Beginning with resort-saving Space Mountain de la Terre a la Lune in 1995, Disney was the unlikely champion of the modern launch coaster. Before Premier Rides, Intamin, and other industry juggernauts had their hand at next-generation launchers, Disney partnered with Vekoma to create the first new catapult-propelled coaster in over a decade (one that, unlike its predecessors, would run multiple trains on a full circuit).
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Modern launch coasters are synonymous with regional parks, whether it be magnetic, tire-driven, pneumatic, or a simple catapult like Space Mountain, but the concept as it is today wouldn’t’ve come to life without a little help from The Mouse – and so brings us to the ranking of Disney’s numerous launchers, which guests can enjoy at almost every Disney resort.
5. Avengers Assemble: Flight Force – Walt Disney Studios
While not as innovative as Orlando’s Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster, the Paris iteration was an improvement on the original (which, in turn, was a technical improvement over Space Mountain de la Terre a la Lune), and remains a fine-tuned ride in its new era. Its also not Disney’s strongest ride re-skin, but it still delivers a better overall product than, say, Incredicoaster (which we didn’t quite have room for on this list), and certainly a stronger experience than R’N’R, particularly in terms of queue design and – we cannot stress this enough – ride pacing. Despite being technically the same as this Orlando installation, Flight Force is noticeably faster and has earned the designation of Disney’s most aggressive coaster.
4. Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars – Hong Kong Disneyland (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)
Surprise. You forgot about this one, didn’t you? It’s okay, Hong Kong Disneyland is used to it. Hong Kong Disneyland’s lineup may be the smallest and most overlooked of the Disney resorts, but some rides are out here doing double-duty – take Big Grizzly, which is both Hong Kong Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain and their Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster (we mean that strictly on paper – the ride is actually a launched Expedition Everest). What the ride lacks in height and drops, Big Grizzly Mountain makes up for its clever terrain usage, and unlike inside Mt. Everest, the audio animatronics here in Grizzly Gulch actually work.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmix Rewind – EPCOT
Behold: “The World’s Most Expensive Roller Coaster” earns a respectable bronze prize on our Disney launch coaster list, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind continues to accrue value with each passing ride. Mind you, nothing that happens in the show building is particularly mind-blowing, but just rolling around in the cosmos to music while the story glides along is weirdly… comfortable? Pleasant? The ride is an environment that begs to be soaked up, even if you can’t name a single element after the launch.
2. Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain – Parc Disneyland (Chessy, France)
Flying high on its 3rd incarnation is Paris’ Space Mountain, which takes the maid-of-honor spot on our list (not bad for the OG). Earlier, more thematically-conscious iterations of Space Mountain breathlessly plunged riders into the world of Jules Verne – today’s Hyperspace Mountain of Paris is in stark contrast to this, but clashing thematic touches be damned; this ride is substantial from dispatch to brake run. Complex synchronized audio and projection mapping is one thing, but gorgeous, one-of-a-kind Vekoma MK-1212s (which tease a return of the original Verne-esque storytelling) and a bonkers ride layout that feels substantially more special in the wake of more-formulaic launch coasters (an upward launch into a diving helix – into a sidewinder – what even?) make Hyperspace both exceedingly unique and greater than the mere sum of its parts.
1. TRON Lightcycle Power Run – Shanghai Disneyland (Pudong, Shanghai, People’s Rebuplic of China)
There was no other choice but TRON. How could there be? Did anyone not immediately think that Lightcycles would make the best theme ever for a Disney coaster? And then theme an entire area around it, with frosted glass and chrome and dancing lights that follow each Daft Punk-blaring strand of riders? For those waiting patiently for Magic Kingdom’s TRON, we won’t give away any spoilers – but we will say it’s all enough to give you a glimmer in your eye and some hexagon-shaped pupils.