Though Walt Disney World has never been known for crafting white-knuckle attractions, in the late 1990s, the vaunted Imagineering team pitched an idea for a kickass version of an existing premise: a modern take on the indoor steel roller coaster. This proposed ride would hurtle guests at breakneck speeds, all while leaving them in the dark about what was right in front of them and proving some awesome music at the same time. Of course, you now know this attraction as Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Let’s go Behind the Ride to discover how it works.
1. The pre-show
The design of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster requires a bit of creative license. People who enter the facility learn that they are hanging out at Aerosmith’s recording studio. In a few moments, the band will dash around town in order to reach their destination, a live performance. Disney’s Imagineers deserve a lot of credit for this tactic, because it accomplishes several tasks at first.
Primarily, the waiting area with the interactions with the band serves a purpose as an effective line queue system. Once people standing in line reach the indoor portion of the attraction, they realize they are only minutes away from enjoying the ride. Plus, the inside part has two main areas, one of which is still part of the line. The other is the meet and greet with Aerosmith via a looped video. Both parts provide air-conditioning on humid days as well as heating during those rare moments on the Florida calendar when it’s chilly.
By providing the Aerosmith video, Imagineers bisect the line queue into the pre-show and post-show areas. This tactic offers the ancillary benefit of providing more accurate line estimations. More importantly, it also controls the filter of people into the indoor waiting area beside the actual ride carts.
To make the sequence seem more realistic, the video shows all the members of Aerosmith recording at G-Force Studios. Their manager informs them that they’re late for the show, and the two leaders of the band, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, decide that they must show some common courtesy to the fans standing in line to watch them record. So, Steven Tyler offers everyone a limo ride to the show.
The instant people exit the video room, they start to stand in a second line that is only a few minutes away from the roller coaster ride. It’s a tight combination of atmospheric music production, storytelling, and an introduction to the band for those few people who are unfamiliar with Aerosmith.
2. Building a better roller coaster
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster afforded Imagineers a rare opportunity to let go. They could build a coaster worthy of the Disney name, and since it was going to be integrated with the music of Aerosmith, they had creative license to make certain it rocked. Disney has historically shunned the constant escalation of roller coasters since its beginning in the late 1980s, but Imagineers relished the idea of building the world’s fastest limo ride.
Designers already had a solid blueprint for how to proceed thanks to the iconic Space Mountain. All they had to do was modernize those principles while adding a heavy dose of adrenaline. They correctly decided to start with a bang. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster employs a singularly unique component for a Disney attraction: It goes from a dead stop to its maximum speed of 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds.
To put that into perspective, consider that Tesla received a tremendous amount of press for their addition of Ludicrous Mode. Its acceleration is almost identical to the one Disney managed in 1999. And here’s a pro tip for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster regarding that ridiculous, immediate acceleration. The safety guide says to place your head against the back of seat. You’ll want to do that. Otherwise, you’ll be banging your head often enough early in the ride that you may wind up in the concussion protocol.
Seriously, this ride isn’t for people with queasy stomachs. The first inversion delivers a 4.5G wallop, which surpasses what an astronaut feels during a Space Shuttle launch! The core concept is that Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster simulates Los Angeles traffic, so the inversions are freeway loops. You hurtle through the streets like Vin Diesel after a nitrous oxide boost, and it is pitch black. You have no idea what’s coming next. The street signs whip by at a breakneck pace, leaving you but one lingering thought: this limo driver will not be getting a big tip.