What should Disney do about its Rock 'n' Roller Coaster?

December 20, 2023, 5:39 PM · Walt Disney World's refurbishment schedule revealed today that Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith will go down - again - starting January 8.

Later this morning, my media colleague Scott Gustin reported that Disney is saying that the indoor Vekoma launch coaster will remain closed until summer. Every time that RnRC goes down for an extended refurb, fans start sharing rumors that this finally will be the time that Disney rethemes the attraction.

When so many fans are wishing for that kind of change on a ride, that's a sure sign that something is wrong with the experience.

In the case of Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, the biggest issue likely is the frontman of the band that Disney chose to provide the theme for the ride. Steven Tyler has been the subject of a sexual assault accusation involving a teenage girl for whom he was the legal guardian at the time, as well as a second civil assault case involving another teenage girl, filed last month. Seeing how Disney just fired Marvel actor Jonathan Majors after his domestic assault conviction this week, it seems certain that Disney would cut ties with Tyler and Aerosmith should the cases involving the singer go against him.

But while Majors was the star at the heart of the current phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tyler is the singer for a band whose popularity has been waning and whose recent career - and Disney gig - is pretty much solely due to being sampled in an now-old Run-DMC song. So many Disney fans are asking, why wait for the courts? Dump these guys now.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster's story is high-stakes limo ride through Los Angeles - a conceit that Disney also used on its late, not-so-great Superstar Limo ride at Disney California Adventure. Some fans, including me, had hoped that Disney would swap Aerosmith for its own Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, but Disney+ recently cancelled its series featuring that Muppet rock band after a single season, pretty much scuttling any hope that the band would get a new home in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

(Full disclosure and silly trivia: You can see the back of my head in episode 6, during their concert at Cavity-Con. Yes, I got to see Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem live!)

Given Disney's recent strategic decisions, I cannot see the company licensing an outside IP for this or any other Disney Parks attraction. If Disney dumps Aerosmith, it will be in favor of a Disney-owned franchise. Now, should that be another band for a light retheme of the coaster? Or, should it be for a more substantial retheme, which could replace its setting and storyline?

Or should Disney just give up on this indoor roller coaster and build an entirely new attraction in its place?

Given that the ride is scheduled for a five-month-plus refurb, I think that tells us the final option is off the table, at least for a while. Disney should not be investing that kind of time and money to refurb a marquee attraction only to close and demolish it soon after. So either Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is coming back in the summer of 2024 unchanged in theme, or it's getting a light thematic revamp. It's just not enough time for a Tiana-style makeover. Or the Avengers makeover that the Paris version of the coaster got - not that Walt Disney World could do that, thanks to the whole Marvel theme park rights thing.

So the question remains, what should Disney do about its Rock 'n' Roller Coaster?

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Replies (25)

December 20, 2023 at 6:11 PM

Clearly Rock 'n' Roller Coaster will be featuring Halyx after the referb. ;)

It's not outside the realm of possibility to have a fake band created for the attraction. Sure, it's not the "IP synergy" as before, but it would solve the problem of avoiding problematic associations while not radically changing the ride concept.

December 20, 2023 at 7:55 PM

Theme-wise, the current setup has run its course. I wouldn't be surprised if the Aerosmith contract has an early termination clause and Disney's waiting them out, but I would be surprised if they renew it yet again at this point. Rather than a new band, it'd make a lot more sense to retheme the coaster completely...something based on one of their action-y franchises that hasn't been used yet wouldn't be a bad choice. My only hope is that whether or not they spend the money on that sort of retheme, they invest in new trains for the coaster with vest restraints as the current ones are outdated and uncomfortable.

December 20, 2023 at 11:40 PM

Retheme it to Drake. Have Aerosmith released any meaningful music in the last 25 years?

December 21, 2023 at 10:16 AM

Hear me out:

Rockin roller Coaster:Taylor’s version

December 21, 2023 at 6:05 AM

Love Aerosmith. I thought they used to mix up the music way back when. Anyway, it seems they've come to the end of the coaster road so to speak. The Stones would be a great replacement. Mick still has the stage presence and wouldn't "start me up" or some other classic be a great ridesong through the darkness? The Stones never come cheap though...Dont wimp it up with Taylor swift or rock n roller-coaster may become a distant memory for me....??

December 21, 2023 at 8:01 AM

Disney should retheme the R&RC to a classic band or solo artist that was not implicated in a scandal involving sex with an underaged person, domestic violence, drug trafficking or other such unsavory behavior. In that case The Electric Mayhem may be Mouse’s best and only option.

Regarding the show, I thought the Muppet stuff was great and the human stuff not so much. But retheme R&RC into a Muppet Roller Coaster with The Electric Mayhem providing the soundtrack and you should have an evergreen attraction.

