Ride Review: Is TRON Lightcycle Run Worth the Time or Money?
TRON Lightcycle Run is Walt Disney World’s newest attraction, opening in 2023 at Magic Kingdom after being announced way back in 2017. This roller coaster review shares our thoughts on the thrill ride, comparisons to other attractions, and whether it’s worth the time and energy to join the virtual queue or cost of buying line-skipping Lightning Lane access.
We first experienced TRON Lightcycle (Power) Run almost 7 years ago at Shanghai Disneyland. That feels like a lifetime ago, especially given everything that has happened since and while watching the lethargic pace of the roller coaster’s construction at Magic Kingdom.
I’ve made no secret about being a bit let down by TRON Lightcycle Run there, and had cautioned Walt Disney World fans not to expect too much given the drawn out timeframe of the addition. Given that, the conclusion of this TRON Lightcycle Run ride review might seem foregone. However, expectations are a funny thing.
After thinking that it’s not that great for several years and telling everyone else to temper their expectations, my first time on the Magic Kingdom version of TRON Lightcycle Run exceeded my own. Ride number two was just as good, confirming that TRON Lightcycle Run was better than I remembered.
For me, it was likely a matter of perspective. My first time doing it all those years ago, TRON Lightcycle Run was the #2 attraction attraction in a brand-new castle park that was billed as being revolutionary–and with a budget on par with Tokyo DisneySea.
Our first ride in the new park was Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, which set an impossibly high standard that would be a tough act for anything to follow. Even though I knew they were fundamentally different experiences, TRON couldn’t live up to that high mark. Nothing else could.
There are two possible reasons why I’m offering that anecdote. Maybe it’s filibustering in a ride review about a roller coaster that’s under 2 minutes long and in the dark, as there cannot conceivably be that much to say about this ride (challenge accepted). The other is that perspective is key, and it’ll likely shape your own opinion of TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom.
If you have been watching the gravity building slowly rise and ETFE cushion canopy be installed at a snail’s pace while doing loops aboard the TTA PeopleMover, perhaps you’ve set similarly high expectations. Imaginations can run wild, especially when seeing something for such a long time and having the chance to really mull it over. Maybe your mind has already programmed its version of TRON Lightcycle Run, and any deviation from that will disappoint.
Even if you’re not a diehard Walt Disney World fan who has visited several times since construction began, it’s still possible for impossibly high expectations for TRON Lightcycle Run. In fact, all it might take is first riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
Or, perhaps you read up on and jumped through the hoops of the virtual queue, getting up before 7 am to score a boarding group, spending more time on the online ‘grid’ of My Disney Experience to ride TRON Lightcycle Run than any other attraction at Walt Disney World. Another possibility is that you spent $20 on an Individual Lightning Lane for TRON Lightcycle Run, quite the high cost when measured in ‘dollars per minute’ of the ride experience.
The converse is also true. Maybe you went into TRON Lightcycle Run cold, or knew that construction was purposefully drawn out, and not due to any complicated aspects of the attraction. It’s possible you prefer the virtual queue, favoring a couple minutes of effort at 7 am or 1 pm to avoid a couple hours in the standby line. Likewise, maybe your value of a Lightning Lane is measured not in ride duration, but in time and headaches saved.
This just scratches the surface on a range of reasons why Walt Disney World fans might be underwhelmed, overwhelmed, or somewhere in between with TRON Lightcycle Run. Since this is a review, let’s switch gears from the hypothetical to where we stand on each defining aspect of the attraction.
Let’s start with one of the biggest positive notes of the experience, which is what it adds to Magic Kingdom as a whole. If you’ve been watching TRON Lightcycle Run take shape over the last however-many years, you’re probably familiar with the Upload Conduit canopy that covers the outdoor portion of the roller coaster.
Although I still think it’s regrettable that Disney didn’t shorten the Tomorrowland Speedway track to open up the area a bit more, the plaza under the Upload Conduit is something special. The flow of the walkways, enormous canopy overhead, and views into the rest of Tomorrowland are fantastic.
