Disney’s Epcot theme park has been undergoing an impressively large makeover for some time now. Changes are happening all over the park, from the opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure last year to the ambitious construction of World Celebration, a hub that will allow you to connect with nature in its series of gardens in the figurative shadow of the iconic Spaceship Earth.
For the thrill-seeker, however, I direct you to the area designated World Discovery. While over in World Showcase, you can visit pavilions that are recreations of countries all over the world and be allowed to immerse yourself in their culture, World Discovery is offering you a different kind of Pavilion; an Intergalactic one, for it is there that you can visit Wonders of Xandar, a celebration of a Planet familiar to Marvel fans, and the staging grounds for Epcot’s first roller coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
I visited Walt Disney World last week and was given the opportunity to ride it ahead of its May 27 launch date. Members of the media had the chance to interview people involved in creating the ride and attend a party celebrating the new ride, filled with food, fun and music.
At the gates of Wonders of Xandar, you will be greeted by a Star Blaster, the impressive ships of Xandar’s Nova Corps. Enter the pavilion and you will walk through a winding Galaxarium, where you can look above you and have yourself a view of space that stretches light years beyond the planet known as Terra (we just call it Earth).
Move on from the Galaxarium into the Xandar Gallery, where you can see artifacts and footage from Xandar. Gaze upon models of ships and other visual evidence of life on the distant planet, including footage from Good Morning Xandar, where you might see some appearances from some familiar heroes.
The final stop on the tour takes you out of Epcot via teleportation to a cruiser orbiting the Earth, where you will learn from Nova Prime herself how her planet has the capability of travelling so far; the Cosmic Generator . Here, we will also be introduced to Centurion Tal Marik, the Commander of the Starcharter that you have just boarded.
But what’s a good story without conflict? Things go sideways (and backwards, but we’ll get into that later) when a Celestial named Eson has his own plans for the Earth and our heroes, the Guardians of the Galaxy are called into action, but they can’t do it alone. They need our help. So strap in.
It’s important to note that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is not the kind of ride that gives you a story and then puts you on a ride. The ride continues the story. You will experience a full story with dialogue, music and plenty of action from the launch until it’s time to raise the safety bar and exit to your left.
The ride features a lot of firsts for Walt Disney World. As mentioned, it is Epcot’s first roller coaster, it features their first reverse takeoff and is the first Guardians of the Galaxy ride in the Florida parks (Disneyland in California features Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout, the revamped version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror).
The most impressive first for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, though, is the new ride system, allowing a programmable movement of each car to be able to individually turn in any direction so they can always be facing the action. Wyatt Winter, the Senior Producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, explains:
“We call this system the Omnicoaster. It’s like our Omnimovers where you can turn or rotate you into the action or see what we want you to see, we’re now doing this on this high speed family thrill system. It creates all new sensations that are totally different and unique.”
Another feature of the ride is its varying soundtrack. During each trip, you will hear one of six different songs, all of which definitely belong in the expanding Guardians playlist that began with the first movie’s mega hit soundtrack. The songs that you can hear are:
- September (Earth, Wind and Fire)
- Disco Inferno (The Trammps)
- Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)
- I Ran (Flock of Seagulls)
- One Way or Another (Blondie)
- Conga (Miami Sound Machine) – This was the song I got.
This isn’t the first Disney ride that offers a level of variety that encourages you to keep coming back to mentally collect all of the experiences. Disney’s Star Tours: The Adventures Continue has 21 separate segments that can play in any of seven hundred combinations.
While six variations isn’t exactly seven hundred, matching more than one song to a ride experience is a tough ask and, much like the Guardians movies, they have provided us a master class on picking the perfect music for the action . Other people attending this special preview were asking each other all day, which songs did you get? You can already see the repeat value of the ride as riders try to catch every available tune.
The coaster itself is a smooth ride. Seamless gliding along the track combined with the silky turns of the omnicoaster’s cars make you feel like you are flying. I don’t say that to be poetic, either. You feel completely disconnected from any surface as you manoeuvre through the attraction. This is an important detail since getting jostled around can make a person more susceptible to motion sickness, which would only be compounded by the sideways and reverse movement on the ride.
I say this as a person who has been sick on rides throughout his whole life. So how did I fare on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind? Well, I wasn’t sick, but I did get dizzy. The dizziness, however, wasn’t the fault of the ride. There were a lot of factors that led to the vertigo. First of all, it was HOT. Each day I was at Walt Disney World, it was about 35 degrees. While I hydrated whenever I could, I was not hydrated enough.
“While Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind was full of high-speed thrills, my favourite part, by far, is Disney’s unique ability to tell a complete story from the queue to the exit.”
The other factor was that, as a first-time ride reviewer, I was looking every which way to see as much as I could about the ride and when dealing with a ride like this (not dissimilar to a motion simulation ride), it’s important to focus where you should be or you start to feel the effect, much like what one feels when they try to read a book in the car.
But a little post-ride food and drink had me back on track in no time. So if you are someone who is prone to motion sickness, the ride isn’t one you need to avoid. You’d regret missing this one.
While Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind was full of high-speed thrills, my favourite part, by far, is Disney’s unique ability to tell a complete story from the queue to the exit. The most notable aspect of the attraction’s story is its similarity in tone to the Guardians films. In addition to the return of multiple cast members of the movies, from Glenn Close as Nova Prime to the original cast as well as the addition of Terry Crews to the mix, the film just oozes the sensibility of the movies. The character work, humour, action and music all make you feel like you’re just watching another episode in the saga, albeit one that you watch at high speed.
I asked Wyatt about the park’s collaboration with Marvel to bring Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind to Epcot, to which he replied, “We were able to work with our studio partners to bring this to life, consult with them on the story and figure out who our villain was and eventually film with that original Guardians cast.”
Another crucial part to any Disney ride is its pre-ride experience. Making the line become a part of the attraction and having some sort of preshow to get into the real plot are an incredible way to engage riders for every possible second. The Galaxarium and Xandar Gallery give you so much to look at, the pre-show has elements that I won’t spoil, but blew my mind and then you still get the fantastic ride at the end.
“The fun part about it is just the scale of everything. The scale of the ride, massive show sets, big media elements and all of that kind of matching the energy of these characters,” said Winter of the scope of the attraction.
The only way, however, to truly experience Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is to ride it yourself. The twists and turns beyond the physical ones on the coaster combined with one of the most unique ride experiences of my life make this a must-ride attraction. It’s sure to become a favourite among Epcot visitors and opens up a whole new Galaxy of possibilities for what the future holds in World Discovery.