TRON Lightcycle Run is a new roller coaster under construction by Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World. This covers everything you need to know: likely opening date, progress photos, ride vehicle test video, concept art, and answers to common questions. (Updated December 2, 2022.)
To bring you up to speed, this roller coaster was announced 5 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’ll be beyond the railway tracks that circle Magic Kingdom and, consequently, Walt Disney World Railroad is closed due to the roller coaster construction the the operational cost-savings. Fortunately, that’s gearing up to return very soon. (See When Will the Walt Disney World Railroad Reopen? for more.)
If you’re wondering when TRON Lightcycle Run will open…well, we might soon have an answer! After years and years of waiting, it’s likely that Disney will announce the opening date between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2022. If you want to be notified when that’s revealed (or any other Walt Disney World news, discount releases, etc.), sign up here for our FREE Disney newsletter here.
In terms of basic background, the attraction is officially known as TRON Lightcycle / Run (or Tron Lightcycle Power Run) 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 motorbike or 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 my photo of how all of this looks at Shanghai Disneyland. 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. The biggest difference is that it’s the focal point of Tomorrowland in China, 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.
For those wanting an idea of how TRON Lightcycle Run will fit into the Magic Kingdom “skyline,” above is an aerial view from last summer before the canopy cushions were installed. 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.
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.
When the canopy is finished, it’ll look beautiful and be what draws the eye of most guests.
TRON Lightcycle Run Construction Updates
The above video is a look at both construction progress and testing as of yesterday (December 1, 2022). I was in Magic Kingdom for the entire day to test Genie+ v. standby, and also attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This involved criss-crossing the park a lot, and virtually the entire day–up until around 11 pm (that’s when I last checked)–there was roller coaster train dispatching and at least some light effects testing in tandem.
Part of me wondered whether this is actual and necessary testing…or if Walt Disney World realizes there’s no better ‘free’ advertising than running the roller coaster during the popular Christmas tourist season. Many casual guests were taking photos and videos, and I overheard many talking about TRON Lightcycle Run. Lots of excitement about it.
Walt Disney World has been dispatching trains at or near peak efficiency, with under 30 seconds between them. The attraction also has been operating with human riders, and company executives and others have already experienced it. This means that the inside of the attraction is finished and has been turned over to operations, and the only construction to be completed is outside on the approach and various walkways.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at construction progress. This is also nearly done, and has been for the last few months…
There’s been a lot of progress on TRON Lightcycle Run’s construction in the last several months. Like other projects that kicked into high gear with the start of the new fiscal year, work on TRON Lightcycle Run has accelerated since around the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
Let’s start by approaching from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover with a fresh look at the construction site.
Speaking of fresh, one of the “biggest” changes you might notice since our last construction update is all the landscaping that has been installed between the expanses of concrete. Much of the dirt has been replaced with trees, making the whole area look a lot closer to its final form.
Another thing that’s been installed is light fixtures. You can see those in the photo above, obscuring some views into the construction site. These curved lamp posts give a futuristic sensibility to the area and are somewhat similar to the ones at Shanghai Disneyland, and also in new areas EPCOT.
Continuing to the heart of the site, here’s a wider view of the main elevated walkway and first section of the swooping canopy. It’s harder to see now thanks to the landscaping, but there’s also the Storybook Circus path underneath the flyover ramp that leads up to the attraction entrance.
The main work we observed was on the lead-up to the flyover walkway. Lots of finishing touches happening here; the ‘big thing’ that has yet to be done is install the attraction marquee in that middle concrete area. That probably will be one of the very last things to occur before the ride opens.
Speaking of the attraction entrance, you can see the series of arches in front of the guest entrance for TRON Lightcycle Run. Thematic flourishes have been installed here and the final elements of the canopy have also been installed.
You can’t see them anymore due to the added trees, but there are multiple entrances here, and clearly two separate sides–one for standby/virtual queue and another for the Lightning Lane.
TRON Lightcycle Run is technically beyond the berm in Magic Kingdom, shoehorned into a tight plot of land between the boundaries of Tomorrowland, Storybook Circus, and World Drive. Consequently, the area around the attraction will have a lot of strategically-located walls and walkways to direct traffic and conceal views into backstage and locations outside the park.
