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Tron Lightcycle Run Review: A Flash of Perfection

The back-to-back launch of Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in May 2022 and Tron

Lightcycle Run in April 2023 was a big win for roller coaster enthusiasts and thrill-seeking

parents looking to accelerate their Walt Disney World family vacation.


But does Tron live up to the hype?

A white orange and blue building at night
TRON Lightcycle Run

Putting The “Tomorrow” In Tomorrowland

When Disneyland opened on a hot summer day in July 1955, guests were greeted by Walt

Disney’s message, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and

fantasy.”


Walt Disney World pre-2022 hit the “yesterday” and “fantasy” themes right on the head. But it

was lacking quite a bit in the “tomorrow” aspect. At EPCOT, Spaceship Earth essentially ends

with a history lesson of Steve Jobs inventing the Macintosh computer. Mission Space pays

homage to the Space Race of the 1960s. These rides have their nostalgic charm and are fun to this day. But Cosmic Rewind takes EPCOT up a notch with a 21st-century franchise and the sophistication and speed of a modern coaster. With the help of Cosmic Rewind, EPCOT blends the old with the new, as well as the imagination and fantasy that comes with intergalactic time travel.


Magic Kingdom accomplished the same goal with TRON Lightcycle Run. Before Tron, Tomorrowland, and parts of Magic Kingdom felt more like another chapter out of a history book. Main Street USA is the first stop in the park. Go left, and you pass through Adventureland and Frontierland — both relying heavily on historic elements. Fantasyland comes next if you are going clockwise, which isn’t “historical”, but it does primarily rely on older Disney franchises. Finally comes Tomorrowland, which, like EPCOT, plays into the 1960s Space Race theme. The People Mover, Astro Orbiter, and Space Mountain are all a great deal of fun. But it feels more like what 1960s America thought the future would be than what it actually is.


Tron shakes up that theme in an ironic way, given the original 1980s Tron is based on a closed-loop computer game rather than the endless possibilities of the internet. It’s a classic concept that feels uniquely futuristic.


I saw the original Tron movie over a decade ago and Tron: Legacy for the first time less than a

year before riding Tron Lightcycle Run. Tron certainly feels like that vintage sci-fi movie,

whereas Tron: Legacy feels far fresher than a film made in 2010. The graphics and storyline

were incredible. In a similar way, Tron Lightcycle Run pays homage to the past while opening

the door to the future. Given Walt Disney’s love of the unknown and space, it would be in bad

taste to completely ditch those themes. Tron walks the fine line between nostalgic Tomorrowland and what tomorrow feels like today.


Setting The Stage


A big part of every visit to Walt Disney World is the music. New music plays as you pass from

theme to theme around the park, transporting you to an exciting adventure, a distant memory, or a realm in between. The second you transition from the Tomorrowland Launch Depot (next to Space Mountain) to Tron, you can tell that something has changed. The music shifts from a classic techno, nostalgic space theme to Daft Punk’s brilliant soundtrack from the movie.


What Tron does arguably better than any other ride at Walt Disney World is lean on its greatest strength — music. The “Tron music threshold” essentially begins at the base of a hill. As you walk up the gradually sloping incline, you’re greeted by the ride signage and a lot of open space. The scale of Tron plays well here, as you get a true build-up absent of clustered crowds. No matter how busy Tron is, the walk up to Tron feels breathable and open. It’s like you’re truly rising to the occasion and about to enter the gladiatorial games that Tron is modeled after.

Blue and White large structure
Tron Ride Structure

One of the most surprising aspects of Tron is the ride’s footprint. There’s a lot of build-up before you reach the scanning port for Lightning Lane or the official start to the standby line. That build-up is filled with visuals from the color-changing structure and the roller coaster itself, which whizzes through this open space and then disappears into darkness. Through it all, the music sets the tone. And by the time you actually “enter” the inside portion of the ride queue, you feel incredibly immersed in the futuristic theme of Tron, a theme that seems mysterious and unknown.

Dark blue and light blue waiting area with people
The Outside Ride Queue

After passing through the beginning of the Lightning Lane, or the first section of the interior ride queue in the standby section, visitors enter a small room faced with an opaque screen. The screen then becomes transparent, and you enter “The Grid,” which is the setting of Tron. From there, you can see parts of the ride, which adds to the immersive experience.

Next comes the most overlooked aspect of Tron, which is the lockers. Over 700 lockers adorn a wall so that folks can check bags and cumbersome items that wouldn’t fly on the motorcycle nature of the ride. It seems like a simple prerequisite for the ride, but I think it sets the tone masterfully. When my leftovers from Sanaa are bouncing around my feet on Expedition Everest, it can take a little bit away from the immersive experience. Tron is different. You leave everything behind and gear up to compete in the games. It’s at that point where I start to feel uncomfortable in the best way possible like I’m about to test my abilities rather than enjoy the show.

Large black and blue towers spaced on two levels
The Grid

The ride queue follows with a Gemini winding path down to the loading dock, the exact same setup as Cosmic Rewind. Here, the ride opens up and dances with streaks of deep

black and bright blue. You see fictional elite riders flash on the big screen, indicating what

you’re up against and how the odds feel stacked against you.


