Coming Attractions: A Preview of TRON Lightcycle Power Run

by Mike Schiller
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 15, 2017 Issue #934 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland

*SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT*

THE FOLLOWING FEATURE CONTAINS DETAILS ABOUT DISNEYLAND SHANGHAI'S TRON LIGHTCYCLE POWER RIDE ATTRACTION, WHICH WAS RECENTLY ANNOUNCED AS A NEW ATTRACTION COMING TO WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT'S MAGIC KINGDOM SOMETIME IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS RIDE, SKIP THIS FEATURE ARTICLE.

Amongst all the Disney park news at the most recent D23 Expo was the announcement that the Tron Lightcycle ride is coming to Magic Kingdom in Orlando. For those not aware, the Tron ride originated in Shanghai Disneyland and has been one of that park's most popular attractions since it opened. You may be wondering whether this is good news and whether you should be excited about the upcoming addition. Having been fortunate enough to ride the Tron coaster in Shanghai Disneyland a few times during my visits to Shanghai, I can confidently say, "YES, this is good news, and yes, you should be excited." Since I know many of you haven't had the chance to visit Shanghai, I thought you might enjoy a preview of what you have to look forward to.

First off, the official name of the ride is the unwieldy "TRON Lightcycle Power Run" (actually, to be technical about it, the real official name is the truly unwieldy "TRON Lightcycle Power Run - Presented by Chevrolet"). I remain perplexed as to why "TRON" is in all caps, as I don't think it's an acronym. If memory serves, Tron was the name of a character from the first movie back in 1982. So, if you don't mind, let's keep things simple and just refer to it as "Tron" or "the Tron coaster" or even "the Tron ride" from here on out. I think we'll all be happier.

Just as it will be in Magic Kingdom, Shanghai's Tron ride is located in Tomorrowland. Whereas at Magic Kingdom it will apparently sit side-by-side with Space Mountain, at Shanghai it's the signature attraction in their Tomorrowland and dominates the area. (Not in a bad way -- it's a friendly, healthy sort of domination.) It's an odd-looking building, and early concept drawings indicate that the one at Magic Kingdom will have a similar look. When viewing it, I feel like I'm looking at some sort of weird alien jellyfish. Or maybe alien clamshells. But as odd-looking as it is during the day, it's pretty cool-looking at night, when the outside lights up in ever-changing neon colors.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland

One thing I hope they don't export over from Shanghai is the walkway leading up to the ride. It's this strange, curving elevated walkway that seems to go everywhere except to the actual ride. It's like an optical illusion logic puzzle that's designed to keep you from finding a direct path to the ride entrance. It might have seemed clever in theory when being designed, but when it's first thing in the morning and you're trying to beat the crowds to the ride entrance, it's just annoying. Another sub-optimal design is that the FastPass machine for the ride is on a different level than the ride entrance. So, just when you've triumphantly navigated your way to the entrance, hoping to nab a FastPass, you realize that you need to wind your way back down to ground level.

In a move similar to some of Universal's rides, prior to entering the ride queue, you're required to relinquish all bags and loose items, since there's supposedly no place to store them on this ride. Even just wearing a hat, I was directed to a locker in order to rid myself of the offending item. What they don't tell you is that there actually is a very small storage compartment on the cycles, not good for much but big enough to store sunglasses or a hat (as long as you don't mind it getting a little squished). On subsequent rides, I hid my hat under my jacket in order to bypass the unwelcome delay of the lockers. (Yes, watch out for me -- I'm a rebel.)

So, you might be saying to yourself at this point, "Enough of the intro stuff already -- what's the ride like?" Well, I was just getting to that. Thanks for your patience.

OK, imagine this. You're joining Team Blue and entering the Grid, where you'll join the Power Run in order to capture eight Energy Gates before your opponents do. As you enter the portal, you're digitized and proceed to compete against the Grid's menacing Programs.

