TRON Lightcycle Run is a roller coaster under construction in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The ride will debut as a Tomorrowland expansion behind Space Mountain. This covers everything you need to know: likely opening date, photos of progress, concept art, and answers to common questions. (Updated April 13, 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 for modifications 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.
April 2021 TRON Construction Update
Above is a wide angle look at construction progress as of April 13, 2021 from the queue of Goofy’s Barnstormer. This is currently our main vantage for construction photos, as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover has been closed since last March.
Below is from the same perspective 2 months earlier:
There are two main differences between the photos. First, the entire canopy is now installed. In the older photo, you can see some of the white canopy support structures sitting on the ground, waiting to be added adjacent to the gravity building.
Second, most of the temporary support columns have been removed. These are the darker metal stacks under the white canopy used during construction. The last of these still need to be removed, but aside from that, the canopy work is now finished.
The last section of the canopy to be installed is actually difficult to see from the park, so we headed over to the top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort for a bird’s eye view.
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.
In the last several months, crews have been installing sections of the canopy at a brisk pace.
It’s difficult to visualize how this will look when the canopy installation is finished, and the temporary support columns are removed, but work is nearly done on the infrastructure of the canopy.
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 as of April 2021. You can see a small portion of the building (in the far right corner of the frame), but the focal point is the canopy. When it’s finished and, you know, not an ugly mess of metal, it’ll look beautiful and be what draws the eye of most guests.
On an unrelated note, we also saw the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover running for several hours without issue during this visit, so perhaps that refurbishment will come to an end sooner than anticipated?!
Officially, Disney has repeated 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.”
However, that was 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.
The construction progress might seem like it bodes well for TRON Lightcycle Run’s opening date. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Above is a look where the gravity building has been sealed around the coaster track. This is (obviously) temporary, done because TRON Lightcycle Run construction will soon pause until at least the next fiscal year starts in October 2021.
Recently, Walt Disney World has been hinting that TRON Lightcycle Run won’t open in 2021. That isn’t officially confirmed, but it’s been rumored for months and is an open secret at this point. Beyond credible rumors, the attraction wasn’t highlighted in holiday season specials on ABC and Freeform, and Disney did not place it on a list of “priority projects.” In an interview with Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products, USA Today stated that TRON Lightcycle Run “isn’t expected to open during the park’s 50th birthday year.”
The best case scenario is TRON Lightcycle Run debuts for a “second push” of what’s likely to be a multi-year celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
It’s too early to speculate on a precise opening timeframe; a lot could still change, including the pace of construction now that attendance has picked up and the travel industry is recovering. However, if forced to choose the most likely opening dates for TRON Lightcycle Run, I’d go with October 1, 2022. (A full year after it was supposed to debut.)
To be crystal clear, that is not my predicted opening date for TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom. There are so many unknowns right now, and it’s impossible to predict when physical distancing rules will be relaxed and Walt Disney World will be able to lift attendance limits. That’s the biggest impediment to Disney accelerating the opening timeframe for TRON Lightcycle Run.
My personal view skews towards optimism. I expect most health safety protocol to fade away by October 2021 (see When Will Walt Disney World Stop Requiring Face Masks? for some predictions), which will enable the 50th Anniversary plans to be ramped up. By extension, it will allow for an earlier opening date of TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom. However, that’s still just rampant speculation at this point.
Less optimistically, there’s the possibility that Walt Disney World will want to space out its upcoming additions between now and 2024 as the development cycle slows down and less is in the pipeline for the Florida parks.
That could be why Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is slated to debut in October 2021 (delayed by over a year). Following that, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind could debut as the marketable addition in Summer 2022, with TRON Lightcycle Run being the big thing for 2023, and the finished EPCOT overhaul coming in 2024. That’s just a guess, but it tracks with the way Disney has slowed all major projects down.
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.
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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!