A new ride has landed at Walt Disney World and it just might be the most fun you’ve ever had.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind officially opens May 27 at EPCOT and continues a new era of transformation for the iconic theme park, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary this October during Walt Disney World’s own 18-month 50th anniversary celebration.
So what’s this new ride all about? Imagine if the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Guardians of the Galaxy took over Space Mountain, gave it a major tech overhaul, and turned it into a nostalgia-driven, intergalactic dance party and you’re on the right track, but Cosmic Rewind is so multi-dimensional that it defies direct comparisons to anything you’ve ridden before. I rode Cosmic Rewind 10 times during a media preview, and it’s my new favorite ride. Here’s why.
First Things First: What Is Cosmic Rewind?
EPCOT’s first-ever coaster, Cosmic Rewind has been called both a “family-thrill coaster” and a “story coaster.” With a height requirement of 42 inches (2 inches less than Space Mountain and Expedition Everest), this is by far the most intense coaster for families with younger kids to ride together and delivers a much more robust experience than either of the aforementioned rides do.
Disney has dubbed Cosmic Rewind its first “omnicoaster,” which means it’s an indoor dark coaster that incorporates screens and a few physical set pieces, with vehicles rotating to direct your attention to the various show scenes (emphasis on “rotate,” not “spin,” — think Haunted Mansion, not Teacups). This coaster is definitely fast, but it’s also silky smooth, with no large drops or inversions. The track is also satisfyingly long, making those inevitable waits worth it.
An endlessly immersive queue, A-list actors from the blockbuster franchise, cutting-edge technology and ride system, and a next-level soundtrack put Cosmic Rewind undeniably — and somewhat unexpectedly — on par with Disney’s other epic new attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
I’m an EPCOT kid through and through and this ride taps into my nostalgia big time. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is housed within the former Universe of Energy pavilion that was home to the opening-day EPCOT attraction, Universe of Energy. You might remember it more recently as the ride that featured Bill Nye and Ellen DeGeneres going back in time to the age of the dinosaurs.
Ahh, I can still smell the earthy, musky smell of the dark ride I first experienced as a kid.
Now called the Wonders of Xandar, the pavilion becomes EPCOT’s “other-world” showcase. The backstory to the pavilion is that Star-Lord, aka Peter Quill (Chris Pratt’s character in the MCU movies), grew up visiting EPCOT as a kid and suggested his Xandarian friends create The Wonders of Xandar pavilion to introduce people on Earth, aka Terra, to Xandarian people and culture.
It’s a refreshing take on how aliens may insert themselves into EPCOT’s World Showcase, which exposes guests to the various countries represented by the pavilions surrounding World Showcase Lagoon.
Cosmic Rewind Has One of Disney’s Best Queues
Channeling classic EPCOT with its focus on “edutainment,” guests learn about the world of Xandar as they move through the line. Background narration by a new character called Worldmind, a Xandarian supercomputer, plays as guests pass through a sweeping “Galaxarium” displaying planets, stars and some Earthly elements Peter has introduced to the Xandarians.
The Xandar Gallery showcases more about the Xandarian culture, history, urban planning and development, and even the planet’s weather patterns. Cue my childhood flashback to the classic EPCOT attraction, Maelstrom, previously housed in the Norway pavilion and replaced by Frozen Ever After, as I passed a Xandarian “Maelstrom” onscreen.
The Guardians of the Galaxy themselves first appear during filmed “Good Morning Xandar” segments, a la “Good Morning America,” (Xandarians, they really are just like us!). The whole queue is packed with EPCOT Easter eggs, but one of the best comes from one of these “GMX” segments when Peter gushes about his childhood EPCOT memories, referencing now-closed classic attractions like Horizons and even those dinosaurs from the Universe of Energy that I remember so vividly myself!
Turns out all of us EPCOT kids can relate to Star-Lord.
The Pre-Show Will Become An Instant Classic
Cosmic Rewind’s pre-show is destined to instantly join the ranks of fan-favorite Disney ride pre-shows. It combines the education and hokeyness of oldies but goodies like Soarin’ and Dinosaur with next-level technology and major surprises a la Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
Filming for the attraction was done on the set of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” with Walt Disney Imagineers on hand. Rocket, Groot, Drax and Gamora join Star-Lord, rounding out the Guardians crew. Glenn Close, who reprises her MCU role as Xandar leader Nova Prime Irani Rael, welcomes guests first during the pre-show, joined by her top officer, Centurion Tal Marik, a new character played by Terry Crews.
EPCOT veterans will instantly sense a familiarity to Nova Prime’s spiel, which taps into a major EPCOT theme of science and technology driving forward progress and unification.