Above and below are very similar wider views (taken a few hours apart on December 1, 2022) that shows pretty much the entire TRON Lightcycle Run worksite that’s visible from the TTA PeopleMover.
The ETFE cushion canopy is complete, with crews now doing the final finishing work on the ground and elevated pathway. Due to the aforementioned placement of the attraction, there’s a lot going on to integrate the attraction into a small parcel of land–let’s break it down.
The flyover walkway (far left) will weave guests underneath the canopy, over the Walt Disney World Railroad tunnel (middle-left), and into the guest entrance (far right and below) of the show building. You can actually see a similar path in our photos of Shanghai Disneyland’s version of the roller coaster throughout this post (minus the train stuff).
Speaking of the train tunnel, this is now fully enclosed, mirroring the concept art–a necessity so the train doesn’t discolor the crisp canopy of TRON Lightcycle Run. A ventilation system, lighting, and track for the train has all been installed. There are also windows cut into the tunnel that’ll offer a view from the train of TRON Lightcycle Run.
The Walt Disney World Railroad has been testing for the last couple of weeks, and there are even Cast Members training at the stations. It’s a matter of days or weeks before that attraction reopens, not months. If it doesn’t open by the end of 2022, we’d be very surprised. (But who knows–with the way Disney does things, maybe it’ll return in early 2023.)
Speaking of Cast Member training, Walt Disney World Ambassadors shared a video on social media last month notifying Cast Members that they’ve been selected for the opening team of TRON Lightcycle Run. It’s fun to see the excitement that these CMs have at being selected for those launch teams. A nice change of pace from some of the news we’ve been sharing lately!
This is not necessarily indicative of an opening date, as Cast Members could be selected a month or so before they’re reassigned. However, they probably would not receive these selections several months in advance–that would be relatively unprecedented. Once these Cast Members are assigned to their new roles at the roller coaster, there will be a couple months of training and testing.
This suggests that our opening predictions below are still right on track–if anything, TRON Lightcycle Run could enter previews or soft openings earlier than discussed below. It’s highly likely that we get the official news between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day!
A few months ago, Walt Disney Imagineering released new publicity images showing that TRON Lightcycle Run has reached another project milestone at Magic Kingdom, with the start of show lighting testing at the attraction canopy.
This curved-wave structure serves as the Upload Conduit to the Grid, where guests (or “Users” in TRON parlance) will race beneath on Lightcycles as they begin their competition.
In preparation for the race, the Walt Disney Imagineering Show Lighting team is hard at work testing the system and programming more than 1,200 fixtures across the surface.
The canopy and exterior plaza will be brought to life in the coming months as the project team continues uploading and integrating additional show elements.
In other words, pretty much everything is done at this point aside from the flyover ramps, ground-level walkways, various planters, and a bit of clean-up and landscaping work. While it still very much looks like an active construction site, a lot of that can be finished quite quickly.
Obviously, it’s still an active construction site with a lot of work occurring, but the ride is now in the home stretch. Seriously. After 4+ years, the roller coaster is nearly ready. In fact, TRON Lightcycle Run could open within a few weeks given the work that remains. The question is…will it?
Possibly. The roller coaster itself is ready to roll–quite literally. Below the ETFE cushion roofing, you can commonly see roller coaster trains launching. We’ve seen these for a few months now, and they are now moving at full-speed and at regular intervals.
The other question is whether Walt Disney World even wants to open TRON Lightcycle Run anytime soon. We’ll address that next…
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.”
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.
We’ve speculated repeatedly that Walt Disney World would deliberately stagger its new attraction debuts this year and in 2023 as a way to incentivize new and repeat trips. Our thinking was that the debuts of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot and TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom would should be sufficiently spaced to give new bookings two shots in the arm.
The question is when will TRON Lightcycle Run open?
To our disappointment and surprise, Disney announced that TRON Lightcycle Run will debut in Spring 2023. While unfortunate that it won’t open this holiday season, it does make sense. This spacing after Cosmic Rewind would be strategic since the attraction could be entirely finished well before then.
This delay into Spring 2023 is more about when it’s most financially advantageous to open another headliner ride after Cosmic Rewind. Spacing them out in different calendar years would prompt some fans to take two trips instead of one, allowing Walt Disney World to benefit from two distinct marketing pushes.
