March 21, 2016

Tron in the Disney Parks: What Was, What Could Have Been, and What Will Be

All this talk about the new Tron Light Cycles Power Run going into Shanghai Disneyland got me thinking about what the Imagineers had planned long ago. What was built and what wasn't. 

Disneyland in Anaheim was the first to give a small taste of Tron to its guests. Back then, if you found yourself riding the Peoplemover in Tomorrowland, the Superspeed Tunnel gave way to the "Amazing World of Tron". Was it amazing? No. 

Basically, think of the speed tunnel used in EPCOT Center's World of Motion. A bit shorter in length and most definitely lacking in execution. It was filler designed to play up the Tron name and not much more.

Another advertisement of things that never 
got built- only at EPCOT.

The next time the film was set to be placed in a theme park was in EPCOT- but it was not meant to be. The Imagineers' plans were to use the look and theme of the film and turn a slice of Communicore into the Game Grid. The concept art, seen at top in full color, looked enticing, but for reasons never given directly, the project was not brought to reality.

California Adventure's Tron "attraction".

Years later after the mind-line success of Tron:Legacy in 2010, the Walt Disney Company once again tossed about ideas in how to bring this franchise into the parks. 

California Adventure was in the very beginning stages of a large transformation, and the park certainly needed something to draw in guests while Cars Land was in the wings. The night time dance party, elecTRONica was a minor success. Premiering a couple of months before the film's release, it did bring guests into a fairly ignored part of the park for booze filled evenings. In a pretty smart move, the suits brought in  recreation of Flynn's Arcade and a whole host of vintage video games. 

Disneyland itself was also under consideration for a major Tron addition: The Carousel Theater and the surrounding area was rumored to be the home of the first version of Shanghai's Light Cycles. Had this happened, Space Mountain would have had a serious contender for the early morning rush to "E Ticket" attractions. Unfortunately, that plug was also pulled, leaving the original Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland looking like the mess it currently is. 

A similar rumor came across for Florida's Magic Kingdom as well. It, too, was passed over. 

First shot at the Light Cycles in a brand new Shanghai Tomorrowland.

Thrilling concept! Will it mean a thrilling execution?

Along came Shanghai Disneyland. In an effort to woo the Chinese government and give them the premier theme park they required in order to do business, Disney suits and Imagineers gave Mainland China the Tron effect.

Another idea for the Land of the Future.

Final presentation of Tomorrowland
and the main Tron building.

Make no mistake, Tron Light Cycles Power Run will be the smash in a brand new park. Much like Mystic Manor is for Hong Kong Disneyland, and all of Tokyo Disney Sea for Japan, the incredible new coaster will have theme park fans all over the world green with envy. 

In 2012, Disney married two properties that at first seemed to have no connection: Test Track at Epcot was remodeled to bring it into the future. What it really accomplished was bringing the look of Tron into the attraction without using the name of the film in its marketing. However, if you watch the video below, you'll see clearly what the intent was of the Imagineers and suits. 

As close to Tron as we Americans can get for now.

The countdown clock for Shanghai Disneyland is running. June 16, 2016, this attraction will open to the world. If I were a betting man, I'd also say that the day begins the countdown to the end of an exclusivity contract- and one day, we will see Tron Light Cycles in an American park. That day cannot come soon enough!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


Gerald Campos said...

Great article. I think the Tron-esque look of test track was a test run for lighting, placement, and effect. Chevrolet is the sponsor of the Tron Lightcycles Power Run ride at Shanghai.

Mark Taft said...

Oh, what could have been! I have a feeling we may see something great on Tron in the future.
Thanks, Gerald!