Sunday, May 12, 2024

Tron Lightcycle Run Ride Review


We recently returned from a trip to Walt Disney World, where we had our first opportunity to ride Tron Lightcycle Run, Disney's shiny new launch coaster in Magic Kingdom.  Over the course of our trip, we were fortunate enough to ride it not once, not twice but three times.  This post will talk about what we really thought about it, how easy or difficult it was to secure boarding groups, and how it fits into the big picture at Disney's flagship park.

As we talked about in this post, Tron was a long time coming.  It took over five years from announcement to opening, which seemed long considering it was a clone of an existing ride.  Yes, the pandemic happened in the midst of this, but this one seemed to drag on for a while.  The canopy was under construction on our list trip in 2022 (and possibly in 2021 as well?  I'd have to look back at photos to be sure).

The first thing that you'll notice about this attraction is that aforementioned canopy, which serves as the long, winding road up to where the queue begins.  Between the lights and the music, Tron feels like a big deal as soon as you get near it.  There are always people hanging around in this covered, outdoor walkway, either waiting for their boarding group to be called or trying to snap pictures of their friends or family as they go flying by.  There are even bathrooms up here, so you know Disney expects it to be crowded for a while.  Having all this activity really makes the area feel alive, and lends itself to the air of excitement as you get closer.  This part was already a win.

There is an outdoor portion of the queue where you tap in, and go inside the show building.  The first few rooms are dark, and the walls make it appear that there are circuits surrounding you.  The entire vibe in here is sleek. From there, you end up in a room that overlooks the ride vehicles as they approach the first launch area, and then are shot forward as the ride begins.  This is a good way to build anticipation for the ride (or make you nervous, depending on your disposition).

As the line moves on, you end up in a large area that houses (free) lockers.  More than any other ride that I can remember, Tron has almost no place to put your belongings.  I put pretty much everything into the locker here; I even put a strap on my glasses, because I had heard there was a risk of them flying off your face (in retrospect, that probably wasn't necessary, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry).  The lockers reminded me a lot of Universal Orlando, and when the ride is over, you end up on the other side of the two way lockers and can easily retrieve your stuff.  Another nice (futuristic?) feature here.

Somewhere in this queue (I think before the lockers), you're in a room with the traditional Disney switchbacks set up.  There are monitors overhead that are giving you the set up for the attraction.  I'll say that these didn't do a great job of explaining things.  Either we were moving too fast through here, or we weren't paying enough attention.  It's not a "preshow" in the traditional sense.  But I think the gist is that you're supposed to be racing another team, looking to capture "energy gates."  Don't think too hard about this - you don't really need to know that much to enjoy the ride.

Once you get to the ride vehicles, you load in a pretty unique way.  These are lightcycles, so you're sitting on them as you would a motorcycle.  The closest ride vehicle in Disney that compares to this is actually the banshee in Avatar Flight of Passage.  In Tron's case, you get your body situated, then pull down on the handlebars which brings up a back rest to keep you in place.  Again, this is truly unlike anything else at Disney.  Also, if you're on the far side of the vehicle, you have to walk behind to get on, not "through" like you would a traditional coaster.

A note about the ride vehicle - a lot has been said about these, as there was somewhat of a controversy when the ride debuted, that people of certain body types or shapes don't fit in them properly.  One of the times we rode, I did see a cast member have a problem getting two guests to fit, and they had to come off and use the seat at the back of the vehicle, which is a more traditional coaster type seat.  I felt bad for these guests, because they had to do a "walk of shame" of sorts here, and there were certainly people that looked bigger to me that fit fine.  I know there is a test vehicle outside under the canopy; if you have any doubt about your ability to sit comfortably in the seat, I would try that out and ask a cast member if you're having problems.

Once you're on and ready to go, the vehicle moves into the next room and stops.  This is the room that you can see from above when you're in the queue.  After a "3, 2, 1" countdown, the vehicle launches forward at a tremendous speed.  There's no chance to get your breath - it starts with a bang.  You immediately shoot outside underneath the canopy; this is where other guests can see the ride as they're walking towards it.  It's also the spot where the ride photo is taken; we have some great ones with more windswept hair than I've ever seen before.

