Disney World Needs Thrills
It is hard to imagine that Walt Disney World was once seriously lacking in the thrill ride department. Many of the guests that came to Disney World throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s all shared one chief complaint- they wanted more thrilling rides for the park’s older guests. The Rock n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith was the answer that they were looking for. It was the perfect combination of rock n’ roll and thrill seeking that guests were craving.
Like A Rolling Stone
In 1994, MGM Studios (now known as Hollywood Studios) unveiled their Sunset Boulevard expansion. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was the first thrill ride to open and it became a huge success. Next, there were plans to open up a roller coaster next to the Tower of Terror. Disney Imagineers wanted to create a roller coaster that featured the music of a famous rock n’ roll band. Disney already had a band in mind- the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones were thrilled with the idea. Unfortunately, they were asking for $10 million a year which was way too much money for Disney’s budget. After negotiations with the Rolling Stones failed, Disney decided to scrap the band idea and move forward with the construction of the roller coaster. Construction for the ride began in February of 1998.
Rock n’ Roller Coaster starring KISS?
Once construction was underway, Disney decided to focus on finding a band again to represent the roller coaster. Disney approached the popular Irish rock band U2. U2’s front man Bono, was not interested in working or partnering with Disney so it was back to the drawing board. The rock band KISS was considered next as they had a popularity resurgence after their reunion tour in 1996. Disney, however, faced the same problem as they did with the Rolling Stones; KISS was asking for too much money.
Don’t Wanna Miss a
Disney began to panic because construction of the 3,403-foot roller coaster track was completed, and they were starting to put up the show building around the attraction but still had no band. Finally, Disney considered approaching a band that they were already under contract with, Aerosmith. Aerosmith was slated to record a song “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” for Disney’s upcoming film Armageddon. They had been around since the 1970’s but had a big popularity boom in the late 80’s and 90’s. Three years before the Rock n’ Roller Coaster opened, Aerosmith had their biggest selling album of all time, “Get a Grip”. Disney wanted to wait and see how fans reacted to Aerosmith’s new song to see if their popularity would hold up. However, Disney decided to take a leap of faith and approach Aerosmith anyway because the project was nearing completion.
Wait a minute…I love that idea
Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, loved the idea and immediately agreed. Luckily, it fit right in with Disney’s budget. In the deal, Aerosmith agreed for Disney to use eight of their songs. The band had one request- they wanted the ride to feature a song from their newest album “Nine Lives”. Disney was happy to accommodate them. Aerosmith also rerecorded lyrics to some of their songs to better fit the attraction. Perhaps the most memorable, was changing the lyrics from “Love in an Elevator” to “Love in a Roller Coaster”.
With the ride finally finished and a band to go along with it, Disney was ready to set an opening date. The ride was set to open in 1999, which was MGM Studios 10th anniversary. Cast members were among the first to preview the ride in June of 1999. On July 29, 1999, the ride held its grand opening ceremony. It was a special, invitation only event and Aerosmith was of course among its attendees. These lucky guests were taken to the park in stretch limos and even received complimentary meals. They also got the chance to ride the roller coaster with one of the members of Aerosmith! Steven Tyler and Joe Perry loved the ride so much that they rode it 12 times.
Once the grand opening ceremony wrapped up, the ride was open to the public. Walking up to the attraction, the first thing that everybody notices is the larger-than-life cherry red Fender Stratocaster. A mock coaster track can be seen coming from the neck of the guitar with one of the ride vehicles hanging upside down at the entrance. As you walk to the queue of the ride, you are greeted with the listening pleasure of some of Aerosmith’s greatest hits. Once you enter the building, you are transported to the fictional record label, G- Force records. The queue is set in the lobby of G-Force records, and it really does feel authentic. G-Force is a clever nod to the many g-forces that you experience on the ride. As you move further into the queue, you come to doors that have a red, blinking “recording” sign. The doors slowly open and you are now a private guest of Aerosmith during one of their recording sessions.
How about some backstage passes?