December 21, 2023 at 8:16 AM

The Stones were the Imagineer's first choice, until they saw the price. They then went down the list until they got a number they could handle with Aerosmith.

I'm no huge Aerosmith fan, a concert of theirs in 1978 is the worst sound quality I've ever heard. But if they keep the rockin' motif, I wonder what I'll feel about the replacement.

December 21, 2023 at 8:35 AM

Seconding Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (Taylor's Version)!

But I suppose if that's not feasible, maybe theme it to something from the Cars franchise? Lightning McQueen Racing Academy is next door, and maybe you could create a mini-Cars Land?

December 21, 2023 at 8:41 AM

this is a toughie for me. i'm a big aerosmith fan since the 70's...@marc ricketts, i agree on the '78 tour. they were on a downward spiral for sure. however, they came back strong in the 80's and 90's and i remember being totally stoked with the whole experience when rock-n-roller coaster opened -- i had 2 of my favorite things in one place, aerosmith and roller coasters. i was in heaven.

that said, the preshow has been long in the tooth for a long time now and definitely needs a refresh. i have always said they could change it to a generic rock-n-roll theme and play a bunch of different artists and create a new pre-show that could remain timeless. of course, there's licensing issues with the music but i'm wondering if doing old time rock-n-roll could work and then a lot of those songs are in the public domain. good golly miss molly!!

December 21, 2023 at 9:16 AM

If it wasn’t so old, or a one off, I always thought it would have made sense to have it be Who Framed Roger Rabbit themed. The ride itself would take you from Hollywood of yesterday, much like how the park is already themed, and would take you to Toontown much along the lines of how we see it in the film when Eddie drives through the tunnel with some additional twists and turns in our oversized Benny the cab. This would then lead to a new area in the park, Toontown, where they could then utilize the blueprint for Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland as inspiration, just copy and paste it into DHS, or even use elements from Mickeys Toontown Fair when it use to be in MK before the Fantasyland expansion. Roger Rabbit is already acknowledged/present in DHS so it’s not that far of a stretch. The biggest issue of course is the age of the movie and its relevance to current park goers, although Disneyland does have Roger Rabbits Car Toon Spin in Mickey’s Toontown still.

December 21, 2023 at 11:59 AM

If the ride is California based, I'd go with the Grateful Dead. Could start with "Riding that train, high on cocaine" and end with "What a long, strange trip it's been".

December 21, 2023 at 12:36 PM

Good lord, if they rethemed to Taylor Swift the park would be sold out in perpetuity. But why would someone of her caliber associate herself with a washed out old ride like this? She'd demand something brand new.

The Muppets are criminally underserved by Disney, your proposal Robert is the right one, and could easily be really fun.

They could also go with the COVID Coaster, where you're on the DeSantrain and at each turn a medical professional tries to put a mask on your face, only for you to dodge it! Haha, death over science!! BWA-HA-HAA watch out for the Fauci Ouchi on turn three!

December 21, 2023 at 12:45 PM

YES - Taylor Swift the Ride...

Can't wait!!

Love to hit a park with no Trumpfoerskiners there...

December 21, 2023 at 3:24 PM

So I am not as upset at this as I am to the changes to the County Bear Jamboree.

Also, since they love to retheme stuff, how about a super retro futuristic enhancement to the TTA? Imagine if the tunnels were enhanced with futuristic scenes and high end effects.

Back to Aerosmith. It needs to be a classic rock band. Let’s just go crazy and make it AC/DC.

December 21, 2023 at 6:26 PM

I think it should totally be rethemed to the Beatles! Not only has Disney collaborated with them on some big Disney Plus documentaries, but the band, despite having broken up over 50 years ago, is so timeless and their music is still so resonant to all of us.

December 21, 2023 at 9:34 PM

"Tyler is the singer for a band whose popularity has been waning and whose recent career - and Disney gig - is pretty much solely due to being sampled in an now-old Run-DMC song"

Uh, call me a bit biased as one who owns almost the entire Aerosmith catalogue, but the band is far more than their collaboration with Run-DMC. Yes, that song is iconic because of its crossover appeal and introduction of hip hop into the mainstream, but it still only reached #4 on the Billboard chart (the original reached #10 in 1976). FWIW, the group's highest ranking single is Don't Want to Miss a Thing (written by Diane Warren and on the Armageddon Soundtrack) charted at #1 for 4 weeks, while Janie's Got a Gun (from Pump) reached #4, and Angel (from Get a Grip) hit #3. The band was one of the hottest rock bands on the planet for most of the 90's and early 00's when Disney was developing the attraction.

