Disney World's long-awaited TRON Lightcycle / Run opens at Magic Kingdom April 4, and as PEOPLE's Travel Editor I got an early sneak peek of the attraction and the chance to ride...and ride...and ride....
After five runs through The Grid on a speeding lightcycle in less than 6 hours, here's what I can confirm for everyone looking forward to experiencing the highly-anticipated coaster for themselves.
NOTE: Spoilers ahead for TRON Lightcycle / Run.
You Don't Need to Have Seen the Tron Movies (But It Helps)
Stepping into the glowing world of The Grid for the first time will definitely have a special significance for longtime fans of the Tron franchise, but if you're not familiar with the world, it won't put a damper on your ride experience.
You don't need to know the plot of the original movie (1982), Tron: Legacy (2010) or the myriad other pieces of media they've spawned over four decades to have a blast zooming around the ride's digital landscape on a souped-up sci-fi motorbike. And unlike some other Disney attractions, like the recently opened Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot, the main characters don't appear in the ride.
The narrator you hear at the beginning and throughout the ride explains the basics: that you're playing a racing game as "team blue" against your rivals, "team orange" (whose imposing members you'll be introduced to in the queue), while passing through a series of "energy gates" and trying to take out your opponents.
The Pre-show Is Minimal, but There Is a Gasp-inducing Reveal
Unlike some other recent Disney openings, like the multi-part Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars Galaxy's Edge in Disney Studios, Lightcycle doesn't spend a lot of time on a scene-setting pre-show with lots of backstory.
While in the line, small groups of guests are ushered into a room with what appears to be a wall-spanning video screen. This is the transition between the real world and the world of The Grid. At the end of a very brief video explaining as much (big spoiler ahead), the screen goes white then transparent and riders get their first glimpse of the expansive glowing digital realm below through the glass. It was a moment that elicited plenty of oohs and ahhs from first-time riders.
Tron fans looking for the laser that zaps users into the grid from the movies, can see a replica of it earlier on in the queue, right before it winds inside the building.
The Ride Vehicles May Take Some Getting Used To
As the name implies, the ride vehicle here is a lightcycle, a futuristic motorcycle with rings of light where the wheels would be, and it can be a little awkward to settle into the first time.
If you've been on Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando's Wizarding World, the bike portion is similar, and you are leaning forward to hold onto the handlebars in the same way.
However, on Lightcycle, you're also being held in place by a backplate that comes up from behind you to hold your torso against the body of the bike. It's similar to the one used in Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom. To bring the back plate into place you pull the handlebars towards you until everything is snug.
The Launch Is the Best Out There
The first 20 seconds of this ride were my favorite and I heard similar reactions from others at the preview day. You glide into a tunnel with mirrored walls to catch a glimpse of yourself looking incredibly cool on your bike as pulsing lights and an audio countdown signal you're about to launch at 59 miles per hour (the fastest of any Disney coaster in the world). The exhilarating take off is similar to the one on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney Studios, which goes from 0 to 57 mph in 2.8 seconds. Though, in my opinion, Lightcycle is overall less intense than the Aerosmith-themed ride, which features three inversions. (On Lightcycle, you'll find yourself sideways but never upside-down.)
You can get a preview of the launch while in line. Right after you exit the pre-show video room, you'll be on a catwalk above the launch track and have a chance to see those below zoom off.
Here's How it Compares to Other Disney Coasters
Lightcycle is definitely more intense than Magic Kingdom's other relatively recent addition, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and about on par with the classic Space Mountain — though it's an infinitely smoother ride than that teeth-rattling track. It's difficult to compare with the unique swooping and swirling ride vehicle of Cosmic Rewind, but it's worth noting, anyone who found that attraction's unique movement nausea-inducing shouldn't face the same issue on this one.
The most comparable coaster is actually down the road: Hagrid's at Universal, which features similar launches, twists, turns and drops, though that ride hides a few more surprises than Lightcycle, which, after the heart-pumping launch, doesn't feature any truly stomach-dropping dips or surprisingly scary moments.
Don't Skip the Gift Shop
As you exit the ride, be sure to head for the former Space Mountain gift shop, which has been transformed with a Tron theme and a unique activation of its own. Inside, guests can step into a futuristic pod, where they'll have their face scanned and voice captured, then receive a chip about the size of a camera memory card loaded up with that data. The chip can be inserted into several pieces of technology sold at the store (for prices Disney has not yet disclosed), including an identity disc that doubles as a bluetooth speaker, a remote control lightcycle, and most impressively, a customizable action figure that will display your image on the toy's face shield and play your voice saying signature phrases from the world of Tron.
For those looking for a subtle piece of merch, you can also pick up a jacket with glowing stripes like the ones the characters wear in Legacy.
Get Your Ride Video
TRON Lightcycle / Run has easily one of the coolest visual mementos of any Disney ride. Rather than a still photo of your face mid-scream, you can get an amazing video of your moment of launch in slow-motion that looks like you're truly in The Grid. Find it in the My Disney Experience app after your ride.
Get a Glimpse of TRON Lightcycle / Run Before It Opens
Can't wait for April 4? Or worried about what is sure to be a stressful experience involving virtual queues and Lightening Lane passes for the foreseeable future? You can catch a good view of the ride from several places in Magic Kingdom right now.
The most popular spot for a sneak peek seems to be the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, a typically low-key, walk-on ride that gives passengers a tour of the land's offerings from a slow-moving vehicle on a winding, elevated track. In the lead up to Lightcycle's opening, it's become noticeably more popular as visitors realized it offers a closer look at the new attraction on its course. During the preview day, I saw PeopleMover with a wait time of 30 minutes or more.
The Tomorrowland Speedway, a family-family, racetrack-themed ride that's been open since the park debuted in 1971 offers another close pass to Lightcycle on it's course. With a top speed of 7 mph, there's plenty of time to ogle the ride canopy and see the lightcycles speed by if they're running.
The recently reopened Walt Disney World Railroad, which makes a slow circle of the whole park, offers a look at the ride. Between Fantasyland and the main park entrance, it passes through a tunnel with windows onto the new ride's entrance plaza. The Magic Kingdom monorail also has a unique perspective: it passes behind the ride building between the park entrance and the stop for Disney's Contemporary Resort.
TRON Lightcycle / Run opens at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom April 4.