Tron Lightcycle Power Run Is Disney's Best Coaster

  • 01 of 04

    Review of Shanghai Disneyland Coaster

    Shanghai Disneyland Tron Coaster
    ••• Disney. Used with permission.

    TripSavvy rating: 4.5 STARS (out of five)

    With its futuristic, color-shifting canopy looming over Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland like a massive, grounded mothership, Tron Lightcycle Power Run makes a powerful visual statement. Every few seconds, a trainload of screaming riders mounted on neon-infused, scooter-like lightcycles bursts into and gracefully soars around the canopy. It is an otherworldly, mesmerizing sight to behold. As wild as it is to watch the ride, it is even more wild to experience it.

    Tron is the most thrilling and impeccably themed roller coaster at any Disney theme park. By combining a kick-ass ride with a fully realized, transformative environment -- you'll believe you've become a "Program" and entered the "Grid" -- the Imagineers have developed one of the world's great E-Ticket attractions.

    Attraction Stats

    • Type of coaster: Launched steel
    • Height: 78 feet
    • Top speed: 59.3 MPH
    • Track length: About 3,169 ft.
    • Height requirement: 48 inches/122 cm
    • Ride time: About 1:45
    • First...MORE reviewed: June 2016

    Why 4.5 Stars?

    I want to be clear right off the bat: If Disney removed the show building and stripped away all of the themeing, Tron would still be a wonderful ride. But it would not merit 4.5 stars, nor would it rank alongside the industry's best roller coasters.

    Tron, however, is not merely a roller coaster. It is a grand-scale dark ride in which the thrills are an integral part of the storytelling. The 4.5-star rating represents the entire tour-de-force package which is as much about immersing guests inside the videogame world depicted in the two Tron movies as it is about sending them on a breathless coaster ride. Combining pure thrills with inspired storytelling, the Imagineers have created their greatest roller coaster -- better than any of the coasters at Walt Disney World.

    The immersion begins as soon as visitors enter Tomorrowland and take in Tron's enormous curvilinear structure. According to Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering , the utterly unique "curved wave canopy" includes a roof system that is a series of inflated "pillows." Each section has lights that glow from within, giving the facade an ethereal ambiance that corresponds to the movies' Grid.

    Weis says that advances in LED technology have given his team new, exciting tools with which to conjure attractions. For example, the Paint the Night Electrical Parade at California's Disneyland showcases the light technology. So does Tron. The Imagineers have programmed the LEDs to create a "glowing architecture in which the light environment responds to the movement of the vehicles," notes Weis. As the coaster trains make their way around the canopy, a trail of lights follows them. Needless to say, it is best to watch and ride the attraction under the cover of night.

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  • 02 of 04

    The Curved Wave Canopy

    Shanghai Disneyland Tron canopy
    ••• The lightcycle train makes its way around Tron's glowing, curvilinear canopy. Shanghai Disneyland

    Enter the Grid

    Passengers have three queue options: the regular standby line, a Fastpass line for those who have valid tickets, and a single rider line. All lead to a sleek, blue-hued labyrinth through which guests wind. The series of hallways and ramps are bathed in low light.

    Near the end of the queue, small groups of riders enter an enclosed briefing area. The lights dim, and one of the walls begins displaying animated, Grid-inspired media. Suddenly the animation stops and fades away. The opaque wall turns transparent and provides a stunning view overlooking the loading station. The dramatic reveal brings guests one step closer to entering the Grid.

    Riders make their way to one side or the other of the double loading station. The scooter-style seats and restraint system are not immediately intuitive (at least to me). On my first attempt, I mounted the cycle, grabbed the handlebars, and placed my legs straight down thinking there must be footrests. I got my feet caught in the...MORE restraints, and a ride operator had to help free me. How embarrassing!

    Instead, passengers are supposed to bend their legs, place their shins in stirrups, and hunch forward like bicycle racers. Considering the adrenaline-rush ride that is about to unfold, the aerodynamic body position makes sense. Pulling on the handlebars brings a restraint down onto riders' backs. Glowing rings embedded in the restraints look like Tron's identity discs and complete guests' transformation into Programs.

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  • 03 of 04

    Riding Position

    Tron Coaster ride vehicle
    ••• Passengers mount the lightcycle and place their shins in the ride vehicles' stirrups. Shanghai Disneyland

    Exhilarating Ride

    The train makes its way around a corner and into a dark launch tunnel lined with blue and white neon lights and mirrors. It stops, and a countdown, punctuated by sound effects and pulsing lights, immediately begins. The train screams out of the tunnel and outdoors into the canopy.

    Like all launched coasters, the initial launch is thrilling. The scooter-style seats, which leave riders exposed, along with the enveloping themeing, however, help make Tron's launch especially compelling. Racing along one side of the canopy, the train turns back towards the show building and gets a small turboboost of speed to go up a small incline. Just before they enter the building, passengers get a a small pop of airtime, especially in the back of the train. A brake momentarily slows the action.

    Had Disney nixed the brake, I suspect the airtime would have been considerable -- and likely too much from Disney's perspective. As it is, Tron is The Mouse's fastest coaster. Just shy of...MORE 60 mph (although it feels even zippier), it bests Rock 'n' Roller Coaster's top speed by a few mph. While it does not include any inversions, Tron's ride experience is nonetheless plenty thrilling and wouldn't be out of place at coaster-crazy parks such as Six Flags.

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  • 04 of 04

    Tomorrowland at Shanghai Disneyland

    Tomorrowland at Shanghai Dinseyland
    ••• Tron is the featured attraction in the ultra-sleek Tomorrowland at Shanghai Disneyland. Shanghai Dinseyland

    Back inside, the soundtrack swells as the train banks left and right and soars through light effects. Near the end, the passengers' blue train encounters a virtual red train, and the race is on. The red train ducks underneath, emerges on the other side of the blue train, and crashes in a (simulated) fiery explosion. The train decelerates in a mirrored tunnel similar to the launch tunnel.

    I rode Tron several times, and every ride was exhilarating. The front provides an unobstructed view and allows riders to better assume the role of the movies' Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) by pretending that they alone are careening wildly through the Grid. The last seats give passengers the perspective of the full train. It is quite cool to see the rest of the riders, with their identity discs and neon tires glowing, as the train navigates through the tricked-out course. Given the view and the extra dose of airtime, I preferred the back.

    The mainland China park is the only Disney park to offer Tron...MORE Lightcycle Power Run. Perhaps the world's coolest coaster, it is among the top reasons to visit Shanghai Disneyland.