This whole space just oozes kinetic energy. Standing under the Upload Conduit at night as it changes colors and the lightcycles whizz by overhead, the speedway cars putter along below, and the TTA Peoplemover glides by is nothing short of incredible. It’s right up there with the submarine lagoon at Disneyland as the ultimate in atmospheric experiences. Once the whole area around TRON Lightcycle Run is open-access, this plaza is going to be a top-notch spot for watching Happily Ever After.
For me, this is the highlight of TRON Lightcycle Run. That might seem like a backhanded compliment, but it’s really not. I absolutely adore attractions that have something to offer everyone, and improve the park experience as a whole. I wish it weren’t quite as disconnected from the rest of Tomorrowland, but once you’re back in this TRON plaza, it feels like an organic extension of Magic Kingdom.
My favorite “part” of TRON Lightcycle Run thus far has been simply standing under the Upload Conduit for a few hours at night, taking these photos. This is one way that TRON Lightcycle Run races laps around other new attractions at Walt Disney World. The ride itself won’t be for everyone, but what the kinetic energy and atmospheric quality that it adds to Magic Kingdom certainly is.
The Upload Conduit and its ambiance is one of those things that puts the theme into the park. This is a stellar addition to the ‘skyline’ at Magic Kingdom, and another reminder of what makes these parks special. As always, the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
With that glowing praise out of the way, let’s enter the queue, immediately after tapping into the virtual queue or Lightning Lane. TRON Lightcycle Run is a mixed bag here, greeting guests with ribbed archways set below the canopy that are meant to conceal the gravity building.
There are little blue signs garnishing these arches highlighting Team Blue, as well as an ENCOM SHV 20905 digitizer laser, through which human Users pass from the real world into the digital world of the Grid.
After passing under the laser, Users enter a hallway with lighting and designs meant to evoke a circuit board and the digital realm. As a sucker for flashing lighting, I appreciate this…but it is also very clearly a flashy hallway.
This is not the only ‘obvious hallway’ in the queue for TRON Lightcycle Run. Perhaps this is a “me problem” and a matter of impossibly high expectations, but I found these sections stuck out when contrast with the ‘wow moment’ and impressive areas of the queue and ride as a whole in TRON Lightcycle Run.
To each their own, but the goal here is impressing upon guests that they’ve entered the digital realm, and I found this suspension of disbelief difficult at times. To be clear, I’m not saying that recognizing a regular hallway ruined the immersiveness of the experience or anything of the sort.
Rather, that the depth of the themed design and level of detail was not consistent throughout TRON Lightcycle Run’s opening act. I’d actually go a step further and say TRON Lightcycle Run is lacking the level of attention and polish throughout, with a bunch of “little things” that are minor in isolation but add up in aggregate.
Truthfully, I don’t think this is a “me problem” or result of impossibly high expectations. Again, Cosmic Rewind is a good contrast. That attraction transitions guests through multiple settings, but each is done with such care and detail that believability and suspension of disbelief is simple. That attraction has a tougher task, but sticks the landing better.
None of the shortcomings in TRON Lightcycle Run are make or break, and I’d imagine that most guests won’t even notice them. But this is a review and Imagineering has created certain fan expectations by touting its attention to detail and emphasis on everything (that’s precisely why so many of us became fans), so this is all far game.
The aforementioned ‘wow moment’ in TRON Lightcycle Run occurs after passing through the first digital hallway. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a brief pre-show reveal that is very impressive. This is also similar in idea to a moment in Cosmic Rewind, and is the kind of thing that elevates something from ‘ride’ to ‘attraction.’
Following that reveal, the next room of the queue is one of the more impressive ones. The thematic flourishes and design are mostly well done in here, but what commands your full attention is a preview of the lightcycles preparing for launch. So much about TRON Lightcycle Run has been described as a ‘nextgen’ Space Mountain. I don’t think that’s a fair characterization, but this does remind me of the Space Mountain load area overlook (at Disneyland) on steroids.
