While other theme parks have long focused on making their roller coasters bigger, better and faster, Disney has generally tried to answer the question: what can we do that no one else has tried before? Of course, not ever new addition to the park has ticked this box, but of late, that trend has picked up a notch.
This question has led the park to “Imagineer” a number of breakthroughs in the sector over the decades, even in the world of coasters – from the first to use cylindrical rails and urethane wheels in Anaheim’s iconic 1959 Matterhorn – basically setting the stage for the modern roller coaster – to debuting the first ever computer-controlled thrill ride, in 1975’s Space Mountain in Orlando.
The latest coaster to get the Disney treatment can be found at EPCOT in Orlando – which is in fact the first roller coaster to ever appear at a park which, up until the ride opened on May 27th, was the only Disney park internationally to be without a coaster. And just in time for the park’s 40th birthday!
Titled the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, not only is it the first coaster at EPCOT, but it’s the first Marvel-related ride to open at the Florida resort, due in part to Universal’s holdings on the Marvel branding for the region.
So, what is the ride – and is it any good?
In addition to marking a lot of firsts by just existing, the technology behind the attraction is also the first of its kind.
This is the first roller coaster to feature carts that rotate a complete 360 degrees on the tracks (it’s noted that X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain does achieve this – although you are suspended off the side of the tracks). This doesn’t happen randomly, with every movement meticulously engineered to create a one-of-a-kind sensation for the passenger – be it to be flipped around so you can’t see what’s coming, or so you feel like you’re being pulled into the gravitational force of the moon (one of my favourite moments of the ride). With all this technology in mind, they call it the first “Disney Omnicoaster”.
It’s also one of the longest roller coasters in the world – and at 5,577.4 ft (1,700.0 m), it’s the longest in Orlando, outstripping the recent Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Islands of Adventure. And a reported $500 million cost also makes it the most expensive coaster ever built (also outstripping the Hagrid ride of that crown).
And that’s not all! It’s the first Disney ride to have a backwards launch – which you can see happening in the article’s title image – though, for those playing at home, the Indiana Jones coaster in Paris did run backwards for 4 years, so it’s not an entirely foreign experience at Disney Parks. Though you’ve never ridden anything like this.
The ride is synched up to a number of massive projections, in a space that make its predecessors seem tiny. So big is the space housing the coaster, that you could fit 4 of EPCOT’s balls (aka Spaceship Earth) inside it.
The ingenuity doesn’t stop on the coaster itself – there are a number of experiences to be had while waiting in line, too, with one room in particular delivering a very neat trick which I won’t spoil for you here – all under the watchful gaze of Glenn Close, the Guardians themselves and newcomer to the series, Terry Crews.
The easiest ride to compare it to in the parks is the Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios in Orlando – though there are no loops or corkscrews here. Although the ride happens with such frenetic energy, if you were to tell me I did go upside down, I’d probably believe you. But the whole “listen to rock music as you ride through space” concept remains intact.
The ride also runs to 6 randomly selected songs. I got “One Way or Another” by Blondie. A solid and surprisingly thrilling selection, I may say. Other artists featured include Tears For Fears, Gloria Estefan or The Trammps – and I’m told there are different endings, too.
All up – including the ride’s multiple versions, and the experiences in the queue, there is 75 minutes of original content to be enjoyed, and more than two hours of new music from Composer Tyler Bates.
In that respect, the ride feels like a grand evolution of the almost 50 year old Space Mountain attraction, which remains a favourite of their parks all over the world. And while this ride may not have the same nostalgia value for those who have frequented the parks over the years, it certainly surpasses it in every other way.
I’m happy to report that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is Disney’s most impressive indoor roller coaster to date. It takes what it’s done well in the past, to the next level, incorporating ground breaking technology and ensuring that guests leave with that all too rare feeling: experiencing something truly new for the first time. And a strong desire to immediately do it all over again.
Getting to EPCOT
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind can be found at EPCOT, part of Walt Disney World in Orlando. Walt Disney World is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, and EPCOT, its 40th. This ride’s opening comes on the heels of both celebrations.
Regular flights to Orlando (MCO) are available from any of the entry ports into the USA. Fun fact: it was the 7th busiest airport in the world in 2021.
Tickets to EPCOT are available for single park admission, but with three other parks to choose from, many guests will bundle with multi-park entry over multi-days. You can find out more details HERE.
The author attended EPCOT as a guest of Disney and IPW. Photos by Kent Phillips, supplied by Disney.