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Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith: A Review

by Jennifer and Dave Marx, Authors of PassPorter Travel Guides

Location: Disney's Hollywood Studios (on Sunset Boulevard near the Tower of Terror)
Height requirement: 48 inches/122 centimeters
Pre-Show: 2 minutes
Ride: 2.5 minutes
Ride Inversions: 2 loops and 1 corkscrew
Rating: 8/10 (Jennifer) and 10/10 (Dave)
Opening Date: August 1, 1999

The pre-show area takes you through the studios of G-Force Records. (Is it coincidence that the "G" in the name of one of Disney's movie industry rivals, Dreamworks SGK, is David Geffen, the founder of Geffen Records, or that the G-Force Records logo bears a striking resemblance to the Geffen Records logo?) Once inside we learn that Aerosmith is busy at work on their next album. We pass displays of vintage recording equipment and 60's-era concert posters, through halls that appear to have been constructed in the 40's or 50's. Eventually we're ushered into an observation booth, where we can watch the Aerosmith "session" in progress. Through the double-paned glass we see a studio filled with guitars and amplifiers, where a (live) studio assistant is coiling cables and moving equipment here and there. Through a second window we see Aerosmith and their recording engineer, listening to the most recent "takes" in the control room (Aerosmith is not live.) One thing leads to another and the band has to rush off, but being the kind of guys they are, we're all invited to join them backstage at a concert all the way across town. Although Alice's White Rabbit is nowhere to be seen, we're still late for a very important (concert) date. Out we go into the back alley, where "superstretch" limos await to whisk us away.

Move over Space Mountain -- Disney's Hollywood Studios' Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is the new king of the hills! In some regards, of course, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is just Space Mountain redux. All the same basic elements are here -- artful theming, the added mystery of riding in the dark, and a soundtrack and special lighting to enhance the effects of the coaster itself. But what effects!

The limos bear a striking resemblance to the cars for Space Mountain, although they provide two-abreast seating and are much longer. We hop in, pull the safety bars over our shoulders, and wait for an electronic signboard to give us the go-ahead. Loudspeakers in our headrests start to pump out a familiar Aerosmith tune. (Tip: Lean your head back against the headrest when the music starts.) When we finally get the green light we hurtle forward into the dark at remarkable speed. This part seems more like a drag race than a limo ride, but how can we quibble? In short order we're blasting through a full 360-degree loop-de-loop and hurtle twisting and banking onward into the dark.

There's little or no warning of what's to come. We spin through a tight corkscrew loop and swoop around tight bends. Despite the dramatic motion, the entire ride is remarkably smooth. Unlike those coasters that abruptly jerk you from side to side or jounce over unexpected bumps, the transitions from one section to the next are seamless. Although many coasters trade on fearful anticipation of upcoming events, this one is mercifully free of anxiety (what you can't see can't hurt you!) There's also a complete absence of stomach-wrenching drops. Even when you're upside down in the initial loop the ride feels secure. G-forces may press you back in your seat, but that pressure also gives you the comforting feeling that you're in no danger of falling out.

All in all, as you've probably been able to tell, this is a ride in the finest Space Mountain tradition. The combined effects of motion, darkness, light, and sound blend together into an incredibly satisfying experience which ends, in classic Disney style, at the VIP entrance to the concert. Of course, this is Disney, so there is all sorts of specialty merchandise on display. After a ride like that you may even be tempted to purchase a memento or two, or three.

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In some ways, the only changes from Space Mountain to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster are those wrought by the passage of time. Roller coaster technology has advanced dramatically over the years, but we also see the contrast between the Walt Disney legacy and the Michael Eisner era. Disney is no longer afraid of loud noises, bright lights, or looping roller coasters.

If you strip away all the trappings, Rock 'N' Roller Coaster, like Space Mountain, is only an intermediate-level roller coaster. Disney's strategy of using theming, darkness, lights, and music to increase apparent risk and enhance excitement continues to work its magic. Dave is normally a very unemotional rider, nearly stoic. Rock 'N' Roller Coaster has him shouting for joy and grinning from ear-to-ear every inch of the way. Jennifer, on the other hand, shies away from most roller coasters, but she too enjoys the ride (with only a little dizziness when she gets off).

If you want to exit a ride feeling like you've been through a physical ordeal, Tower of Terror is right next door. If you want pure, joyous exhilaration, this is the best ride anywhere in the "World!" It's gone right to the top of our "must ride" list.

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Updated 01/22/07 

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