November 28, 2022

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We Do Shopping Right

I rode Disney’s new Marvel roller coaster, and it’s intense

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As my Starjumper escape shuttle travels through time and space, careening around the birth of the Milky Way, I realize I may have left my stomach back at the Big Bang. Somehow I’ve been caught up in a fast-paced mission with a 0.02% probability of success that involves a showdown between an eons-old, god-like, Earth-stealing being; a ragtag group of intergalactic superheroes; and the Nova Corps of space cops.
  
I’m, of course, on the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction, opening May 27 at EPCOT. Disney’s first big-time roller coaster in years, Cosmic Rewind is an indoor roller coaster set in the world of the two Marvel Cinematic Universe films directed by James Gunn and starring Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax) and the voices of Bradley Cooper (Rocket) and Vin Diesel (Groot). The ride marks a series of “firsts,” including, according to the Disney press release, the first coaster attraction at EPCOT, the first reverse launch for a Disney coaster and the first Disney Omnicoaster — where vehicles make controlled rotations “to always keep guests focused on the action.” 

Though the Guardians are featured in Mission: Breakout! in Disney California Adventure’s Avengers Campus, this new ride is the first time they appear in an attraction at Walt Disney World.  

The attraction, which I rode as part of a media preview, is incredibly immersive from the get-go and injects much-needed fresh blood into the theme park. Personally I have come to love EPCOT as an adult, and I can see the appeal for the very young, but it has previously lacked a serious thrill ride to attract big kids. Test Track is fast and fun, and Mission: Space is exciting, but they don’t demand multiple re-rides. And those don’t stick with you in the same way this does. The added bonus of tapping into an incredibly popular and well-known intellectual property makes Cosmic Rewind the tent pole ride of the park. 

A major feature of EPCOT is the World Showcase, where “pavilions” representing countries like France, Japan and Mexico have attractions, food and entertainment. The premise of this new attraction is that riders are visiting an “other-world” pavilion called Wonders of Xandar, built at the request of Peter Quill, human leader Guardians of the Galaxy. As the ride’s storyline goes, Quill visited EPCOT when he still lived on “Terra” (Xandarian for Earth) and wanted to establish a cultural exchange outpost at the park.

The queue itself begins with a stunning “Galaxarium,” where a display of the cosmos unfolds in epic fashion. This leads into the Xandar Gallery, where Terrans (Earthlings) are given a glimpse into Xandarian culture — and comparisons are drawn to the visionary designs of Walt Disney’s community of the future that inspired EPCOT — then get to watch “Good Morning Xandar,” a news program that catches us up to speed on the heroics of the Guardians.
 
The thrills amp up when Xandarian Nova Prime Irani Rael (played by none other than Glenn Close, reprising her role from the first “Guardians of the Galaxy”) and Centurion Tal Marik (commander of the Starcharter, leader of the Nova Corps peacekeeping efforts, and actor Terry Crews) set up the story. Riders enter a circular transporter room, or “Phase Chamber,” underneath a large device that looks like it’s spewing plasma as it prepares to beam us up. In a rather fast, and convincing, effect, the lights go out briefly. When they flip on, we find ourselves in a holding bay aboard a Xandarian Starcharter, facing a massive display screen with an impressive visual of Earth, and near a containment chamber holding the cosmic generator device. We receive “live” video messages from Rael and Marik, the power on the ship goes out and the generator vanishes, and the red alert begins.
 
The Guardians are called in, and we watch a ship transmission from Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and an adult Groot (whom we haven’t seen since the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film). In typical fashion, Drax misses metaphors, Gamora is exasperated, Quill is clueless and cocky, Rocket has a (bad) plan, and Groot is, well, he is Groot — all of the live-action sequences featuring the cast were filmed on the first day of shooting “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3.”

Celestial Eson is the big bad in the new Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster at Walt Disney World. 

Celestial Eson is the big bad in the new Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster at Walt Disney World. 

Aaron Sagers

The reveal of Celestial Eson is great. The fibrous, organic entity with a lot of glowing eye holes is intimidating. Even for a theme park attraction, he looks like an MCU-level threat as he looms over Earth, bemoaning humankind’s failure and expressing his desire to reboot our planet by taking it back to the beginning. Typical cosmic villain stuff. He uses the generator to open a hexagonal portal (always with the hexagons in the MCU stories) and sucks Earth in before following. With power out on the ship, Rocket’s plan is to get us onto Starjumper escape pods and follow Eson through the temporal jump point, so the Guardians can join us and do hero stuff.
 
From there, we are escorted into the launching bay for the pods and get onto the coaster vehicle. We enter an expansive all-encompassing scene, surrounded by seamless screens, and are part of the action as the Guardians’ M-ship faces off against the galactic villain.
 
It may sound like things were intense already, but this is when things get extreme. The escape pods rotate to track the action of Rocket triggering an explosion in an attempt to recover the cosmic generator and return Earth to its rightful space. With the vehicle facing backwards, the lights of the entire universe go out. And with a flash, we are suddenly reverse launching through the Big Bang.

From here, Cosmic Rewind is like Space Mountain on steroids, with rock ’n’ roll injected right into its veins, and with g-forces that come close to the intensity of Expedition: Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one of WDW’s most intense roller coasters. In Disneyland terms, it’s about as fast as the Incredicoaster, but not as jarring. This ride doesn’t go upside down, but it’s fast, and you feel it. 

You hear one of six songs as you ride, and there are slightly varied dialogue options for each one. (The songs are “September,” “Disco Inferno,” “Conga,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “I Ran (So Far Away)” and “One Way or Another”). My first time, out of six total rides, “Disco Inferno” was cranking, and as The Trammps sang, “burn baby burn,” my fellow Earthlings and I were zooming at incredibly fast speeds as action unfolded between the Guardians and Eson. Along the way, Rocket wishes he had an instruction manual, Quill quips, Drax mentions milk gives him gas (after passing through the Milky Way’s formation), Gamora worries about the fate of “Ep-Coat,” and Groot, well, he is still Groot.
 
The fast-paced ride is full of “swishy-swishy-spinny-woooo” movements (not a technical term in the coaster business). The Omnicoaster technology keeps the rider focused on the action, and the insanely good computer graphics fully convinced me I was in the midst of a cosmically rewinding space battle in the midst of a movie starring familiar superheroes. Plus, having tried seats in the front, back and middle cars, I can honestly say there is not a bad seat in the Xandarian craft.
 
As we zipped through constantly opening jump points, but never going upside down, I found myself laughing maniacally along the way when I wasn’t singing or grooving to the music (“September” by Earth, Wind & Fire was my favorite). This is a ride that might be too extreme for those bothered by high speeds and the slight g-force sensation, but I couldn’t get enough.
 
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is a blast, from blast-off to the final moments where the team sends a message to us Terrans at the end to either welcome us as honorary Guardians (to which Drax warns there’s not enough room on their ship for all of us) or to call us all heroes (and again, Drax questions whether we’re worthy of that title, based on our attire).

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the first major thrill ride to open at EPCOT. 

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the first major thrill ride to open at EPCOT. 

Aaron Sagers

When it opens at the end of this month, it will be offered on a virtual queue system and through paid Individual Lightning Lane access — and is sure to be one of the most in-demand rides at the park for a long time to come. 





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