Who Wins 2021: Disney's TRON or Universal's VelociCoaster?

October 4, 2020, 3:18 PM · Let's forget about 2020 for a moment (I know — we wish, right?) and look ahead to next year. We have seen plenty of Disney vs. Universal debates within the theme park fan community over the years, as well as countless "Coaster War" battles. But I don't think we've ever seen a Disney vs. Universal Coaster War match-up before.

Yet we are getting one in 2021, as both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando look to debut themed coaster thrill rides.

Disney announced its coaster first, with TRON Lightcycle Run moving in next to Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland. Although Disney announced the coaster way back in 2017, it hasn't committed yet to a specific opening date or season, though the ride is expected to be completed in time for the resort's 50th anniversary on October 1, 2021. Here's an on-ride video from the coaster's original installation at Shanghai Disneyland.

Universal Orlando just confirmed its Jurassic World VelociCoaster last month, but the resort has committed already to a summer 2021 opening for the new Islands of Adventure thrill ride. The dual launch coaster will be an original design, but we've got an early look through Universal's hype video.

It's Disney vs. Universal. Vekoma vs. Intamin. Lightcycles or Velociraptors. Clearly, the winner here is "theme park fans," because both of these new attractions look amazing.

But which one looks more amazing to you? Let's get some early adrenaline flowing with a vote.

The best part of this debate might be a third choice that I didn't list in today's vote. Because before either TRON Lightcycle Run or Jurassic World VelociCoaster opens next year, theme park fans visiting Central Florida are expecting Busch Gardens Tampa to open Iron Gwazi — the record-setting Rocky Mountain Construction hybrid coaster that was delayed from last spring.

I know it's the world's theme park capital, but has Central Florida ever been the hot place to be for coaster fans before? With three of its most anticipated new coasters, 2021 might finally be the year that happens.

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Replies (28)

October 4, 2020 at 3:36 PM

It's not a fair comparison as Tron is a kiddy coaster (in Disney that is a family coaster) and VelociCoaster is a trill ride and a much more extreem coaster.
I'm sure both are fun where Tron is an overload on ledstrips from Aliexpress and VelociCoaster has high-end theming and probably a better story.

October 4, 2020 at 4:00 PM

I voted for VelociCoaster, but it will all depend how well themed it actually is. VelociCoaster is certainly going to be the more intense ride, but with Universal and Disney, it all comes down to how well the theming and execution comes out. We already know what Tron is going to be like - and that certainly looks to be fantastic. But is Velocicoaster going to be as immersive as, say, Hagrids? Or is it just going to have a few static Velociraptor statues scattered around the side of the tracks? And then, the other factor, of whether or not the ride runs consistently. If it has the intensity AND immersive themeing (and it isn't shut down 1/3 of the time), then Velocicoaster will win hands down. If it is more like a Cedar Fair intensity coaster with a 1990s Paramount Parks level of movie-themed decoration, then Tron will be the better ride.

October 4, 2020 at 4:34 PM

Who wins? The general parkgoers, that's who as this sort of competition is great for the industry.

October 4, 2020 at 4:35 PM

As noted in another thread, Disney has never been for hardcore thrill rides so it's not totally fair to say they're "lagging" behind Universal here, they go for a different audience.

October 4, 2020 at 5:07 PM

I abstain from voting this round. I think Velocicoaster has an advantage in being an unknown entry and animatronics would edge it out, but TRON will be able to operate rain or shine and has a more unique ride experience.

OT, by what metric is TRON a kiddy coaster?

October 4, 2020 at 5:22 PM

Since the assumption TRON will open is total speculation, why is 'Guardians of The Galaxy:Cosmic Rewind' in the mix? It could also open between now and the end of 2021.

October 4, 2020 at 5:32 PM

Because I only can get so excited, TH. That's why.

October 4, 2020 at 6:07 PM

(Chuckle)

October 4, 2020 at 6:07 PM

I'll put it this way...

For 2021's Florida trip, the timing will be dictated by the opening dates of Iron Gwazi and VelociCoaster. I will not be returning to Florida until both of those rides are open and operating without major downtime, but am planning to go as soon as possible once that is the case. If Tron Lightcycle Run is ready to go by that time, I'll absolutely include Disney as part of that trip, but I will not delay the trip for that coaster.

If I don't hit Tron on my 2021 trip, I'm perfectly content to wait until after Guardians opens (which, according to every source I know, will be 2022), then do a WDW visit for both rides. Tron looks like a great family coaster and very likely the best coaster at Magic Kingdom (not sure it will displace Everest as best at the resort), but VelociCoaster looks like the best ride to open in the country next year, and with a year stacked due to delays in 2020, that's definitely saying something.

October 4, 2020 at 8:21 PM

VelociCoaster will be better than any Disney coaster now or future - better than Everest, Rock’n Roller Coaster, IncrediCoaster, Temple of Peril (chuckle) and Guardians of the Galaxy. This follows a recent trend of Universal outdoing Disney yet again.