“Your world and ours were born of the same moment — one which you refer to as the Big Bang,” Close’s character tells guests. “As such, we are all galactic neighbors in a vast universe, which we and countless others share.”
Close’s serene yet authoritative narration, combined with stunning 3D visuals, feels like a futuristic version of Judi Dench’s narration of the iconic EPCOT attraction, Spaceship Earth, which Dench concludes with: “After 30,000 years of time travel, here we are — a truly global community, poised to shape the future of this, our Spaceship Earth.”
As the culmination of the Wonders of Xandar, Nova Prime explains, guests will be treated to a demonstration of technology that enables rapid travel through time and space so that “together, we might explore new worlds and create a brighter tomorrow.”
Now, this is where the fun really begins. I won’t spoil the second half of this incredible pre-show, but a mind-blowing effect — and a pretty serious problem requiring some superhero help, quickly put guests face to face with the Guardians of the Galaxy, who call in our help to track down the big bad guy and save the galaxy.
Boarding the Starjumpers
Guests board Starjumper shuttles — the coaster’s ride vehicles — and launch on a mad dash through time and space. The ride includes the first-ever reverse launch used by a Disney coaster, sending guests on a high-speed race through the darkness of space to save the day.
The Soundtrack Is Incredible
It wouldn’t be Guardians of the Galaxy without an “Awesome Mix”, and this ride, like the movies, is truly made by its soundtrack. Guests will hear one of six different songs, and won’t know which one they’ll get until they make the jump into space with the Guardians.
“The story that we’re telling is consistent regardless of the song,” says Walt Disney Imagineer Marcus “Flounder” Hurst. “What changes as you go through every opportunity to ride is that soundtrack that you get to listen to.”
Imagineers tested more than 100 potential songs before settling on these six energetic classics from the ’70s and ’80s:
- “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears
- “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
- “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls
- “Disco Inferno” by the Trammps
- “One Way or Another” by Blondie
- “Conga” by Miami Sound Machine
While, as Hurst says, the story remains the same, each song gives the ride a very different feel and overall experience — and riders tend to have a favorite.
Every song is great, but the anticipation beforehand, and the exhilaration you feel when you get “your song” as you rocket into space is a feeling of jubilation unmatched on any other ride I’ve ever been on. Darkness always makes a ride feel faster, and this one feels fast, frantic and a bit disorienting in the most fun way. When the music starts, you’re no longer riding Cosmic Rewind, you’re dancing it.
Who Is This Ride Best For?
The combination of screens, speed and rotation can induce motion sickness for some riders. I’m prone to motion sickness, but found that if I focused my attention on the direction of the track rather than on the screens, I was able to ride again and again. The attraction is definitely more fun than scary, and kids who enjoy thrill rides shouldn’t find the villain or any of the show scenes overly frightening.
The ride vehicles use a lap-bar restraint and are also very size inclusive, so most larger riders will be able to comfortably ride. Check out my video walkthrough for even more details into the new ride (including minor spoilers for the experience).
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Throwback Souvenirs Layer on the Nostalgia
At the exit to the attraction, Treasures of Xandar, the ride’s gift shop, will sell four lines of merchandise — the Heroes of Xandar Collection, inspired by 1980s vintage concert merchandise; the Guardians of the Galaxy: Through the Eyes of Quill Collection, a retro lineup featuring tons of ’80s EPCOT nods in items like fanny packs, tanks, and ringers; the Honorary Guardians Collection; and the Groot Through the Years Collection, celebrating the kid-favorite character who’s a walking-talking tree.
Here again, EPCOT fans will recognize plenty of nods to the park’s past. The artwork on these mugs and picture frames instantly recalled the design on the plastic bags I took my EPCOT souvenirs home in during visits decades ago.
You don’t need to be a Marvel fan or an EPCOT fan to love Cosmic Rewind. You’ll probably enjoy it a little bit more if you’ve at least seen the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, but even if you haven’t seen a single MCU adventure, read a comic or ever even been to Walt Disney World, Cosmic Rewind, is pure, unbridled joy from start to finish.
As a massive Star Wars fan, I didn’t think any ride could ever top Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in my book. I’m also a big fan of the MCU, and Disney’s other Guardians of the Galaxy ride, Mission: Breakout! at Disney California Adventure, is one of my favorite rides, so I definitely expected to love this one. But what I didn’t expect was for this new ride from a film franchise that would seemingly have nothing to do with my childhood favorite theme park, to tap so deeply into my nostalgia that it unlocked a totally unexpected emotional response.
My favorite of the six songs is “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” a song that came out in 1985, the same year I first visited EPCOT. Hearing the lyrics “Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever” as I jet through space on the most fun, most joyful ride I’ve ever ridden, is a feeling I’ll keep coming back for again and again.