Towards the end of the queue, guests arrive at the lockers. TRON Lightcycle Run is the first attraction at Walt Disney World to require lockers for pretty much anything larger than a phone or wallet. This is a new system for the domestic Disney parks, but hardly new–roller coasters around the world having been requiring lockers for years.
New to TRON Lightcycle Run, a double-sided and digitized locker system is used to store bags and loose items while you race your Lightcycle. These free lockers pair directly with your MagicBand, ticket media, or provided keycard so you can easily lock and reopen your locker with a quick tap.
All items must be placed either in a locker before you board your Lightcycle, or in a small compartment located on the attraction vehicle that can hold items such as cellphones, glasses or wallets. I placed my camera bag and tripod in the locker, and it took some contortions to fit both. For reference, my bag is 12.2 x 8.66 x 18.11 inches (per Amazon) and I don’t think it would’ve fit if it were much larger than that.
If it’s your first time using required lockers at a roller coaster, you might not be appropriately impressed by this. As someone who has used many of these, this is as good as it gets. The lockers at TRON Lightcycle Run (like VelociCoaster before it) are an absolute breeze and total gamechanger. It’s smooth and seamless, with a level of unprecedented ease and zero friction.
Load for TRON Lightcycle Run is also similar to Cosmic Rewind, right down to the dual platforms and how Cast Members direct guests to each side. Cast Members are absolutely masterful at this, and TRON is already proving extremely efficient–despite some hiccups–because of how adept they’ve become at directing guests.
Those aforementioned hiccups are the issues encountered by larger sized guests. Suffice to say, if you’re tall, have muscular legs, or are plus-sized, you might have issues with the normal ride vehicles on TRON Lightcycle Run. We cover everything you need to know in TRON Lightcycle Run Problems for Larger Guests. If you think you could have problems fitting into the lightcycle, we’d highly recommend reading that. It covers common issues, but also “solutions” for improving your chances of riding the attraction in a standard seat.
TRON Lightcycle Run is a semi-enclosed launched steel motorbike roller coaster, meaning that it goes from zero to high speed very, very fast. There are essentially two (unequal) halves to the ride, with the first taking place under that swooping outdoor canopy and affording breathtaking views of the people around and, if you look around a bit, Tomorrowland and distant areas of Magic Kingdom.
Following that, guests enter a huge gravity building (a big dark warehouse) where you’re on Team Blue and racing against the Grid’s menacing Programs – Team Red, Team Yellow or Team Orange. Your goal is to be the first to race through eight Energy Gates, digital markers that Users and Programs compete to “capture.” The first team to capture all eight Gates by passing through them is declared the winner. (Spoiler: you win.)
Much of the fan debate about TRON Lightcycle Run has revolved around whether it’s too short. That was my criticism after first riding in Shanghai Disneyland. Depending upon how you measure ride duration, it’s somewhere between one and two minutes.
Some fans have argued that the thrilling part is only ~60 seconds, and that’s too short. Others have countered that it’s about on par with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and there’s not heated debate about its duration. (I’d argue that’s because it’s older. That coaster debuted during the nascent years of the internet, and the ship has sailed for online arguing about duration. Just like it will for TRON Lightcycle Run’s length by 2025.)
Personally, I’m of two minds about this. First of all, I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule for what’s “long enough” for a roller coaster. Not in seconds or in feet of track. It’s more an art than a science, and satisfaction comes from any number of things–pacing, cadence, thrills, layout, etc.
Part of the “problem” with TRON Lightcycle Run is that it has two distinct sections: the canopy and the Grid. From my perspective, the canopy is immensely satisfying. Flying under the swooping canopy and over the sidewalks leading to the attraction is incredibly cool, and I could never get enough of this–but feel more or less content with it after each ride.
The gravity building is a different story. As noted above, there are eight Energy Gates you need to capture. While the “story” is not really essential to enjoying the attraction–and easy to miss because a lot is going on inside the gravity building thanks to screens and visual effects–I actually think it helps to know what’s going on, and focus your attention on it. (In my view, there’s nothing to spoil here.)