After making a loop of the track under the canopy, your vehicle goes into a tunnel and inside the building for the rest of the ride.  In here, it's mostly dark, with neon lights surrounding you as projections of a track and these energy gates.  It's difficult to see where the turns are and where you're going next, but much like its Tomorrowland neighbor Space Mountain, this is part of its appeal.  

As you speed through this area, a voice will tell you how many gates you've collected.  And at some point, you see an enemy team appear in graphic form next to you (they're Team Orange; you're Team Blue, which I failed to mention earlier).  I don't want to say who wins, but I think you can probably figure it out.

One of the criticisms I had heard about this ride is that it's too short.  I agree to an extent - I think the actual ride time is less than two minutes - but it is exhilarating while it's happening.  I didn't feel ripped off afterwards; every time we got off, we mostly just talked about how much fun it was.  And this is coming from someone who is not a big coaster guy.  I had actually been intimidated seeing the outdoor section of the ride; the track looked steep, with a lot of turns, and I was getting nervous going into it my first time.  

But I enjoyed it tremendously; your mileage may vary if you're afraid of heights (as I am!) but it happens so quickly and you're moving so fast, that it almost doesn't give you an opportunity to be afraid.  I was much happier with it than I was with most traditional coasters where you slowly work your way up a hill before a big drop.  There's nothing slow about this one - it's all gas, no brakes.  This is another reason why the ride duration didn't bother me.  You probably spend as much time on this ride going fast as you would on your average coaster, there's just no downtime to break it up.

When it comes to how to ride, Tron (along with Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind at Epcot) doesn't have a standby line currently.  You can either purchase an Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) or attempt to join the virtual queue (VQ).  The ILL is a good fallback if you can't get a VQ boarding group, but I would always try the latter first as it doesn't cost anything.

The three times we got to ride were all via the VQ.  There are two "regular" times when you can attempt to join the VQ (through the My Disney Experience app).  There is a 7:00 a.m. VQ and a 1:00 p.m. one.  If you've already joined the 7:00 group, you cannot join a second time at 1:00.  If you're eligible for Extended Evening Hours, there is also a 6:00 p.m. VQ that only those guests are eligible for.  You CAN get one of the earlier two VQ groups and still join the 6:00 one (a nice added perk).  You can join the 7:00 or 6:00 groups (if eligible) from anywhere; for the 1:00 one, you don't need to be in the park, but you do have to have tapped in at some point before that to be eligible.

We had great luck with the VQ, and actually had success at all three groups.  The morning group is still the smoothest, if you get an early enough boarding group; there's less time for things to have gone wrong and for there to be delays.  The evening one was also smooth, though the return times were slower than they were for Guardians (in our limited sample size).  A night time ride also gives you a chance to see the canopy in all its glory, which is worth something.

As an interesting side note about the 6:00 drop time, we had been in Epcot in the morning on this particular day and came to Magic Kingdom in the 5:00 hour.  By the time we had walked over to Big Thunder Mountain and gotten almost to the ride vehicle, it dawned on me that we needed to try to grab a spot in the 6:00 VQ, and that we'd be on Big Thunder right when it went live.  Poor planning by me!  But in true Disney warrior fashion, I managed to secure a VQ WHILE ON BIG THUNDER, causing my son to say that I was the GOAT (and not the one in Big Thunder Mountain, I think!).

For Guardians, we had a rough time of the 1:00 VQ, which you can read about in this post.  But the Tron VQ was much smoother; again, maybe this was just good luck (or bad luck, in the case of Guardians) but we had no issue riding it at that time.  The queue was a little slower, but definitely manageable.  Again, the VQ is certainly my recommendation unless you can't get it for some reason.  I heard someone say they rode it once with VQ but had already purchased an ILL so thankfully they loved it.  That's also an option if you have some extra money to spend.

Tron Lightcycle Run is a great addition to Magic Kingdom.  This park is unique, in that it thrives on is reputation and robust attraction lineup.  Tron doesn't necessarily become the tentpole attraction at this park (as Guardians has at Epcot) but it should definitely take the place of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as the most coveted one to ride during your visit.  If and when the VQ is ever dropped for a standby line, this will become the longest line in the park.

Overall Tron is a great experience.  I'll compare and contrast it with Guardians in an upcoming post, but we had a blast on this one.  The ride building is beautiful, especially at night, and adds more neon to the already glowing Tomorrowland.  This is one that's worth planning your day at Magic Kingdom around.

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