Tron Lightcycle/Run is officially open at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

A mere 2,089 days after it was first announced

Tron Lightcycle/Run pushes the thrill envelope
Tron Lightcycle/Run pushes the thrill envelope photo by Seth Kubersky

West Coast theme park fans have recently been enjoying a wave of new additions to Disneyland, ranging from a fantastic new fireworks show to a reimagined Toontown featuring an upgraded version of the Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway that originally debuted in Orlando. Meanwhile, Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary spectaculars have sputtered to an end and been replaced by throwbacks. But our local Mouse house has finally unveiled two long-awaited additions: the Magic Kingdom's fastest ride ever and a tasty expansion to Hollywood Studios.

Thanks to "soft opening" previews and swift reservations, I've already been able to test out both Tomorrowland's Tron Lightcycle/Run roller coaster and Toy Story Land's Roundup Rodeo BBQ restaurant. And although both are very welcome additions to Disney's lineup, both experiences were eerily similar: a solid start but unsatisfying center, which ultimately left me wondering "where's the beef?"

Tron Lightcycle/Run, a motorbike-styled coaster based on the cult-favorite 1982 sci-fi film (and its so-so sequel), officially launched at the Magic Kingdom on April 4, a mere 2,089 days after it was first announced. With a top speed of nearly 60 miles per hour and a 48-inch minimum height requirement, Tron pushes the thrill envelope for the park's kid-friendly demographic, and the curvilinear canopy its illuminated trains race around nicely complements the iconic modernist geometry of Space Mountain beside it.

In other words, Tron is easily the most attractive new "weenie" the Magic Kingdom has added since the now-closed Splash Mountain opened over 30 years ago. Unfortunately, in order to handle the crowds drawn to this new must-do destination, Disney is utilizing the same mandatory Virtual Queue system used at EPCOT's Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster. Free "boarding group" reservations are available through WDW's smartphone app, but you'll need a Magic Kingdom park reservation, even for annual passholders once restrictions are eased after 2 p.m. on April 18. You'll also need a fast finger to successfully claim a VQ spot during the daily distributions at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. sharp. Be warned: Unlike at Cosmic Rewind, Tron's cast members strictly enforce the Virtual Queue return times and will deny you entry if you miss your hour-long window.

Make it through all those hoops — or simply pony up $20-something for an Individual Lightning Lane pass before they sell out — and you can get digitized into the Game Grid. After a surprisingly sparse indoor queue, contestants stow their loose items in a double-sided locker (a first for Disney, following in the clawsteps of Universal's VelociCoaster) and attempt to straddle their side-by-side cycles.

Unlike the upright seating of Hagrid's motorbike coaster, these Vekoma-built cars require riders to lie prone on their chests, with restraint bars extending across the back of the knees; think Avatar's Flight of Passage, but even more awkward. First try the test seats (which double as photo ops) outside the entrance, because the position is extremely awkward. Riders unable to fit due to their calf size are relegated to using the standard seats found in the last row of select trains.

If you do manage to make it through that anti-ergonomic torture test, the initial high-speed launch into Tron's short outdoor section is certainly exhilarating, especially from the front cars. But as soon as you enter the indoor "gravity building," the rear rows get the best view of the special effects; from the front, you get an initial view of the blacklit course, but mostly miss the projected competitors trying to knock you off track. Without those visual treats, you're stuck on a ride riddled with stop-and-go block breaks, resulting in an experience that feels far slower and shorter than expected. And beware you don't accidentally stumble off the wrong side of your cycle when exiting, lest an attendant bark at you (as they did at me) in an unmagical manner.

Three days after my underwhelming inaugural ride on Tron, I had a parallel experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios. There, the elaborate Old West-themed area teased in early Toy Story Land concept art finally emerged in late March as Roundup Rodeo BBQ, an indoor eatery filled with stylized cutouts of Pixar pals. If you've ever wanted to dine inside the Midway Mania ride next door, this is the next best (or worst) thing.

Since Roundup Rodeo BBQ offers no costumed characters (other than the enthusiastic but overworked wait staff) or entertainment (aside from periodic short snippets of sound and light effects), the food has to be the star of the show. The family-style meal gets off to a strong start with warm cheddar biscuits and a trio of salads, including kale with apple and watermelon with mint. You also get your pick of several superb side dishes; standouts are the loaded tater tots, street corn on the cob and fried pickles.

Sadly, despite the exceptional opening and supporting acts, Roundup Rodeo disappointed with its 'cue headliners, thanks to an overwhelming "smoke" seasoning on the chicken and ribs that smelled unpleasantly like Spaceship Earth's burning Rome. The brisket was nicely marbled, but hadn't cooked low-and-slow enough to fully render the fat; only the coil of pork sausage yielded zero complaints.

The plant-based entree platter, on the other hand, was a big winner with harissa-roasted cauliflower, vegan bratwurst, and an Impossible "rib chop" that packed more umami than most of the carnivore's plate. For dessert, adults should pas on the pedestrian pie jars and pick the moist Forky cupcake off the kids menu.

Reservations for Roundup Rodeo are already hard to come by, since DHS has a dearth of good dining options, and $45 per adult (plus tax and tip) for all-you-can-eat is an excellent value by Disney standards. If you do saddle up for the Roundup Rodeo, I suggest you become vegetarian for the day, sneak in some gallon-sized Ziplocs (since doggie bags aren't provided for the mountains of leftovers) ... and be sure not to ride Tron right afterward.

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