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Inside scoop: Epcot’s first roller coaster is a ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ ride

We rode the biggest new attraction to open at Walt Disney World in more than two years, the first Marvel franchise on East coast Disney property.
Epcot will get its first coaster and Walt Disney World will get its first ride featuring a Marvel franchise when Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens at Epcot on May 27.
Epcot will get its first coaster and Walt Disney World will get its first ride featuring a Marvel franchise when Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens at Epcot on May 27. [ DAVID ROARK | David Roark, photographer ]
Published May 5|Updated May 5

The Tampa Bay Times got a sneak preview on Thursday of Epcot’s new roller coaster, the first Walt Disney World ride featuring a Marvel franchise.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens May 27, the biggest new ride at Disney World in two years. It is opening at Epcot, the only major theme park in Central Florida that didn’t have a coaster.

With a height limit of 42 inches, the size of an average 5-year-old, it is a family coaster. But it has some grit to it, starting with a backward burst into outer space and a few dizzying moments where riders descend in a spiral around a planet while the ride car pivots. There are lots of banked turns and quick maneuvers around film scenes and set pieces, with no big drops or inversions.

Disney is calling Cosmic Rewind its first “story coaster” because the cars fully rotate to show off key themed elements of the ride as passengers help save the galaxy. It is also one of the longest enclosed coasters in the world.

Zoe Saldana, from left, Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in  "Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2" which came out in 2017. The Guardians series of films are among the few Marvel franchises that can skirt a long-standing court case that has kept Marvel characters from any Disney theme park east of the Mississippi River.
Zoe Saldana, from left, Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in "Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2" which came out in 2017. The Guardians series of films are among the few Marvel franchises that can skirt a long-standing court case that has kept Marvel characters from any Disney theme park east of the Mississippi River. [ Disney-Marvel ]

The sheer size of the building is overwhelming once inside. By volume, four Spaceship Earths, the geodesic sphere that is central to Epcot, would fit in the attraction’s colossal show building.

Like Space Mountain, you can’t see the ride while waiting in line and on the ride itself, it is so dark you can’t see more than a few yards ahead. The combined darkness, high-tech screens and lights are used to stunning effect.

The steel tracks make for a super-smooth trip that can make you feel like you are floating in outer space.

“You are now in it instead of watching the movie,” said Steve Spiegel, the ride’s story editor who attended Thursday’s preview. “You are immersed in this world.”

EPCOT guests visit the "Galaxarium" the planetarium-like space that is part of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the new family coaster at Walt Disney World Resort. It opens May 27.
EPCOT guests visit the "Galaxarium" the planetarium-like space that is part of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the new family coaster at Walt Disney World Resort. It opens May 27. [ KENT PHILLIPS | Disney ]

Like the Guardians of the Galaxy films, which star Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt and Tampa resident Dave Bautista, the ride has a soundtrack of catchy pop classics that change with each outing. So you can jam to Tears for Fears on the first ride and then Blondie on the second. The “Awesome Mix” of the ride’s playlist includes six songs: September, Disco Inferno, Conga, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, I Ran and One Way or Another.

The Guardians of the Galaxy films are among the few Marvel franchises that can skirt a long-standing court case that has kept the majority of classic Marvel characters from any Disney theme park east of the Mississippi River.

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Related: Here's why Disney will likely never get a Marvel theme park

The storyline for the coaster is that Xandarians have come to Earth and are hard at work building their new Epcot pavilion, one that includes a sweeping planetarium-style display. It showcases intergalactic wonders that connect Terra (Earth) and Xandar, the planet that the Guardians of the Galaxy help save in the first film.

Star power isn’t just for constellations. For the ride’s pre-show, Disney has brought in Glenn Close to reprise her role as Nova Prime, the leader of Xandar. She has help and comic relief from actor Terry Crews as the commander of the Starcharter.

All four Guardians, including Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the tree-like creature Groot, appear throughout the journey. Director James Gunn filmed the attraction’s scenes. His movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, is slated to be released May 2023.

Epcot has historically not catered to thrill seekers, so it’s a big change for a park that relies on its international country showcases. A Disney announcement this week on Epcot’s historic transformation quoted Walt Disney, who once said Epcot “would always be in the state of becoming” as a place that changes with the times.

Characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy films are used throughout the ride. Visitors here see Rocket, left, and Groot in the new attraction Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opening at Epcot May 27.
Characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy films are used throughout the ride. Visitors here see Rocket, left, and Groot in the new attraction Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opening at Epcot May 27. [ KENT PHILLIPS | Disney ]

Some Disney purists have sniffed at Epcot adding a thrill ride based on a sci-fi movie. But according to Disney, “Epcot just may be the perfect place for a Guardians-inspired attraction — Peter Quill (aka Star Lord) actually visited Epcot as a kid,” a recent news release said.

“Whether that’s a good explanation for the thematic fit or a ham-fisted attempt at shoehorning Marvel into Epcot is in the eye of the beholder,” said the Disney Tourist Blog.

The pre-show with Close and Crews pays homage to the 1966 message delivered by Walt Disney of his intention to build an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” at EPCOT Center.

A full-size Starblaster stands outside Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction at Epcot. The colossal building behind it houses one of the largest enclosed coasters in the world.
A full-size Starblaster stands outside Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction at Epcot. The colossal building behind it houses one of the largest enclosed coasters in the world. [ KENT PHILLIPS | Disney ]

Disney has announced that when Cosmic Rewind opens, a virtual queue will be in place. Guests will need to use the My Disney Experience app to enter the attraction. A standby queue will not be available.

There was a similar limitation when Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opened in the France pavilion at Epcot in 2021. Standby was made available a few months later.

The Epcot gift shop called the Treasures of Xandar has cosmic apparel, accessories and toys, with a screen telling visitors the shop is operated by The Broker from the Guardians of the Galaxy films.
The Epcot gift shop called the Treasures of Xandar has cosmic apparel, accessories and toys, with a screen telling visitors the shop is operated by The Broker from the Guardians of the Galaxy films. [ KENT PHILLIPS | Disney ]
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