Are you imagining that? Good. You'll need your imagination. Because you probably won't notice any of that stuff happening while you're actually experiencing the ride. But that's the ride's official story.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland

What you will experience is a really, really cool roller coaster. Think Space Mountain on a motorcycle. As you prepare to board, you're told that you'll be on Team Blue and instructed on how to board (mount?) the cycles. Unlike a normal roller coaster, where you're like "Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I think I know how to sit in a seat and buckle a seatbelt," you need to actually pay attention to this one because it's a unique ride vehicle. You're getting on a Tron-style cycle. The cycles are in pairs, so you'll be riding right next to somebody, and there are around eight pairs of cycles strung together. You're basically on your stomach, leaning all the way forward on the cycle. There are knee-rests for your knees toward the bottom of the cycle and then your feet stretch out behind you and are placed into footrests. Finally, a small restraint will lower onto your back to sort of hold you in place. If that all sounds convoluted, it's because it is. Most people seem to struggle a bit figuring it out the first time they ride. But after you've ridden it once, you won't have any problems. It's just like riding a... well, you know.

One thing I worry about is how well the ride vehicle will accommodate people of larger sizes. I can't be sure, as I didn't see anyone with a larger body type near me while I was riding it, but it seems like it could be problematic and will be worth keeping an eye on.

Once everyone's finally settled in, it's launch time. As I indicated earlier, there's really not a whole lot to this one story-wise, so you can pretty much ignore the official backstory (and you certainly don't need to know anything about the Tron movies to enjoy the ride). You're supposedly participating in a race, but the "race" part of the ride isn't really played up that much.

As the ride begins, you start off slowly, as you wind around some curves. You come to a rest in a tunnel full of neon lights, as you prepare for blast-off. And once you blast off, the ride really moves. In what I consider to be the best part of the ride, you shoot straight outside of the building (a la Test Track), with the track tilting sideways as you zoom over the rest of Tomorrowland. This is a great effect and is particularly nice at night, when the park (including the Tron ride itself) is lit up. After that rush, you race back inside, where you experience a nice drop, followed by a Space Mountain-like ride through the dark, as you pass through neon portals and race by various neon arrows, hexagons, and other various lighted displays.

Toward the end of the ride, you slow down and experience a modicum of a race. There's another set of cycles (Team Yellow) projected on the wall, and they are supposed to be racing you as you head toward the end of the ride. Team Yellow basically just looks like a cartoon projected on the wall. The "race" to the end against them is very short and not particularly dramatic.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland

Once you finish your race, you head back into a tunnel of lights and coast to the finish, at which point they cruelly force you to relinquish your cycle to the next rider.

So, why do I like this ride so much? Because it's cool, that's why. There's something unique about going through a roller coaster head-first, sitting on a motorcycle. As I've said, you're basically flat on your stomach, leaning all the way forward on the cycle. This results in you having the wind in your face as you make the twists and turns, all making it feel faster than it probably really is. And to add to the experience, part of the ride takes you outside where you briefly can see the rest of Tomorrowland as you whiz by. It probably would have been an average or above-average roller coaster if it had traditional coaster seats, but the experience of doing it while riding a Tron cycle raises the experience by a few notches.

The only negative to me was that it's a little hard on the neck, as you try to crane your head forward so that you can see where you're going (again, keeping in mind that you're basically flat on your stomach). But that's a minor nit.

There was a lot of exciting news announced at the D23 Expo, and I think the opening of the Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Magic Kingdom is towards the top of that list. The ride is pure fun.

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RELATED LINKS
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TRON Lightcycle Power Run General Info

VIDEO: D23 Expo Announcement about TRON

First Timer's Trip to Shanghai Disneyland

Marty Sklar Talks About Shanghai Disneyland

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Mike Schiller

Mike Schiller is a frequent visitor to the six worldwide Disney theme park locations and is currently nearing the end of his long quest to stay at every Disney-owned hotel around the world (36 down, 4 to go). He lives in Dallas with his wife and two kids and is a published author with McGraw-Hill as well as the Chief Information Security Officer at a Fortune 500 company. Mike also enjoys watching baseball in his spare time and has attended games at every major league stadium.


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.