Focusing on capturing the Energy Gates narrows your attention, and initially makes it feel like TRON Lightcycle Run is going to last a while, as there’s significant space between the first five Energy Gates. Then the climactic moment of the race happens, and you obtain the final three gates in fairly quick succession.
If there were just a tad more spacing between those final few Energy Gates, I think TRON Lightcycle Run would be the perfect duration. Of course, I wouldn’t complain if it were many minutes longer than that–I could ride this thing all day–but I wouldn’t think it’s at all too short in that case.
As it stands, I suspect a big part of the perception that it’s too short stems from the canopy section and the Energy Gate race being so separate from one another. If it were just a race through the Energy Gates or simply swooping around under the canopy–and not both–it would probably feel more complete, but it would also be a single distinct experience instead of two.
Upon the conclusion of TRON Lightcycle Run, I’m left craving those experiences again, not thinking “that’s it?” and ready to move on. So by that metric, TRON Lightcycle Run mostly delivers for me on the ride itself. The music, visuals, pacing, and sense of exhilaration are all top notch. For me, TRON is not as satisfying as Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind or VelociCoaster, but those are elite attractions–it falling slightly short of those marks is more praise for them than an indictment of TRON Lightcycle Run.
There’s also the fact that it’s fundamentally different. More than anything else, I’d categorize TRON Lightcycle Run as a “wish fulfillment ride.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the films, straddling the lightcycle and racing through the Grid is, itself, an experience that will be etched in your memory long after the specifics of the roller coaster–and most other rides you did on vacation at Walt Disney World–fades away.
To answer the titular question, all of that makes TRON Lightcycle Run worth the energy and effort of the virtual queue. (To that point, consult our TRON Lightcycle Run Virtual Queue Strategy Guide for improving your odds of successfully scoring a free spot to ride.) As someone with strong disdain for the pay-per-ride Individual Lightning Lanes, I cannot answer that one. I personally have never bought one of those, but my circumstances also differ from a once-in-a-lifetime tourist.
Hopefully the above commentary about TRON Lightcycle Run being a wish fulfillment attraction and indelible memory can help you decide for yourself. Failing all of that, simply standing under the canopy gazing up and around is an experience that’s easily “worth it” for anyone who can’t ride.
Ultimately, I do not love TRON Lightcycle Run in the same way as other recent additions to Walt Disney World, but there’s absolutely something to be said for its memory-making quality and coolness factor. The unique nature of the ride plus the kinetic quality of the Upload Conduit that amounts to a park enhancement enjoyable for all–not just thrill seekers–add up to make TRON Lightcycle Run a strong addition to the Walt Disney World ride roster and Magic Kingdom mountain (?) range.
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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 the aesthetic and kinetic energy it adds to this corner of Tomorrowland? Agree or disagree with my assessment? 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!
Rode it a couple of days ago during final days of soft opening and loved it. Thought I’d miss it as there before official opening. Space Mountain disappointing though when compared with Paris version.
Our family have been on all 5 versions of Space Mountain and we all have different favorites but agree that WDW space mountain is the least fun (so much bumping around!). I’ll go on any Space Mountain (or really any Disney mountain) happily, but my husband has to be cajoled.
To me it is not worth the LL money. To me it is not even worth getting up to get a VQ. We went during the preview last week. Got VQ group 59. For the much anticipation of the ride from 2017 to now, it was a huge let down. cosmic was little known to me anyway, I had no idea what it was or that they were even putting it in until about 9 months before hand. Got on and knew this was a huge huge E ticket that was like pandora people would be willing to wait hours and hours for. Tron didn’t feel it, actually it was very very uncomfortable from the moment I sat down and could not wait for it to be over. I personally am in the overweight, but not obese category. I fit on every ride in Disney, Universal and Seaworld, no problem. I have had Breast cancer, lumpectomy has left my muscles with a stretch feeling, that usually does not hurt. The way I had to lean forward and put all my weight on my chest just hurt me from the second I got on till the second I got off. Would I go on it again, possibly, as a once a year ride when lines are reasonable, not like pandora where I go into the park many nights just to ride it multiple times a week or cosmic where I have to have a VQ every time, or I change parks rather than be disappointed not going. Tron is more like TOT to me, will go every 18 months when grandchildren visit but other wise walk right past it. So yes I can tolerate the pain in my chest, but it is not worth the trouble the ride did not thrill me at all. Would I pay for it never. Hope that helps others.
