TRON Lightcycle Run is a roller coaster under construction behind Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World. This covers everything you need to know: likely opening date, new photos of canopy progress, ride envelope testing, concept art, and answers to common questions. (Updated September 3, 2021.)
To bring you up to speed, this roller coaster was announced three years ago, is a clone of Shanghai Disneyland’s TRON Lightcycle Power Run, and will be located between Tomorrowland Speedway and Storybook Circus in Fantasyland. Like Space Mountain, it’s outside railway tracks that circle Magic Kingdom and, consequently, Walt Disney World Railroad is closed until TRON Lightcycle Run is finished.
At the last two D23 Expos, Walt Disney Imagineering has shared new information and concept art about the TRON Lightcycle Run attraction. Walt Disney World has teased additional details since, and other info–including an opening timeframe–has been rumored. We’ve done Shanghai Disneyland’s version of the ride several times, so a lot of the info that follows is also based on our firsthand experiences riding TRON Lightcycle Run…
In terms of basic background, the attraction is officially known as TRON Lightcycle / Run (or Tron Lightcycle Power Run at SDL) and is a semi-enclosed launched steel motorbike roller coaster attraction. The seats are similar to those on Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom; riders sit on individual lightcycles, lean forward, grip a set of handlebars, and a pad behind the seat comes down and snuggly secures the rider in place.
As the name suggests, the roller coaster is based on the Tron films. It starts with guests entering a huge gravity/show building where they step onto the Grid and board their own lightcycle. Like Space Mountain or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, much of the ride is in a darkened show building, but unlike those, the climax of the attraction is a loop underneath a large color-changing canopy, which is also the iconic feature of the attraction’s facade.
Above is how all of this looks at Shanghai Disneyland.
The biggest difference there is that it’s the focal point of Tomorrowland, with the entire land built around TRON Lightcycle Power Run. There are multiple approaches and viewing areas for the roller coaster, which I think is savvy.
By contrast, Magic Kingdom’s TRON Lightcycle Run is nestled behind Space Mountain, will have a cramped approach between that ride’s exit and Tomorrowland Speedway, and the only viewing area for the roller coaster under the canopy appears to be along the winding entrance and exit paths. (There are a few recipes for congestion here.)
Now let’s take a look at some concept art for TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom to see how its aesthetics will differ from the Shanghai Disneyland incarnation of the attraction…
Above is the newest concept art for TRON Lightcycle Run, which has been tweaked from the original plans. There are a few things that jump out from this new art in terms of changes from its predecessor.
First, the marquee is now a planter out front of the attraction, rather than hanging from the top of the canopy. Next, the entrance is now a winding and accessible walkway, rather than stairs. Finally, there’s what appears to be a (very small) tunnel for the train.
Above is the concept art from two years ago, which also shows how TRON Lightcycle Run fits with Space Mountain, the Tomorrowland Speedway, and Walt Disney World Railroad around it.
In that, you can see the stairs, path back to Storybook Circus, and original marquee. You can’t really see where the train would go, and it appears the entrance/exit from the show building all follow one path down the stairs.
September 2021 TRON Construction Update
The latest development in Tron Lightcycle Run’s construction progress is ride envelope testing. That Erector Set-like contraption on the roller coaster track in the photo above is the envelope test cart for Tron Lightcycle Run.
This process that occurs with all new attractions, using a test vehicle or push cart along the track that’s equipped with an semi-circle overhead to simulate the maximum guest wingspan. This is a safety measure to ensure that the ride’s elements will have clearance so guests cannot touch–and thus injure–themselves on the attraction.
Typically, envelope testing occurs towards the end of construction once all show elements and everything near the track has been installed. Otherwise, the process would need to be repeated after everything closer to the track is added.
If you’re unfamiliar with envelope testing and want to see it in action (my explanation probably leaves something to be desired), here’s a video of the process back before Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opened:
For perspective, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train did its ride envelope testing about one month before soft opening in Spring 2014.
Don’t get your hopes up about a similar timeframe here. That roller coaster has a lot more in terms of show scenes and trees along the track. Tron Lightcycle Run has the canopy overhead, launch tunnels, grid archways, and that’s about it.
Plus, there’s clearly still several months (at the very least) worth of visible work to be done to the exterior.
As you can see in the above photo taken from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover (on September 3, 2021), the canopy still needs its panels installed, the walkways need to be built, and other landscaping needs to be done.
Above is a wide angle look at construction progress as of September 3, 2021 from the queue of Goofy’s Barnstormer.
As compared to the prior update just over a month ago, you’ll notice that a new multi-level structure is being built (above and to the right of the Tron billboard) and the blue netting installation is finished.
Above is the same perspective from July.
Below is from the same perspective from April.
As previously noted, the large crane that was used for structural work has been removed from the construction site at the beginning of this summer.
This was a fairly significant milestone.
Above is an aerial view at Tron Lightcycle Run from back in April, where you can see the giant crane and some of the last structural supports.