Tron features the same dark element as Space Mountain. Only with Tron, the music, as well as the visuals build-up to the competition. The ride queue doesn’t feature the multi-step story building of Cosmic Rewind or Rise of the Resistance. Tron has a few videos, but they don’t feel like mandatory viewing in the same way as Cosmic Rewind. Strangely, Tron feels

somewhat quiet, which gives the music the room it needs to breathe and make an impact on the ride.


Overall, I think that Tron sets the stage arguably better than any other ride. It’s one of the few

rides where I feel truly transported into a theme. A big part of this is due to the buildup and scale, as well as the architecture of the structure and the music. Tron does all the

little things well without overcomplicating the message or laying it on too thick.


The Tron Lightcycle Run Ride Experience

Like Cosmic Rewind, it’s easy to ask for the front row at Tron given that Disney planned for it.

There’s an added corridor for Row 1 riders. Before we get into the ride itself, I want to note that my wife and I have only ridden in the front row, but that’s only because there’s no reason not to. The longest you would wait for the front row versus any other row is five additional minutes, a drop in the bucket for a ride of this caliber.


Black and Blue waiting area
Row 1 Experience

Although I haven’t ridden in a back row, my guess is that the front row adds a lot to the ride

experience. Placement doesn’t matter on all rides, but on Tron, the front row truly feels like you are on a Lightcycle. I would guess any other row would seem more like a roller coaster since you are looking at stationary bikes rather than imagining your Lightcycle is the one controlling the show.

People waiting in line in a dark and blue space
Inside Ride Queue

The ride is incredibly thrilling. On a Lightcycle, you slingshot out from inside the loading bay,

over the outer rim of the ride threshold and where the entrance begins, then go back inside for a very “Guardians-like” blend of roller coaster and stunning cinematic visuals. Leaning forward on a light cycle adds a level of excitement here, especially if you don’t use the handlebars. I can’t stress the music on this ride enough. It’s there with you the second you enter its domain, and it revs up big time on the most exciting twists and turns on the ride.


The biggest drawback of Tron is the duration, which clocks in at just over a minute of “actual

ride time.” That’s the lowest true ride time of any ride at Disney World. But I think this criticism

is overplayed.


Measuring ride duration is a bit subjective, given some folks consider the ride to begin once you fasten the restraint and take off while others only count the thrilling elements of the ride. As many Walt Disney World goers know, the true thrilling part of a ride can be far lower than the actual ride length.


The best example is the Tower of Terror — one of my favorite rides of all time. The ride is around four minutes from the time you get on the service elevator to the time you get off. But the ride’s true length, in terms of when the drops begin, is less than two minutes. The same goes for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which is just 1 minute and 25 seconds of “true” ride time.


Most coaster rides at Walt Disney World are around three to four minutes, including Cosmic

Rewind, Expedition Everest, Big Thunder Mountain, and Space Mountain. As we know,

Expedition Everest and Cosmic Rewind feature a fair share of buildup that gets factored into the official ride time but isn’t necessarily part of the truly thrilling part of the ride. The point here is that Tron’s greatest flaw, its short ride duration, is overblown.


Tron is a non-stop thrill from the second you take off. It’s very similar to Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster in this vein, and it’s around the same duration too. I wish Tron was longer, but I also wish every coaster was longer. Tron gets the job done. It’s fast, it’s visually stunning, and it splits outdoor and indoor environments in the same way as Expedition Everest, which is one of the components that makes Everest so good.


Where It Ranks

Tron is officially my second favorite ride at all of Walt Disney World, behind only Expedition

Everest and just barely surpassing Cosmic Rewind.


1. Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

2. Tron Lightcycle Run

3. Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

4. Space Mountain

5. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

6. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

7. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

8. Avatar Flight Of Passage

9. The Haunted Mansion

10. Pirates of the Caribbean


What separates Tron from Cosmic Rewind is replay value. I’ve ridden Tron four times in a

single vacation, as well as Cosmic Rewind. The key differentiator is that the Cosmic Rewind

build-up and ride queue are repetitive, whereas the Tron buildup gets me amped and in the zone. No one likes standing in line, so no ride queue will be perfect. But Tron does it tastefully, yet thematically, letting the music rather than overbearing repetitive videos

create the environment.


Tron is truly a Flash of Perfection. It uses architecture, design, music, lighting, and engineering

to orchestrate an immersive and exhilarating experience from start to finish. The buildup to the ride is the best at Walt Disney World. The ride itself can go toe-to-toe with any other ride at the parks. Tron fills a void at Magic Kingdom, and specifically Tomorrowland, by adding a unique and truly futuristic experience.


If we are talking about the best one-two punches at Walt Disney World, I would say Space

Mountain and Tron have officially surpassed Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain at

Magic Kingdom and Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios

(although not by much).


Tron and Space Mountain are both gorgeous, color-matching pearly white futuristic structures.

Space Mountain gives you the space frontier of the old, while Tron feels like the digital frontier of the new. So, grab your Identity Disc and jump into the grid, Tron Lightcycle Run awaits!

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