Tron was an absolute highlight when I visited Shanghai Disneyland, one that I honestly never expected to see stateside because, once you remove the conceit of the vehicles, the grid section feels very much like Space Mountain. Selfishly, as someone who can’t currently conceive of going to China ever again, I am happy to see even an imperfect version of it pop up elsewhere.
This comment resonated with me—we loved Tron Shanghai (and the whole park)—with the current geopolitical situation in China, we won’t be taking family vacations to Shanghai or Hong Kong anytime soon (which will break my heart when the new land opens at HKD)— we loved Tron in Florida last week…but maybe part of the joy the nostalgia for 5 years ago exploiting our final Disney park.
Just gotta say, epic on-ride photo there!
As far as ILL’s being worth it, I can’t really measure things in terms of a 2-minute attraction vs. a 3-minute attraction. As a non-local who visits every 1-3 years, it goes without saying that I will hit the newest attractions. The value proposition for me, therefore, becomes “Is $20 worth 90-minutes less in line, freeing up time for other attractions/dining/entertainment during this 5-day trip?” As much as I begrudge the expense, it’s a no brainer through that lens.
Thanks for another great review Tom. You have a knack for sharing the exact information that makes me want to shape my Disney experience to fit my own interests. Like @Flo I am also interested in whether I can wear my glasses when on this ride. An older WDW fan here, and without my glasses I am pretty blind. Don’t know if I would enjoy the ride if I couldn’t wear them. Any thoughts on this Tom?
My daughter wore her eyeglasses twice on the ride with no trouble. (I wouldn’t recommend sunglasses because those tend to be a bit looser and a lot of the ride is in the dark.) They do have small nets around the outdoor part of the track to catch loose articles and prevent them from falling on the walkways below.
I wore my glasses last week during soft opening and had no issues. But I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to put on a croakie so that you’re certain they won’t fall off! I paid LL and while I appreciate the time it saved, I found the theming lackluster. But the ride was cool and I’m glad I had the chance to experience it!
Can you wear glasses on this ride?
I kept my glasses on when I rode it last week and I was nervous about it before the ride started, but they stayed on fine and I didn’t feel any movement of them at all.
It’s a great ride, but not worth the LL fee (but I don’t think any of them do… unless you absolutely must during your visit). As a family of four who booked seven months ago, news that we’d be eligible for an opportunity during the soft open to ride Tron was exciting. At 7am on our Magic Kingdom day (Tuesday), I refreshed my queue page and snagged a group 35!! The queue experience is really good once past the laser. I really enjoyed all the effects as did my family. The presentation once you make it to the boarding area is phenomenal. I would argue the ride itself is good, not great. The sensation from the sitting position is really enjoyable, but Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure is better. The whole experience was still a lot of fun… a very good addition to the park. My kids are now inspired to watch the movies which I think is a good thing in which I hope a third movie is made. It’s too bad “The Dude” himself couldn’t make an appearance…
From launch to braking, it is 60 seconds flat. Is it fun? Absolutely!!! Would I be willing to pay money for it or wait over an hour for it? Heck no…. But I am impatient like that. Would I do it again? Absolutely!!! Even for the minute long ride.
We rode it twice during one of the soft opening days (we bought an ILL after being shut out of the 7am virtual queue but then scored a 1pm virtual queue spot) and we were so impressed. There is a moment in the pre-show where everyone gasped and it was fun to know it was coming the second time around and see everyone’s delighted expressions. We enjoyed the ride itself as well. I fall into the anti-GotG ride camp (it’s the only ride at Disneyworld that gives me bad motion sickness as it’s the devil baby of Teacups and Space Mountain), so I was relieved that I could ride Tron with no trouble at all. Our second ride was just as dusk was falling and the lights were beginning to come on. We’ve decided on our next trip we’ll go ahead and spend the ILL money again if we see a time that’s well into the dark hours — it is so beautiful to watch that we want to also experience the ride during that time as well.
