‘size homogeneity’ (for lack of a better term). Even there, 2 of the coaster’s 7 trains have a last row with traditional seating. If this attraction is cloned at Walt Disney World, I would hope that number of traditional seats is dramatically increased. It’s an easy-enough fix.
Honestly, that’s about all I’ve got. Cloning attractions does not really bother me, especially when significant savings are involved. Even we visit other parks, I don’t buy the “give people an incentive to see the international parks” argument. The vast majority (99%) of Walt Disney World guests are never going to Shanghai Disneyland. Actually, 99% is probably a low number–more like 99.99%.
As for incentives, Shanghai Disneyland is incredibly unique, and a lot of that has no chance of ever being cloned. If you need an incentive, there’s your incentive. A modest amount of cloning attractions does not ruin that. Even Hong Kong Disneyland–a park that is 75% cloned–has enough compelling unique attractions and design to justify a visit.
I guess my trepidation mostly comes down to opportunity cost and actual cost. In reality, there’s a good chance a better competing concept for the Tomorrowland Speedway plot of land does not exist. There’s also a decent chance the cloned version of the Tron roller coaster will not cost nearly as much as the original, thereby allowing for Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to get every dime of money those parks so desperately need. On the other hand, there’s a good amount of upside; not just for this single attraction, but for an aesthetic reboot of the entirety of Tomorrowland. I guess you can consider me cautiously optimistic about this concept…assuming it’s announced in the first place. An assumption I’m not ready to make–but I’ll eat crow if it is this weekend.
What do you think of TRON Lightcycle Power Run? Would you like to see Tomorrowland Speedway replaced, or should it not be touched? Thoughts on a ‘new look’ aesthetic for Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of this rumor, and the prospect for TRON Lightcycle Power Run in Magic Kingdom? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!