Epcot finally has its roller coaster.After nearly 40 years of operation, Walt Disney World's
Long the world's most-visited theme park without one, Epcot's lack of a roller coaster spoke to its different theme and focus among parks. This wasn't just another fun park. Epcot had gravitas. This was Disney's non-fiction park, one that spoke to the infinite possibilities of tomorrow.
Well, one of those infinite possibilities was that Disney World visitors would want to see some Disney stories in Epcot. Over the years, Disney has obliged them by adding more IP to the park, even as other long-time Epcot fans complained about the deterioration of the park they had grown to love.
With Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, Disney reaches for another possible future, one in which Walt Disney World can have it all - an Epcot attraction based on the world's most popular IP (Marvel, ahem) that also sneaks in one of those lessons that gave the park the gravitas it enjoyed for so long.
Think that's an impossible task? Well, if there's one crew in Disney's portfolio that is known for pulling off wildly improbable, even seemingly impossible challenges, it's the Guardians of the Galaxy. And with some help from their friends in the Nova Corps from the planet of Xandar, they do it.
From now on, it's spoiler time.
It's the Wonders of Xandar pavilion that we find taking over the old Universe of Energy space in what is now Epcot's World Discovery neighborhood. The pavilion welcomes visitors with The Galaxarium, which introduces us to Xandar (for those who haven't seen the Guardians movies). From there, we proceed into Xandar Gallery to learn more about the planet, its people, and its cities.
It's there that we watch a broadcast of "Good Morning Xandar" featuring interviews with our Guardian heroes. Star Lord, aka Peter Quill, steals the show here with his enthusiasm for the 1980s Epcot of his youth. Sure, it's an Easter egg gag, but it's also a brilliant move by Disney to acknowledge the nostalgia that so many fans feel for this park.
From the Gallery, we get our first surprise - that this isn't simply another static World's Fair/Epcot-type pavilion. Nope, we are on our way from here to an even bigger attraction, a Nova Corps Starcharter cruiser orbiting Earth. Just enter the Phase Chamber, and thanks to the Xandarians' Cosmic Generator, we will be on our way.
And this is the moment where it all goes terribly wrong. A Celestial, Eson, steals the Cosmic Generator and announces his plans to use it to turn back time and prevent Earth's creation. Since our Starjumper shuttles are the only ships in the area, it's up to us to follow Eson and keep track of him until the Guardians can arrive and save the day.
You can watch the entire preshow unfold in our queue walkthrough video.
From there, it's on board the 20-person Vekoma "Omnicoaster" vehicles for our trip to save the galaxy. Disney recorded my ride and edited it into this highlight reel.
I got "Disco Inferno" on that ride, which explains my joy throughout. Cosmic Rewind plays one of six songs on each trip, creating even more re-ride appeal for this indoor coaster. Disney's made a lot of its Omnicoaster tech for this ride, but let me rephrase that buzzword it a way that will make it more instantly understandable for most coaster fans.
This is a spinning coaster. No, the cars do not spin randomly or under the influence of their weight. The spins are controlled and timed to the show pieces and the track itself. That not only allows everyone a head-on view of Eson, the Guardians, and their battle, but also changes the dynamic of riding. Instead of barreling through each turn, you drift through them.
Imagine Space Mountain as a drifting, spinning coaster, plussed with the sassy banter of the Guardians of the Galaxy as a GenX pop favorite plays and you watch the crew take down a Celestial. That's the log line for Cosmic Rewind.
Don't expect Hagrid's length here. Taking just a couple of minutes from dispatch to unload, this is more a plussed Space Mountain than an extended dark ride experience. But for goodness' sake, isn't a plussed, 21st-century Space Mountain enough? With a show building of more than 200,000 square feet and track length of 5,577 feet, this is Disney's longest fully enclosed coaster and its first to feature a reverse launch.
Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind delivers the irreverent fun of a Guardians movie with the mild thrills of a Disney coaster. There are no inversions, the launch didn't seem all that fast (I couldn't get an official speed for the ride), and the drifting softens the Gs of the curves. Save for one relatively intense helix in the middle of the ride, Cosmic Rewind shouldn't strain any emerging roller coaster fan. But it will reward them with a unique and always engaging ride.
Epcot wasn't supposed to be a mere fun park, right? Yet with its Xandar theme and storyline, Cosmic Rewind sneaks in one of these Epcot messages after all. Listen to Steve Spiegel, Story Editor Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, who talked with me after my first ride.
"No matter how far apart we are, we are more alike than we are different. Even though we are talking about another culture from another planet, that same can be said for any culture here on Earth," he said. "We all came from the same stardust."
And we all love a good time.
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