As I stumble from Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, all wind-whipped hair-metal hair, streaming tears and heart pounding from one of the most fun rides of my life, I’ve seen the future.
That’s not just because I’ve been on a time-jump adventure across the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but because I’ve just witnessed the future of rollercoasters. Fittingly, there’s no place better suited to it than this ride’s new home at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT: the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
Officially opening on May 27, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind marks the start of a major transformation for the park and marks a wealth of ‘firsts’: it’s the first rollercoaster at EPCOT, the first ever reverse launch for a Disney coaster, the first Disney ‘Omnicoaster’ (meaning vehicles make controlled rotations while moving on the track) and the first Walt Disney World attraction to feature the Guardians of the Galaxy (on the West Coast, as the team have already lent their planet-saving skills to the also-excellent and very different drop-ride ‘Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!’ at Disney California Adventure).
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – Official Disney Photos
Despite EPCOT generally favoring real-world education over blockbuster thrills in its attractions, I was impressed with the coaster’s relevance to the rest of the park. In an all-new area lies the Wonders of Xandar pavilion, a Spaceship Earth-like attraction created in conjunction with the Xandarians. They have traveled from their Andromeda Galaxy to Earth (or Terra, as they call it) to share their culture and teach us Terrans about their advanced technologies.
In ride terms, the Wonders of Xandar pavilion acts as the queue system before getting to the coaster, but for Marvel fans, it’s an awesome experience in itself.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – Merch Photos
Entering via The Galaxarium, we watch a showcase of Xandar’s connections to Terra in the solar system, narrated by Nova Supercomputer Worldmind. We move through to the Xandar gallery, where we view exhibits which educate us on the history of Xandar via spaceship models, video introductions to Xandar’s highest ranking officials and a scaled city recreation. In fact, Terran Walt Disney’s own vision for Epcot wasn’t dissimilar, the attraction nods. It’s followed by screens showing us clips from the chirpy local show ‘Good Morning Xandar’, where we watch gag-filled news interviews with the Guardians themselves about their recent heroism – just some of 70 minutes of entirely new Guardians content recorded especially for the ride.
The climax of the pavilion tour is that we’ll be teleported to a Nova ship through the Phase Chamber. Here, we are treated to a surprise appearance by Glenn Close and Terry Crews, as they reprise their MCU roles as Xander Leader, Nova Prime Irani Rael and Centurion Tal Marikso to teach us about the Cosmic Generator we’ll see on the ship, which uses an advanced Xandarian technology to create ‘jump points’ – a sort of Portal gun, which creates tunnels in space for rapid long-distance travel. It’s especially useful for the purposes of the pavilion, considering that traveling to Xandar at the speed of light would otherwise take 2.5 million years.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – Ride Photos (Part 1)
But, all does not go as planned.
As the Guardians tell us via video link, there’s a “really big man” outside the ship, who has stolen the Cosmic Generator. Eson, a menacing Celestial, plans to use the technology to jump back in time, change the entire course of humanity, and erase the world as we know it. It’s our job to use the jump point tech to follow Eson on a race across the galaxy and retrieve the generator. If we don’t, as Drax points out, we’re “likely doomed.”
Besides, as Star Lord reminds us, stopping the elimination of our timeline also means saving rock ‘n’ roll in the process. And there’s no cause more noble than that.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – Ride Photos (Part 2)
What follows can only be described as a frenzy of dark ride madcap chaos. One of the largest indoor rollercoasters in the world, we move forward through the track to see Eson escape with the generator – and with that comes our use of time jumping and an unexpected, exhilarating backwards launch through the galaxy. Proceeding to propel us in every direction, your vehicle rotates to keep you focused on the stunning, rapidly changing action playing out around you, while a storming soundtrack of Peter Quill-approved pop pummels all the senses. It’s truly thrilling. And as a theme park fan, it’s like nothing I’ve ever ridden before.
Forget stomach-churning fairground spins, these are controlled rotations designed specifically to turn you to look from one huge curved screen, to the next centerpiece prop (circling down around the moon is a highlight)… all while moving at high-speed.
That also means that what appears to be the front row of the vehicle when loading does not stay that way for long, with the carriages changing position with the change in direction of the coaster and rotations of the vehicle. My tip: don’t run to the so-called ‘front row’ and instead, aim for row nine, which will become the front of the vehicle after launch.
It all feels like the next step in the progression of classic dark rides like Space Mountain, turning the thrills up to 11 and using the new technology as a vessel for storytelling, fun and thrills, as opposed to making the innovations the star of the show.
Set to a fist-pumping soundtrack of ‘70s and ‘80s pop hits, similar to Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll ride to one of a possible six anthems: I rode to “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire, and on the inevitable run around to get back on the ride immediately after, “Conga” by the Gloria Estefan-fronted Miami Sound Machine (which saw the vehicle full of riders shake their bodies, unable to control them any longer). Everything feels thoroughly Guardians of the Galaxy. And what that really means is that it is 100%, pure fun.
On a practical level, EPCOT’s only coaster – and arguably Disney’s greatest ride of all four of its Orlando parks – will undoubtedly draw crowds visiting the park for it specifically, so you can probably expect to spend a while in the Wonders of Xander museum-slash-line. As with most of the biggest attractions at Walt Disney World, the ride is likely to use the Genie+ system, with a virtual queue system available as well as Lightning Lane passes available to purchase.
Though we do eventually track down the Cosmic Generator on our chase, it seems that it may be a little redundant, after all, because thrill fans won’t actually need to time jump at all to see futuristic tech, or to time travel. The future is already here – one backwards launch, many high-speed spins and cosmic chase around the galaxy away.