The construction of Shanghai Disneyland generated a lot of speculation about the Tomorrowland area – and rightfully so.
The TRON Lightcycle Power Run ride is one of the most popular attractions in the park.
It made its debut on June 16, 2016 as part of Shanghai Disneyland’s grand opening.
We were understandably curious about what other attraction would be features in this new park. Theride does not disappoint with its undulating, color-changing, futuristic curves.”
TRON Light Cycle Power Run: The Background
The Imagineers’ decision to make TRON the centerpiece of Tomorrowland was equally fascinating, especially given that it would be front and center at the new Shanghai Disneyland park.
TRON had a rough start – it was supposed to be a huge science fiction blockbuster when it was released by Disney in 1982, starring Jeff Bridges.
Although it did moderate well (Wikipedia notes a budget of $17M with box office receipts of $50M), financially and critically, the technologically driven film wasn’t the breakout hit that was expected.
TRON’s glow can be seen around the entire Shanghai Disney Resort.
Aside from appearing in video games, cartoons, its own animated TV series, and even attractions like Disneyland’s PeopleMover over the years, Tron would continue to show up in other places. The film became a cult classic with a surprise sequel in 2010, Tron: Legacy. Jeff Bridges returned as Clu and the movie was later made for ten times the original budget of $17 million dollars and worldwide grosses of $400 million. Once again, the film underperformed relative to expectations and critical reviews were unenthusiastic.
TRON Light Cycle Power Run: The Build-up
When rumors of a TRON ride at Shanghai Disneyland began circulating, people became both intrigued and amused. Once the canopy was constructed, speculation among those tracking the construction went into full swing. Since TRON is an indoor and outdoor ride, it made for perfect internet fodder. What could be seen during construction was actually just a small portion of the ride, which left many people wondering what couldn’t be seen.
Disney played their cards well and details about the design of the canopy started to emerge. Nerdy news outlets began reporting on GFRP (glass fiberglass reinforced polyester), a light-weight, strong, expensive and highly versatile material that would be used in the construction of TRON. Essentially a very strong plastic, it would receive a gel coating.
TRON: The Impression
The festivities did not cease upon the project’s completion. The colorful canopy sparked a flurry of vivid images on the internet. Now all of Nerd’s attention was focused on obtaining a Visa and making it there!
I practically swooned at the hotel window, straining to see over the grounds of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, past Wish Star Lake, and into Disneytown’s throbbing canopy; across from me was Adventure Isle.
As the hues danced across the canopy, you could almost hear them shift. The energy was palpable as purples, blues, pinks, and yellows thumped their way across, above, and through TRON. The morning couldn’t arrive soon enough!
TRON Light Cycle Power Run: The Ride
Finally! Game Time!! Would the build-up be overblown or could TRON Lightcycle Power Run possibly live up to the impossible standards conceived in a Nerd’s imagination?
Crowds gather at the main entrance of Shanghai Disneyland. We only hoped they were not all headed for TRON!
We got in line, scanned our tickets and waited patiently at the end of Mickey Avenue for the park to open. When the rope dropped, we made our way clockwise around Gardens of Imagination to Tomorrowland and a façade significantly larger than it had appeared from a distance. The stunning canopy rose above Tomorrowland and seamlessly changed colors as TRON lightcycles whooooooshed by at speeds up to 97 km/h or 60 mph.
TRON’s expansive canopy is deceiving as you approach Tomorrowland in the way that the distance between hotels on The Strip in Las Vegas is deceiving. The thing is so massive that as you walk toward it, the attraction seems to not get any closer. In fact, the entrance to TRON was 1/4 mile from the front of Tomorrowland. Yes, 1/4 mile. That’s 500 steps. 1,320 feet. Put another way. the average human casually walks a mile in around 20 minutes. This is a 5 minute walk just to the front of the attraction building.
The Nerdling gets a preview of a Lightcycle before queuing up for his first TRON experience.
What we didn’t yet know, is that it would be another 1/4 mile (you got it – 500 steps, 1,320 feet) maneuvering through the queue to get to the actual ride. This is walking and weaving and switching back…it’s no joke to make a queue that can accommodate more than 1/4 mile of people.
We made it! Getting ready to head for the queue for the first ride of the day.
At any rate, pulses were racing (okay, pulse) as we prepared to get in queue well ahead of most guests only to realize we needed to store loose items in a locker – UGH! It’s not that a locker is bad, it’s just a killjoy when you are trying to get on your first attraction of the day and the first attraction just happens to be a Disney attraction you have never seen, avoided watching Youtube videos of so that you would get the “full experience”, and have been dreaming about for years. But I digress.
The futuristic queue was sleek and cool and provided a quick quick heart-quickening glimpse of the Lightcycles from an interior opaque window that suddenly became clear as they whooooooshed past!
And then we arrived to the final section of the queue.
The music, the noises, the vibe – it was pure energy!
We finally snaked our way down to the front of the line and a fresh set of Lightcycles pulled forward. Giddy and smiling ear to ear, we followed the path to our seat and leaned forward. The back of the Lightcycle secured us in place and we leaned forward – ready to tackle TRON’s track. As Lightening McQueen says, “Speed”. That’s all we could think about and all that mattered as we shot through the TRON’s tunnel and immediately found ourselves launched outside and under the canopy. Around, under, and past – laughing, screaming and enjoying!
The moment we first witnessed the TRON Lightcycles slide into position.
We soon found ourselves back int he show building, immersed in a Lightcycle race to the death. We weaved, we swerved, we veered, we won. And it was fantastic! We immediately got back in line to experience the wonder of TRON Lightcycle Power Run a second time, secured a Fastpass for later in the day and would ultimately experience TRON more than half a dozen times over two fun-filled days. And no, we never tired of it!
So get your Nerd on, plan a trip to Shanghai Disneyland and experience TRON! Yes, yes, we know Walt Disney World will open its own TRON in Magic Kingdom in 2022 – but there can only be one original. Plus…we haven’t even begun to discuss Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure; our vote for Disney’s most ambitious attraction yet and the best ride in the world!