October 5, 2020 at 5:02 AM

They both look like a lot of fun. Obviously, VelociCoaster is a bigger and badder ride. But Disney adding anything in that isn't tied to a princess is a win for many. (It could have been Princess Aurora's Lightcycle Run and Sing-a-Long.) Parents and older kids will appreciate it. I'll bet it will look really good at night.

The one thing I appreciate about VelociCoaster is that they really put a lot of effort into how it would look from different sight lines around the park. You can't miss it when you first enter the park, and yet it doesn't really block anything. TLR looks to be shoved behind Space Mountain and the race cars. Not much Disney could do there without doing an overhaul of Tomorrowland or removing the Speedway, which is still a very popular ride.

But like others have stated, when Disney and Universal parks compete, it's the guests who win.

October 5, 2020 at 6:40 AM

Velocicoaster.

I’m not evaluating as a coaster but a draw

I’m not particularly convinced Tron is a draw IP. But the Velocicoaster in of itself seems interesting, and JP/JW with its dinosaurs is, I believe, an evergreen IP.

October 5, 2020 at 7:47 AM

i know UO announced a summer 2021 opening but from what i've seen lately (yesterday, actually) VC is done. the pull throughs are almost finished and i'm sure there are plenty of finishing touches that need to be done (and probably lots of themeing tidy ups) but it looks like it's not far from a opening day so maybe it will be a christmas 2020 present. we could all certainly use one!

October 5, 2020 at 7:53 AM

I am anxious to see and hear more about Guardians -- which I believe will open in late 2021. I like indoor coasters. And the killer IP and dark ride elements seem very promising.

October 5, 2020 at 8:27 AM

agreed TH...it's a great time to be a coaster/theme park junkie in Florida. we are all going to be winners!

October 5, 2020 at 9:02 AM

I vote for Tron. It will have the maximum trill an average person can get/enjoy.
For a trill seeker, all Disney's coasters are kiddie coasters and all Universal's coasters are family coasters.
For me, that used to parachute and sky dive in my youth, ALL coasters are kiddie coasters, with the exception of the old SLC and Boomerang models. Being 50, this old models really scares me...

October 5, 2020 at 10:05 AM

I think trying to make this comparison is difficult, because they are targeted at two completely different audiences. VelociCoaster is clearly aimed at thrill seekers with its 70 MPH top speed and multiple inversions, while Tron is aimed at more of the family crowd, like most Disney coasters.

Both coasters can be successful without needing to say that one is better than the other, since their audiences don't overlap very much.

@Mark Russell - I think you're underestimating the amount of work still needed on VelociCoaster. While a pull-through test is often the start of final testing on a typical roller coaster, I think this installation is a bit different given that there will be numerous thematic elements added after the heavy construction is complete. Also, given the problems and frequent downtime experienced by Hagrid's, UC wants to start tuning the ride systems as soon as possible to avoid those same problems on VelociCoaster (both are Intamin LSM coasters). The sooner they can clear the ROW around the track, the sooner they can work out the kinks of the launch systems, and specifically how to get them to perform without overheating, which is a MAJOR problem on Hagrid's.

October 5, 2020 at 10:21 AM

@Flavio- you should ride I305 if you’re into intensity.

Everyone pretty much said everything that I was looking to say. I do think though that Velocicoaster will be better in the theming department. I rode Tron in Shanghai and while the queue and music are awesome, the ride experience was mediocre. The launch was exciting and the outdoor portion of the ride is definitely the best part. Once you get indoors though, the ride takes a steep decline. It tries so hard to be space mountain, but falls short. Tron is also a IP that hasn’t had a movie in over a decade and doesn’t have a big following, while the Jurassic franchise has a huge fan base. I do think that Velocicoaster will be the best in 2021, beating Iron Gwazi only because of its theming.

But dang from what I’ve seen of Guardians though, it’s looking to be the king of 2022.

October 5, 2020 at 10:29 AM

If Tron at DW is exactly the same Tron Shanghai, then I would definitely not call it a kiddie coaster. The ride is a 7/10 for intensity, Hulk comparatively being a 9.5 and Seven Ds being a 2. But it’s the effects and riding position that make Tron really stand out. Getting into position in your ride vehicle for the first time is a strange experience. And it’s fun just to watch it go around the exterior path. I would, however, suggest doing some neck stretches before you go on as you have to hold your head at an odd angle during the ride.

October 5, 2020 at 10:43 AM

Preposterous to call TRON a "kiddie coaster." To me, it looks like Space Mountain on steroids.

Hard to judge from videos, but the Raptor coaster looks like a thrill ride coaster with some AAs thrown in, rather than a real themed coaster.

Again, it's hard to judge from videos. You can't really know until you experience it for yourself.