This is disappointing because we know that TRON Lightcycle Run could be done within weeks or months if the company desired. It’s already being tested with live riders and there’s very little work to be done on the concrete around the attraction’s entrance. There’s nothing stopping Disney from opening TRON Lightcycle Run for this Christmas season besides the company’s desire to do so.
There’s plenty of recent precedent for this. Walt Disney World has sat on totally finished projects post-closure, waiting to debut them when most financially advantageous. However, that has been with things that were substantially finished pre-closure. With TRON Lightcycle Run, the company slowed work…then resumed and accelerated it.
With all of that said, if forced to choose possible opening dates for TRON Lightcycle Run, I’d go with February 17, 2023 at the earliest. That’s still over a full 18 months after it was supposed to debut.
That puts it in a new fiscal year and just before the Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras holidays, which will be one of the busiest weeks of the year at Walt Disney World in 2023. It would make sense from a demand perspective, and help increase Magic Kingdom’s capacity once Splash Mountain closes to be reimagined as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
However, I’m somewhat skeptical that TRON Lightcycle Run will debut by late February 2023, if only because Walt Disney World doesn’t typically open major new attractions in the winter months. To my knowledge, there has not been a high-profile ride opening in January or February in the current millennium.
For my more moderate and “most likely” scenario, I’ll predict that TRON Lightcycle Run opens on March 10, 2023. If I could only choose a single date rather than all of these ranges, that would be my precise prediction.
This would put the ride’s opening just before Osceola and Orange County, Florida are scheduled to have their spring breaks. That is essentially the kickoff of the spring break season, which lasts until one week after Easter, which falls on April 9, 2023.
One thing that gives me pause about this prediction is that it’s so soon after the busy Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras window. That week is going to be bonkers, and it would really help if Magic Kingdom had TRON Lightcycle Run to help with crowds. So…perhaps it will?
There’s a way for both predictions to be true: previews. It’s likely that TRON Lightcycle Run will have a few weeks of previews before the ride officially opens for Cast Members, Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members, etc. In other words, previews could start in mid-February with the ride officially opening in early March 2023. That timeline would work perfectly.
Another possibility is that TRON Lightcycle Run opens either the last day of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary (March 31, 2023) or shortly thereafter. Officially opening after the 50th concludes would make sense, allowing Walt Disney World to close the chapter on one celebration (and marketing campaign) and immediately start another one revolving around TRON Lightcycle Run.
It also makes sense to debut the attraction ahead of the busy Easter week. From a historical precedent perspective, opening on a Friday is the most likely scenario, which would mean March 31, 2023. However, that’s the last day of the 50th, so April 1, 2023 might be more likely.
As for the latest date we expect to see TRON Lightcycle Run open, that would be May 26, 2023. That’s the Friday before Memorial Day, which–even though technically still Spring 2023–is viewed as the unofficial start of summer by Walt Disney World.
Given that TRON Lightcycle Run could literally open any time, this would not be due to construction delays. Rather, it would be a deliberate decision if Walt Disney World already thinks spring break resort occupancy projections are strong enough, doesn’t care about addressing Magic Kingdom crowds after Splash Mountain closes, and wants to help boost bookings for summer. This scenario seems very unlikely to me.
To be crystal clear, that is not a rumored opening date for TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom. It’s simply my speculative prediction based on what’s likely and feasible given crowds, demand, and marketing campaigns.
As for when Walt Disney World will likely announce the opening date for TRON Lightcycle Run, the two most likely possibilities (but certainly not the only ones–it could happen a random morning in November) are during the Thanksgiving special or Christmas Day Parade on ABC. If you want to be notified when that’s revealed (or any other Walt Disney World news, discount releases, etc.), sign up here for our FREE Disney newsletter here.
There’s also the reality that TRON Lightcycle Run will be an Individual Lightning Lane attraction, which means that it’ll immediately generate direct revenue for Walt Disney World once it debuts. That means there’s less incentive for the company to wait around to have it be part of a marketing campaign.
The money that TRON Lightcycle Run could make during the busy holiday season could outweigh the value it has for Walt Disney World’s 2023 marketing push. (Moreover, there’s no reason TRON Lightcycle Run needs to be brand new to be the focus of marketing–Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and other attractions that are several years old remain a focus of ads.)
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!