Below is a look as of July 2021:
The crane is gone, and so too are the support columns. You can also vaguely make out some of the blue netting being added to the canopy on the side nearer Space Mountain.
Here you can also see just how deep the gravity building is, extending all the way back to World Dr. on the far side of Magic Kingdom.
Over the summer, crews installed this temporary blue netting to the canopy at a brisk pace. It’s our understanding that this netting will be used by crews to more easily add the paneling and lighting to the top of the canopy.
We haven’t seen this happening in late August or September 2021, so our assumption is that they’ve moved on to something else.
Another notable thing is that the gravity building has been unsealed where the track enters, as work has resumed in earnest outside and in Tron Lightcycle Run. As discussed in earlier installments, the gravity building was closed to protect it from weather while the project was mothballed.
The difference in the number of workers around the construction site between last year through earlier this spring and this summer is pronounced. You can spot dozens of workers at any given moment now, versus a skeleton crew earlier in the year. Some days, nothing was happening at all.
While the gravity building is prominent in these photos, it should be noted that this is an extreme angle.
From within Tomorrowland and when approaching TRON Lightcycle Run, guests likely won’t be able to see the ‘big box.’ It’s not visible from most of Magic Kingdom; just as is the case at Shanghai Disneyland.
Here’s the view from in front of Space Mountain. From this angle, you can see a small portion of the building, but the focal point is the canopy.
When it’s finished, it’ll look beautiful and be what draws the eye of most guests.
TRON Lightcycle Run Opening Date
Now let’s turn to the opening date of Magic Kingdom’s upcoming thrill ride. Walt Disney World has dropped the line that TRON Lightcycle Run “is set to open at Magic Kingdom Park in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.”
This is not surprising, as that was the plan prior to the multi-month closure of Walt Disney World, during which all construction stopped. Even after the parks reopened, work was slow to resume inside Magic Kingdom on TRON Lightcycle Run.
Late last year, there was a credible rumor that TRON Lightcycle Run construction would pause until at least the next fiscal year starts in October 2021. While it did slow down considerably, work never stopped entirely–and has since gained momentum.
In our view, the best case scenario is that TRON Lightcycle Run debuts for a “second push” of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. It’s still too early for Walt Disney World to announce an official opening date.
If forced to choose the most likely opening date for TRON Lightcycle Run, I’d go with June 1, 2022 or October 1, 2022. That’s a full year after it was supposed to debut.
Personally, I think there’s a greater than 75% chance that TRON Lightcycle Run opens between Memorial Day and Thanksgiving 2022. The remaining 25% would be split evenly between before Memorial Day and after Thanksgiving. There’s almost zero chance it’ll open before March 2022 and the odds of its debut slipping into 2023 are likewise highly unlikely.
To be crystal clear, that is not a rumored opening date or timeframe for TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom. It’s simply my speculative prediction based on what’s likely and feasible given the current pace of work.
The good news is that Walt Disney World has been able to ramp up 50th Anniversary plans and demand is proving strong. This has emboldened Disney to get more aggressive with its projects.
While I really enjoy TRON Lightcycle Run, it “only” scored a 9/10 in our Shanghai Disneyland Ride Reviews. The big thing that prevented it from receiving a perfect 10/10 is duration.
The coaster itself, from launch to return, lasts almost 60 seconds exactly. (Other internet resources suggest it’s 2 minutes long–that’s only accurate from load to unload, but a full minute of that isn’t part of the ride experience at all.)
Another concern is the seating, which I’ve previously said (wrongly, I guess) would be what precluded this roller coaster from ever being cloned at Walt Disney World. As noted above, TRON Lightcycle Run has bike seating, with guests straddling the lightcycle, leaning forward and placing their chest and stomach flush with the front pad while handlebars come forward and a back restraint lowers.
It’s a snug fit, like a tighter and more secure version of Flight of Passage in Pandora – World of Avatar. Shanghai Disneyland’s version has accessible cars at the back of the trains. More accessible seating will be necessary in the Magic Kingdom version, as the normal bike seats aren’t going to work for a lot of Walt Disney World guests.
Ultimately, TRON Lightcycle Run is a lot like Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. Both are fast launch roller coasters that largely take place in dark show buildings with a scattering of props and lean heavily on thrills. TRON Lightcycle Run will be about 20 seconds shorter, but it’ll have an outdoor section, and superior visuals inside.
With all of that said, what cannot be overstated about TRON Lightcycle Run is the coolness factor thanks to the unique seating, flashy visuals, and that outdoor loop. This is a definite advantage it has over other roller coasters at Walt Disney World. While I wish it were about another 20-30 seconds longer, I think most fans will end up loving TRON Lightcycle Run.
What do you think of TRON Lightcycle Run? Are you excited for this new Magic Kingdom roller coaster, or does it not interest you? Thoughts on how the aesthetic will fit into Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World? Any questions? 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!