October 5, 2020 at 11:04 AM

VelociCoaster may seem almost done but Universal will wait this time. People keep wanting to blame Intamin but Universal is actually to blame for all of the early hiccups on Hagrid. They set the opening date publicly when Intamin was only half done with the ride and it wasn't ready to go when it opened. It's actually running extremely well now and while it's not at it's full 12 train capacity it's running 10 at a time. Think about those numbers... 10 trains at a time and it pretty much only shuts down for weather and the odd tweak now. Intamin built the most advanced coaster ever built, by some distance, and Universal rushed it to meet their opening date that they chose because it has HP series significance. They won't make that mistake again.

As for who wins, these aren't the same ride or aimed at the same group. I'd argue half the people who would be willing to ride Tron wouldn't even consider setting foot on VelociCoaster, which is clearly NOT meant to be a GP coaster. Saw it up close finally last week and it looks so intense. I can t wait but I'm an enthusiast. I think they'll both be fun for what they're worth but no coaster fans who've ridden the other Tron coaster consider it a world-class coaster whereas Intamin and Universal are clearly aiming for the enthusiast approval on VelociCoaster.

And anyone doubting Universal's theming abilities still compared to Disney isn't paying attention. Everything major Disney has done for a decade now has been to keep up with Universal.

As for Iron Gwazi, it'll be a better coaster than both and I don't think it'll be that close a comparison. Super stoked to see what Vekoma is able to pull off with Guardians but I guess we still have awhile for that one. Can't wait to ride these others next year though!

October 5, 2020 at 12:35 PM

Although I absolutely cannot wait to ride TRON, I voted for VelociCoaster. That thing looks amazing!

October 5, 2020 at 6:25 PM

I’m looking forward to both of them! From the videos I’ve seen of Tron, it’s looks pretty awesome! Velociraptor looks amazing! But to be honest, I’m more excited for Spider-Man at Avengers Campus.

I know Spider-Man won’t be an intense ride, like the other two. But...I’ve always been a Spider-Man fan. My favorite ride is the one in Universal Orlando. I’ve more interested in the Avengers, then I am in Tron. Although, I have always liked Jurassic Park, and the Jurassic Worlds.

I know Spider-Man is similar to a rice in LEGO Land. But I’ve never ridden it. So Spider-Man will be a totally new attraction for me. Also, if they ever build the Wakanda ride, that will also interest me more than these two.

October 5, 2020 at 10:03 PM

@nrainone wrote this: "Everything major Disney has done for a decade now has been to keep up with Universal."

Really? Is that why Disney has the greatest new ride, and probably greatest in the world? (I'll give you a hint: the initials are ROTR).

October 6, 2020 at 7:20 AM

Galaxy’s Edge was clearly Disney’s response (and attempt to replicate) Diagon Alley. As great as Rise looks, it borrows lots from Gringotts like multiple pre shows and escaping from a Star Destroyer instead of an underground bank.

There’s also a big marketplace, a pick your lightsaber show (instead of a wand) and flying the Falcon (instead of riding the Hogwarts Express).

October 6, 2020 at 8:31 AM

@Still A Fan, yes. It is absolutely a response to Universal. Galaxy's Edge is their response to Diagon Alley just like Avatar was their response to Hogsmeade. You'll notice I never once compared the quality of the rides or said one was better than the other, they're both plenty of fun and I enjoy both. What I said was simply a fact. Universal has been leading the way with ultra-themed lands and attractions since the Wizarding World opened a decade ago with Disney buying up IP to push back. It's only made theme parks better in that regard.

And as much fun as I'm sure Guardians will be, and as great the work Vekoma has done in the last 15-ish years as a manufacturer, it's pure speculation that Guardians will be a better coaster than either of these
In fact, staying on our previous discussion, Guardians could VERY legitimately be argued to be Disney answering Universal again, in this case Hagrid's MCMB. Disney even tried to claim Guardians was the first "storytelling coaster" and had to backtrack when that was a) not the case to begin with, and b ) they had even already been beaten to the punch by Universal in that regard. Twice (Hagrid's and Gringotts).

I'm excited about it too but it's very much setting up to be a newer version of Gringotts with elements of Hagrid's.

October 6, 2020 at 10:35 AM

@Still A Fan I always felt Gringotts was a dark ride with coaster element. I can't remember Universal ever tried to sell it as a (story telling) coaster. Sure it takes the concept of a dark ride into a whole new direction but Disney also tried to put small thrill elements in it's ride (like the drop in Pirates In Euro Disney for instance).

October 6, 2020 at 1:37 PM

nrainone: "Everything major Disney has done for a decade now has been to keep up with Universal."

I Respond: (Source TEA/AECOM) Total park attendance at UOR since Potter arrived (2010) 174,568,000. Total park attendance WDW 566,777,000.

So who is trying to keep up with who, again?

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