EW exclusively previews Epcot's first roller coaster, which will unite high-speed launch, controlled rotation, and cameos from the James Gunn-directed Marvel film series.

After 40 long years — and thanks to some blockbuster movies — Disney World's Epcot park is finally getting up to speed with its first roller coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

Kicking off with a backward launch, the fast-paced attraction will rocket riders through time and space and into the largest "show building" on the property, complete with digital media and the James Gunn-directed series' signature soundtrack of pop-rock hits, all in the name of amping up the same "energy and excitement" from the films.

Starting in the summer of 2022, riders will traverse aboard revolutionary vehicles that rotate — in a controlled turn versus free-spinning motion — toward the action Imagineers want you to see, while the coaster track travels in another direction. Think of it as akin to Disney's Omnimover-style staples like the Haunted Mansion, but with a kick.

Disney Parks
'Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind' roller coaster to open in 2022 at Epcot.
| Credit: Disney/MARVEL

You'll experience "[slower] speeds to take it all in, along with high-speed coaster experiences," explains senior Imagineer Wyatt Winter, noting that, while the team isn't ready to reveal the coaster's launch speed just yet, the overall thrill factor lies somewhere between that of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

Taking over the former Ellen's Energy Adventure ride pavilion and expanding into a completely new structure built toward the park's parking lot, Imagineers bridged the gap with a long tunnel that houses the coaster's initial launch into the building that serves as one of the biggest indoor roller coaster experiences on the planet.

What goes out (into space) must come back, though Winter remains coy when asked if a (long-rumored) second launch facilitates riders' return journey: "You will have to get out here to ride it once we're open.... to see all the different ways we get you in and around inside this attraction," he teases. "It was a whole new building that we added on to that original location here at Epcot to bring this whole thing to life."

'Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind' roller coaster cars.
| Credit: ©Marvel/©Disney

Winter adds that Cosmic Rewind's "stand-alone" narrative is inspired by the planet Xandar from the Guardians films — including the return of key characters from the film, including the recently announced Glenn Close reprising her role as Nova Prime.

"The idea here is the planet of Xandar has come to earth, or 'Terra,' as they call it, they're here to set up the first Other-World Showcase Pavilion," he explains of the redevelopment of the area that also includes Test Track and Mission: Space — all part of Epcot's multi-year overhaul that also includes new rides and attractions based on Frozen, Soul, Ratatouille, Moana, and more.

Continues Winter: "They wanted to come to Earth and reach out and talk about their people, technology, and culture. We've done that at Epcot for years where we've had other countries come and show their cultures. As you come in, we're invited to start to learn about the similarities and how we're all connected. They want to learn as much about us as teaching all of us on earth about Xandar."

Still, he stresses, this version is on a unique timeline — and has some surprises in store, given its time-traveling theme that will seemingly combine bits of Marvel history with Disney World legacy.

"Fans of both the films and Disney parks are going to find Easter eggs," Winter promises. "There are fun ones for both!"

glenn close
Glenn Close will reprise the role of Nova Prime Irani Rael in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind' coaster at Disney World.
| Credit: disney parks/ youtube

A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly's January issue, on newsstands Dec. 17 and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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