With Tron Lightcycle Run Opening, Walt Disney World Doesn't Need Space Mountain Anymore

Tron Lightcycle Run
(Image credit: Walt Disney World)

The often recited credo of Disney fans far and wide is that, “All you need is a little faith, trust, and pixie dust” to do anything you can dream. Well, my friends, that’s almost true, and I learned that the hard way on my first visit to Walt Disney World in almost 20 years. While I was blown away by Tron Lightcycle Run, my new experience with the legacy attraction Space Mountain wasn’t as exciting as it had been in the past. In fact, it was so disappointing that I don’t think the Magic Kingdom needs the ride anymore; at least not in its current incarnation. 

Now I know a lot of you Walt Disney World loyalists are probably really upset about now. I can’t blame you, as I’ve had my own bouts of sadness when beloved attractions like Alien Encounter, the Magic Kingdom's "scariest attraction," The Timekeeper and The Great Movie Ride all went away. However, I have specific reasons and logic behind my hot take, so I’m not just flying off the handle here. Here’s why Orlando’s Tomorrowland is about to have a Space Mountain problem. 

A Tron Lightcycle Run train sits in the station.

(Image credit: Walt Disney World)

Tron Lightcycle Run And Space Mountain Are Similar Ride Concepts

I know it’s never stopped any rides from existing before, but the concepts between Disney Parks’ latest thrill ride and Space Mountain are so similar, comparisons start to form naturally. Both are dark rides that explore worlds unknown through a fast-paced roller coaster experience. 

That basic foundation carries through both of these attractions that sit right next to each other, and that’s the beginning of the problems that Tron Lightcycle Run brings for its ancestor coaster. Natural comparisons are always going to leave Space Mountain looking like the second best option, and that’s not meant as an insult. Rather, it’s just common sense that when you’ve put a hypothetical upgrade next to the original, you’re going to see things differently. 

That exact problem is what I faced when riding through the original Walt Disney World attraction this time around. Not only does Space Mountain kind of feel redundant, but when revisiting this thrill ride for the first time in forever, things looked very different.

Space Mountain entrance sign at night

(Image credit: Disney Parks)

Space Mountain Is Severely Outdated

This next discussion point requires a specific caveat: I understand that theme parks are a hell of a venture to upkeep. Updating attractions and giving something a fresh coat of paint costs money, and it’s easier said than done to allocate such resources. Having said that, Space Mountain is severely outdated on the inside and outside, and it’s in need of much work.  

Walking through the queue, the effects are a bit outdated, but still nostalgic. However, the ground you’re walking on tends to look a bit faded and worn away, which admittedly comes from 50 years of operating as the Happiest Place on Earth. Not to mention, the original animatronics didn’t look to be working when I was riding, so that was a bit of a distraction. 

Perhaps the greatest disappointment I had while riding Space Mountain was the fact that there was no music playing during the ride. Neither the original soundtrack, nor Michael Giacchino’s modern revamp, accompanied my journey into this deep space thrill ride. It was something that really made the experience feel lacking, and in this case, everyone could have heard me scream. That is, if I was feeling anything other than utter heartbreak that this journey just didn’t feel as fun as it used to.

As Tron Lightcycle Run has yet to see heavy traffic, this comparison isn’t as direct as one would think. However, the fact that Space Mountain is showing its age, and even its slightly chipped exterior, only works against its favor. It’s something I’ve spoken about before, as the need for a Tomorrowland refresh is a subject I’ve been particularly vocal about.

Tomorrowland Speedway exterior sign

(Image credit: Disney Parks)

The Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland Needs A Large Refresh As Well

I supposed Space Mountain’s problems spiral forth from another issue that I won’t go on about for too long. The age of this attraction only further highlights that both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland need to revamp their Tomorrowland sections, and quickly. A combination of unused space, slightly worn-out theming and a couple attractions that don’t seem to fit the aesthetic of that section make for a recipe that requires some new blood in a futuristic world. Which, thankfully, Tron Lightcycle Run infuses with its experience. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean a full top to tails redesign is needed, especially in Walt Disney World’s variant. If anything, all it really needs is a loving coat of paint in some areas, like the Merchant of Venus’ worn-out signage. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to potentially retheme some attractions, like Tomorrowland Speedway, into fellow Tron-centric experiences. 

Rather than say that Space Mountain is the sole problem at hand, I’d say that it’s rather a symptom of a greater issue that I’ll gladly discuss at another time. Though I will say that the Astro Orbiters are a good example of a timeless attraction, as the experience and the aesthetic of that ride still nail home the retro future spirit that Tomorrowland shouldn't be afraid to embrace once more.

New Tokyo Disneyland Space Mountain concept art

(Image credit: Tokyo Disney Resort)

Tokyo Disneyland Is Already Showing Space Mountain Can Still Be Relevant

While I’m saying that Tron Lightcycle Run is making the original Space Mountain look obsolete, that’s not to say it can’t be fixed. The legacy attraction is still an iconic landmark in the Walt Disney World legacy, and I wouldn’t say it needs to be removed entirely. Rather, there needs to be a redesign and retheming campaign that brings Space Mountain into the future of the 21st century, or at least a newly revamped/recommitted retro future vibe that doesn’t need to be refreshed as often. Tokyo Disneyland’s planned Tomorrowland refurb is already proving this is possible thanks to its own ambitious plans. 

Not only is that Disney park giving its Space Mountain a new lease on life, it’s also redesigning its Tomorrowland section to reflect a new vision of the future. Set to start in 2024, this new vision for a legacy Disney Parks section could be a template for what should be done with both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland’s Tomorrowlands. More importantly, it also shows that these parks shouldn’t be afraid to reimagine the future with this landmark roller coaster, if only to kick off the process of bringing Space Mountain into the future.

Older attractions can be saved from extinction, as anyone will tell you those initial reports that Tron Lightcycle Run would replace Tomorrowland Speedway never came to pass. I’ll always have fond memories of Space Mountain from my childhood, but after riding it again in a post-Tron afterglow, its age definitely is starting to show. Whether the powers-that-be decide to gut and replace it with a new ride, or remove it entirely for something fresh, the Magic Kingdom does not need Space Mountain as it stands when it has Tron Lightcycle Run to blaze a path into the future.

You can weigh in on the matter yourself starting next week, as Tron Lightcycle Run will be soft opening to Magic Kingdom guests starting March 20th. In the meantime, keep an eye out for our continuing coverage on what’s new and exciting at Walt Disney World, as the future has some fun stuff in store for its guests. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.