Review of Shanghai Disneyland Coaster
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.
- 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 reviewed: June 2016
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 us). On our first attempt, we mounted the cycle, grabbed the handlebars, and placed our legs straight down thinking there must be footrests. We got our feet caught in the restraints, and a ride operator had to help free us. 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.
An 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, the airtime likely would be considerable—and likely too much from Disney’s perspective. As it is, Tron is The Mouse’s fastest coaster. Just shy of 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. (Then again, it doesn’t come close to the speeds of the world’s fastest coasters.)
Tomorrowland at Shanghai Disneyland
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.
We 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, We preferred the back.
Until the Magic Kingdom at Disney World builds and opens its version, the mainland China park is the only Disney park to offer Tron Lightcycle Power Run. Perhaps the world’s coolest coaster, it is among the top reasons to visit Shanghai Disneyland.