Listen, I don’t force Walt Disney World on people. But when you’re around me a lot, well… let’s just say Pat has now been to WDW 3 times since we met and subscribes to the WDW subreddit. Which leads us, believe or not, to the theme of today’s blog post: why is it taking so long for Disney to build the new roller coaster Tron: Lightcycle / Run in Orlando when it’s ostensibly just a copy of an already existent ride in Hong Kong Disneyland?
(Image above is direct from Disney and was found here. It details progress from September of 2020.)
Pat happened to come upon a reddit post decrying the 5 year+ wait we’ve had between Disney announcing the Tron ride in WDW to now, when I think they’ve now come so far as to run test trains. As a practicing architect, he was visibly annoyed. “You can’t just copy and paste blueprints onto a new location,” he said. “There are lots of unique factors that have to be considered.”
Oh really, said I. Care to elaborate? And I casually opened up a new blog post…
AN ARCHITECT’S THOUGHTS ON WHY TRON: LIGHTCYCLE RUN IS TAKING SO LONG TO BUILD
The first thing you said might hold up the building of Tron in Orlando is differences of terrain. How would the Imagineers need to adapt their plans to a different site?
Most projects require a geotech report before you start building. This will determine soil conditions, and helps inform how you’ll design the foundations and what the ground will bear. The type of foundation and civil engineering needed will vary greatly depending on the ground and what the local codes require.
Also, I don’t know China’s building codes, but Florida definitely has hurricane codes. They may have to change the cladding [siding] to meet wind and pressure ratings.
Either way they’d first need to perform a thorough survey of the local conditions before they could even get started. Anything they may have done previously in Hong Kong would need to be checked.
You’ve also mentioned weather. According to Wikipedia, Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate. Record highs fall short of 98 degrees, and record lows don’t go past the freezing point. By contrast, Orlando is classified as humid subtropical as well but has much more extreme records – 103 and 18, respectively. Are the elements, shall we say, an element?
Any contractor’s schedule should build in weather days. Of course, if weather prevents them from working on more days than they expect, well, there’s not much you can do. You can’t, for example, pour concrete in a torrential downpour. But I doubt that weather would’ve caused an appreciable delay, and it probably wouldn’t affect design either.
You noted that while supply chain issues may be a factor, that’s not the whole story for such a specialized project.
To start, these are very specialized machine parts; a lot of it can’t be found in your local hardware store. So they need to be custom ordered, and that takes time.
If Disney contracted the exact same supplier for the bespoke pieces, the custom design files could likely be reused. But I don’t know enough about roller coaster construction to determine the process by which they’re built. It’s probably some sort of tube steel, but I don’t know how much can be recast versus one-off parts.
COVID certainly didn’t help, though. Supply chain problems would be a factor but it’s not the whole story. That being said, for custom parts, one single point failure can delay the entire project.
Anything else I’m not thinking of?
One thing that’s not uncommon: unforeseen conditions. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Construction crews may have started digging on the Tron site and discovered a bunch of huge boulders that now need to be dug or blasted out. Maybe they could’ve found an underground stream, or historical artifacts that archaeologists need to examine before anything else can be done. Unforeseen conditions can delay projects for months and months, depending on the individual issue.
Another thing to consider is infrastructure. This is pure speculation on my part, but since Tron was an opening day attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland, it would’ve been part of the master plan. Electricity and plumbing would be put in place as part of the larger build of the theme park.
By contrast, WDW is putting Tron in an already existent area of an already existent park. The infrastructure can only support so much. If they didn’t have the additional power necessary in Tomorrowland, they’d need to bring in more power and that takes a long time. This also applies to plumbing.
And there you have it! While I too hope Tron: Lightcycle / Run opens in the Magic Kingdom soon, its lengthy buildup might not be as unreasonable as some have thought. At this point my only hope is that it’s at least more fun than the movie sequel. 😜
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