Certainly the band's decline and lack of follow up hits after Just Push Play along with Tyler's recent legal issues have made their continual appearance in DHS a bit problematic. However, there's an argument to be made that Aerosmith is still one of the greatest American rock bands of all time, and if not for the accusations against Tyler, the band would certainly be worthy of having a Permanent Vacation attraction (see what I did there?) dedicated to them for decades beyond the end of their performing career - the band had begun their farewell tour earlier this year that was suspended due to Tyler blowing out his vocal chords (of course I had tickets to see them for the first time ever 2 weeks after they halted the tour).

I think the coaster itself isn't really that great (though its 48" height requirement means it's many youngster's first upside-down roller coaster), and that if they want to move away from Aerosmith, Disney would probably be better served building a new attraction. However, the issue with that is that DHS has received so many new attractions that it's difficult to justify pumping another $50+ million into a park that already has Galaxy's Edge, ToT, Toy Story Land, and could use a refresh of its Indy attraction before dealing with RnRC. If they were to keep the coaster and retheme it to something else, I wouldn't expect Disney to spend a lot of money on music rights, so it would need to be something Disney already owns or something that would come at a cut rate price.

Personally, if they want to do a simple cut and paste for a "reasonable" music rights cost, I think Queen would probably be the easiest band that could slide in pretty seamlessly for Aerosmith.

MaxicKingdom - The Beatles would be pretty cool, though if they were to do that, Disney would need to blow out the stops on theming, which would not come cheap, let alone the cost for the music rights, which would be prohibitively expensive for a coaster that will turn 25 next summer.

December 21, 2023 at 11:32 PM

The other issue with any sort of long-term closure to Rockin’ is DHS’ well-documented capacity problem. Things are bad enough as it is — losing Rockin’ for another five months is going to be a big blow, and I can’t imagine what a two-year closure might look like with regards to wait times.

December 22, 2023 at 8:22 AM

@RussellMeyer, great history of Aerosmith...the Run DMC collaboration was the beginning of their comeback and arguably the greatest comeback in rock history. They had hoped the first album after reuniting with Joe Perry and Brad Whitford would re-launch them, but the album stalled (although i loved it). but then they were talked into the Run DMC thing which was huge for them. then they followed that with 3 of their biggest selling albums in a row and a great deal of the soundtrack on Rock-n-Roller Coaster is from those 3 albums. personally, i'd like Aerosmith to stay but as i mentioned earlier, the pre-show is tired and they are 25 years older now so not sure how a new pre-show with an even older Aerosmith would work.

December 22, 2023 at 9:14 AM

Not for nothing, any sort of retheme for the attraction doesn’t necessarily have to be based around a musical act. Regarding Roberts earlier suggestion about Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, that’s a great idea, but if that niche IP within the Muppet universe isn’t enough to move the needle, why not just make a madcap, zany Muppet roller coaster? Perhaps you are the Great Gonzo being shot out of his biggest cannon yet? I feel like the queue could easily be retrofitted and they could obviously plus the rest and remove the record label theme. Don’t get me wrong. I love the music on the attraction, and I love the theme of racing to make it to a concert on time , but I also feel like if the point of the attraction is to attach a popular real world artist to it, then you are kind of narrowing the scope of what might be possible. My opinion :-)

December 22, 2023 at 11:05 AM

I've been advocating for a retheme of this attraction for 15 years, as Dave Mustaine said in 1993, "we don't have a lot of time to play because Aerosmith doesn't have a lot of time to live" (Megadeth was kicked off the tour not much later lol...although Aerosmith said it was not related to his comment).

But NGL after seeing how poorly done the Paris Rockin' Rollercoaster retheme was done I think i've changed my mind.

December 22, 2023 at 12:43 PM

lol Mustaine gives zero Effs

December 22, 2023 at 1:12 PM

Oh yes, I know as I'm flying through the dark on a rollercoaster, having a great time, I'm thinking about what trouble the namesake of that ride has gotten into (give me a break!)

December 22, 2023 at 4:59 PM

It’s mostly the pre-ride that’s so dated - once you’re in the coaster it all works together well

December 22, 2023 at 5:31 PM

I did not consider what would happen with DHS wait times. Keep it. Make another big attraction. DHS is a nightmare due to the downtimes the attractions have been experiencing lately. It is bad everywhere, but DHS feels the sting the most. Also, rope drop is a 50/50 shot if you are wanting to rope drop Rise. For me rope dropping rise then heading straight to Slinky Dog with reservations later allows you to do both multiple times. The problem is Rise will likely be down which has a park wide ripple effect. With Tower pretty much guaranteed to go down at some point, that park can be trouble. That said I can usually do Rise three times a day.

If they want to retheme DHS go for it, but just change the band. It does need to be a big arena band, and I love the recommendation for Queen. Have it trying to make it to the Live Aid performance. Rebuild the gift shop to have a huge projection performance.

December 23, 2023 at 8:46 AM

Thought I heard a rumor it was being themed to Powerline

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