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Could you handle Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind?
The Epcot coaster is among Disney’s best but offers unique thrills
While I don’t work for Nova Corps, have the advanced intelligence of the Xandarians, or possess any kind of superhero powers, I feel confident that I can accurately predict the future, at least on this issue: When Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the highly themed roller coaster at Walt Disney World’s Epcot, opens on May 27, it will be enormously popular. I reviewed the attraction a couple of weeks ago and gave it a 4.75 (out of 5). It will debut as one of the Florida theme park resort’s top five attractions–and that’s saying a lot.
But here’s the thing: Cosmic Rewind does not skimp on the thrills, and may not be for everybody (read: ride wimps). To complicate matters, its vehicles incorporate a new ride system, and the coaster thrills it offers are unique and a bit difficult to describe. Also, the entire attraction is hidden inside a humungous show building, so there’s no way for wary visitors to gauge the experience prior to boarding.
Are you (or the folks who will be visiting Epcot with you) at least a bit thrill-averse? If so, would Cosmic Rewind be for you? That’s up to you to decide. Let’s deconstruct the attraction so that you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
Disney and Vekoma put a new spin on coasters
First, let’s focus on the breakthrough feature that makes the ride experience unlike any other coaster out there. Disney characterizes Cosmic Rewind as a “storytelling coaster.” The description is apt because, perhaps more than any other coaster on the planet (galaxy?), it showcases themed elements that convey a narrative. We’re talking rich, grand-scale, high-wow-factor media, effects, lighting, sound, and sets that befit a modern E-Ticket dark ride. In this case, however, the ride vehicles are coaster cars careening around the show building at high velocity.
In order to help passengers know where to look in the cavernous structure and carefully control the ride experience, Disney decided that it wanted to co-opt the concept of its Omnimover ride system. Used on attractions such as The Little Mermaid–Ariel's Undersea Adventure and the Haunted Mansion, Omnimover vehicles have the ability to rotate and position guests towards the action in dark rides. It’s sort of the theme park equivalent of a cinematographer pivoting a camera and framing a scene. Similarly, Cosmic Rewind employs what Disney has dubbed its “Omnicoaster” ride system.
Developed in conjunction with the coaster’s manufacturer, Vekoma, each car can pivot on an axis. As a storytelling device, the Omnicoaster capabilities work like a charm. As they soar through the galaxy, as well as time itself, riders know precisely where they should train their focus. But the prescribed lateral rotations make for a wild, physical ride experience as well.
The movements are not extreme. The cars never turn more than a complete revolution at any moment and mostly only move a few degrees in any direction. But the sensation is noticeable. For example, the train encircles some scenes as it navigates a partial helix, and the cars slightly rotate in the direction of the curve. The feeling is a bit like a skier leaning into a turn.
It’s an exhilarating feeling, if a tad unsettling–in both cases because the sensation is unexpected and new. In my estimation, the Omnicoaster feature is part of what makes Cosmic Rewind wonderful. Would it be too unsettling for you if you are squeamish about unanticipated sensations? Perhaps knowing what to expect will help prepare you for the experience and ease your angst.
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A family coaster (for families that embrace thrills)
Neither Disney nor Vekoma have released specifications, so it’s hard to state with accuracy what’s happening with the ride. But in terms of height, Cosmic Rewind is not all that tall, and does not deliver any long or steep rises or drops. Compared to Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa, which climbs 206 feet and plummets 206 feet at 91 degrees, the Epcot ride is positively tame.
Instead of climbing a tall lift hill and tapping gravitational potential energy, the Guardians coaster gets its speed from a magnetic launch. Again, it’s unclear how fast it goes. But based on my experience, I’m guessing that Cosmic Rewind is about 60 mph at its fastest and that it cruises along at about 50 mph for most of the ride. Iron Gwazi, which is Florida’s fastest coaster, hits a potent 76 mph. Then again, Space Mountain, you may be surprised to learn, orbits its show building at a fairly poky top speed of 27 mph.
Whereas Iron Gwazi is considered an extreme coaster, Cosmic Rewind falls into the family coaster category, a designation it shares with Space Mountain. But the Guardians ride clearly goes faster than the Tomorrowland classic and is exponentially more thrilling. It’s fair to say that the Epcot coaster straddles the extreme end of the family coaster category.
Let’s break down the ride’s features.
We’ve already mentioned the Omnicoaster rotations and the sensations they deliver.
We also mentioned that Cosmic Rewind incorporates a launch to kick off the craziness near the beginning of the course. What we didn’t say is that the launch is experienced in reverse. Other Disney World coasters, including Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Slinky Dog Dash, feature launches, but only the Epcot coaster sends passengers careening backwards. In addition to the abrupt acceleration and burst of speed, there is the element of not knowing where you are heading. Because the cars can rotate, they eventually do turn around and face forward (or sideways, sometimes).
There are some small pops of airtime, that butterflies-in-your-stomach, out-of-your-seat sensation. But they are not especially intense.
There are also a few elements that deliver positive G-forces, the feeling of being pinned to the seat. Again, these forces are not particularly extreme.
Who can (and should) go on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind?
Befitting a family coaster, Cosmic Rewind has a low height restriction of only 42 inches (107 cm). As such, fairly young children can board the attraction. But should they?
My mantra when it comes to thrill rides is that people–and that includes children, other family members, friends, and you–should not be coerced into doing something they would rather not try. Of course, thrills are part of the equation; but they are all in the name of fun. And one person’s idea of fun is another person’s idea of misery. Respect people’s wishes and boundaries.
Tom Fitzgerald, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive and one of the leads on Cosmic Rewind, helps put the ride experience in perspective. “Our goal from the beginning is that we wanted it to be a family coaster. We wanted to have a broad audience.” Comparing the Epcot ride to other Disney World coasters, he adds that “it’s more thrilling than Big Thunder Mountain, but may not be for those who aren’t ready for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster yet.”
For comparison, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster has a 48-inch height restriction, climbs 80 feet, hits 57 mph, and includes two inversions. (Cosmic Rewind does not turn upside down at any point.) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, on the other hand, has a 40-inch height requirement and a top speed of 36 mph. If you are fine on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Cosmic Rewind should be no problem. If you are okay with Big Thunder and Space Mountain, but have never experienced anything more thrilling, you’ll probably want to carefully consider the elements outlined in this article before making the leap to Cosmic Rewind.
How thrilling is Cosmic Rewind?
Arthur’s thrillometer rating: 3.25 to 3.5 (out of 5)
On a thrill scale of 0 to 5 (with 0 being wimpy and 5 being yikes!), I think Cosmic Rewind rates a 3.25, possibly a 3.5 because of the novel Omnicoaster feature and the reverse launch. It is somewhat extreme, but not as extreme as many other coasters. Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, for example, is a 4.25 on my thrillometer.
If you are on the line, I’d say go for it. The Guardians of the Galaxy coaster is a stunning achievement and truly one of the best attractions in Disney World. I’m not going to lie and say the whole experience is over quickly. At 5,577 feet, Cosmic Rewind is one of the world’s longest indoor coasters and just a plain long coaster period. After all, it takes some time to save the galaxy.
Have you experienced Cosmic Rewind? Are you planning to ride it? Are you concerned about its thrill quotient? Share your thoughts.
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