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Rocking and rolling

Published Sep. 29, 2005

Climb aboard the latest thrill at Disney/MGM Studios and get ready to rock, with Aerosmith blasting in your ears and twists and turns throwing you for a loop _ all in the dark.

Disney World has finally taken the ribbon from its hair, shaken it loose and let it fall.

Last week, the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster opened at Disney/MGM Studios. It's snuggled next to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and is everything Disney isn't: dark, scary, speedy and full of Aerosmith attitude.

Yep, you read that correctly. Legendary rock band Aerosmith is the group Disney hooked up with to present its fabulous new roller coaster.

The band attended the coaster's media preview last month, where front man Steven Tyler told the crowd, "This is a great honor for us to be part of this. It's one small step for the band and one humongous step for rock 'n' roll."

The funny thing about choosing a band like Aerosmith, which has been playing music longer than most of you have been alive, is that most likely 20 years from now, the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster still will be in commission even though most of the band members will be in their 70s.

But for now, Aerosmith is going strong, and its music is a perfect match for Disney's first high-speed thrill ride.

Like Space Mountain in Disney's Magic Kingdom park (but a heck of a lot faster and more intense), the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is fully enclosed, which means two things: 1. No matter what the weather conditions, the ride will be functioning, and 2. If you're scared of the dark, don't get on.

The ride features a jolting launch, three inversions and a specially created Aerosmith soundtrack blasting from 120 onboard speakers in each coaster train.

The Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is so good that days after riding it, your stomach is still churning and your head is still spinning.

The numbers help tell the story:

Riders must be 48 inches tall.

The coaster's high-speed launch catapults each train to a whopping 60 mph in 2.8 seconds (Disney says the feeling is similar to sitting in a supersonic jet as it blasts off from the deck of an aircraft carrier).

Riders experience nearly 5 Gs as they transition from launch to loop at the steel roller coaster's fist inversion (astronauts experience 3 Gs at liftoff).

The more than half-mile of track includes twists, loops, corkscrews, hills and dips.

The whole concept and execution of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster represents a breakthrough in Disney theme park rides and, frankly, makes riding Busch Gardens' new wooden coaster, Gwazi, seem like bumping along in a little red wagon.

The full experience starts outside with the 40-foot-tall guitar adorning the entrance. After making their way through the line, guests enter the fictional G-Force Records building.

Some more waiting in line leads them to the recording studio, where Aerosmith is shown, on videotape, finishing a session. From a video screen across the room, Tyler talks to the guests and invites them to leave the studio with the band.

A stretch limo is ordered and everyone moves out to what looks like a city alley, chain-link fence and all. The limo is actually the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster train. It looks like a stretch Cadillac, complete with 1950-style fins in the back. Each train can hold 24 riders.

From a complete stop, riders are launched into the darkness, lit up only by California landmarks such as the famous Hollywood sign. All the while, Aerosmith music is pumped into their ears.

It's all over in one minute and 22 seconds.

There weren't many young people at the coaster's preview, but 39-year-old Bill Schmidling from Clearwater was there. His friend won a radio contest and brought Bill along as a guest.

"It's better than Space Mountain," Bill said after getting off the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. "Intense. Powerful!"