The pre-show for the Rock n’ Roller Coaster is one of the most fun and interactive experiences. It feels like you are actually there with Aerosmith. The premise of the pre-show is that Aerosmith is finishing up in the studio and their manager comes in to rush them out to get to their concert on time. Steven Tyler doesn’t want his guests to be disappointed, so he suggests that the manager give everyone some backstage passes to the show. Before they leave, Joe Perry, the guitarist, says “Hey Chris, can you grab my black Les Paul?” In the first few years of the attraction, a cast member would grab the guitar and carry it backstage. Like many items in the recording studio, this item was personally donated by Aerosmith. The band then peels out of the studio in their own limo, leaving their manager behind. She gets on the phone and orders the guests a stretch limo…make that a super-stretch limo. The doors open to a dimly lit alley way lined with super stretch limos. Riders waiting in line watch the limos launch through the tunnel into darkness.
Love in a Roller Coaster
Each of the five limos all have unique license plates that reference how fast the ride is. The license plates also give you a clue as to what soundtrack you’ll be experiencing. For example:
- 2FAST4U will play “Sweet Emotion”
- 1QKLIMO will play “Nine Lives”
- H8TRFFC will play “Back in the Saddle” & “Dude Looks Like a Lady”
- BUHBYE will play “Young Lust” “F.I.N.E” & “Love in an Elevator’
- UGOBABE will play “Love in an Elevator (rollercoaster) and “Walk This Way”
The limos all have subwoofers under each of the seats. In fact, each limo has 120-125 speakers and 24 total subwoofers. The entire ride has more than 900 speakers. The ride launches you from 0-60 mph in just 2.8 seconds. As soon as you hear Steven Tyler counting down from five, you better hold on! During the slingshot like launch, you will have your picture taken so be sure to smile. This was the first ride at Disney World to go upside down and feature inversions. Guests will experience up to five G forces during this ride, so hang onto your seats!
Rock Around the Shop
On the ride, guests race in the dark through the neon lit streets of Los Angeles while rocking out to Aerosmith. Even though you are traveling in a high-speed limo, you pull up to the concert just as it is ending. You are led from the ride to a gift shop filled with Rock n’ Roller Coaster merchandise. When the ride first opened, the gift shop used to sell Aerosmith merchandise. Now, general Rock n’ Roller Coaster themed merchandise and other Disney goods are sold. There is a signed picture of Aerosmith from the opening day ceremony on the left side of the wall as you exit the ride’s gift shop.
Star Wars Overlay
The Rock n’ Roller Coaster has remained largely unchanged since it opened. The only changes that have happened in the ride’s history was in 2015, there was a one-night Star Wars overlay. This was to celebrate the release of “The Force Awakens”. The queue featured many Star Wars movie posters and played music from the Star Wars films in the ride’s speakers instead of Aerosmith. The same Star Wars overlay happened once more in 2017 for the next film, “The Last Jedi”.
Disneyland Paris Version
This ride was so popular that Disney decided to open it up in Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, France. Rock n’ Roller Coaster avec Aerosmith opened in Paris on March 16, 2002. The ride track was identical but featured a different story. The Paris version’s queue is set in the fictional Tour de Force Records. Instead of having riders race to their concert, this story was about Aerosmith working with engineers to create an innovative new music experience. Guests were led into a “testing area” and boarded a “Soundtracker”, which were the model vehicles for Aerosmith’s new idea. Unfortunately, it was announced in 2018 that the ride in Paris would be closing to be made into an Iron Man roller coaster.
Will the ride be rethemed?
Many have speculated if the Rock n’ Roller Coaster in Disney’s Hollywood Studios would suffer the same fate as the one in Paris. Luckily, because of an agreement between Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World, we will not be seeing an Iron Man roller coaster take the place of this classic ride. Although the ride is now over 20 years old, it is still just as exciting now as the day it opened. Guests are still drawn to the amazing music of Aerosmith and the countless number of thrills that this ride brings. The next time that you find yourself walking down Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, be sure to Walk This Way to feel the Sweet Emotion and Love in a Roller Coaster on the Rock n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith.The Orlando Real on