I am with you on the guardians of the Galaxy motion sickness. That is no joke. The rest of my family absolutely loved GOTG.but as soon as I was seated on that coaster, I knew I was in for trouble. That and flight of passage are a no go for me. You give me hope that I will be able to tolerate Tron. 🙂
Right??? I’ve actually ridden GotG on three separate visits just in case I hadn’t timed the anti-nausea meds right but it’s still a no go for me. (I think that’s why folks have no trouble getting into the GotG 1pm queue — it was open for a couple of hours on our last Epcot day.) I did take the lowest dose of motion sickness medication on Tron day but we rode it twice (about five hours apart) and I had no trouble at all either time. I hope it works out for you!
We rode it during the AP preview and were just blown away by it! Preshow was very cool. And I like the way that there is a split line for those wanting the front row, just a slightly longer wait, which we did. The experience of hanging over the front was incredible. You can see it in our faces from the ride picture. Also liked the lockers a lot, it removed all the anxiety about items.
As for the length of the ride, I would say it wasn’t too short, it left me wanting to ride it again, which I am sure we will.
Also forgot to mention we rode it after dark which I think really adds to the experience. And I grew with Tom about hanging out under the canopy watching the ride zoom by and all the lights glowing is really cool.
I’ve done the one in Shanghai as well and could have sworn it felt longer? It’s been since 2018, so my memory has faded.
This was my hot take to some friends after the AP Preview – “Tron was a bit too short, Guardians is better, as is the Tron in Shanghai. BUT it a decent addition to MK. Would I pay more than $15 for a Lightning Lane? No, but like SDMT, it’s an occasional ride.”
I do wonder if my opinion would have been different if it had opened before Guardians like it was supposed to, and I wouldn’t have compared the too so close together?
*two not too!
I’m pretty positive the track length is identical to Shanghai. My perception was that this version was longer, but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong! 😉
I think the ideal order to debut the new attractions to maximize positive fan reception would’ve been:
1/2. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure/TRON Lightcycle Run
3. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
4/5. Cosmic Rewind/Rise of the Resistance
With that said, about half of the people (I’d say it’s 40/60) I know prefer TRON to Cosmic Rewind, so who knows…
I just rode it during the soft opening on a trip I booked specifically to ride it…but I’ve also been reading your articles for months and knew to keep my expectations low. Because they were such low expectations, I really was blown away. I mentioned it before, but the sound design really does a lot throughout the queue and the ride to make you feel like you’re in a breathtaking digital world.
I also think you are right about the design of the queue – it has ups and downs just like a roller coaster, so I had long since lost the thrill of that ‘wow’ moment by the time I got to the ride itself. This is something that is vastly improved upon if taking the lightning lane, admittedly…you go straight from wow to lockers that way!
One other benefit of paying for the lightning lane is the guarantee of a night ride. I did both day and night, and night is definitely better. Is it 20 dollars better? Probably not. But I also didn’t regret doing it since it was a good reason to be back under the canopy, and I got some cool pictures of the castle with the cycles looping overhead…
Sound design has become like rockwork for Imagineering–something that they just consistently nail nowadays. Probably should’ve mentioned it in the review, but I honestly just take it for granted at this point.
Good point about the Lightning Lane pacing being better. There are a lot of rides where I think the Lightning Lane loses some of the impact and queue experience. This is not one of them.
We did this one in Shanghai multiple times. Yes it’s worth it, for sure. So much fun, even if it is a bit short.
As an aside, we waited 15 min max for this in Shanghai! I don’t think Disney World will ever see those type of wait times…
The wait times at Shanghai Disneyland are interesting–the highest wait times we encountered (by far) were for Soaring and Roaring Rapids. TRON and Pirates were not nearly as bad.
Thanks for the recap Tom……..I think any addition to MK is a plus and its all a matter of expectations…….We are going April 15th after a self imposed ban (from being upset about Genie+) and we are looking forward to trying it