My Take on Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT!
So, the last year has been interesting for Imagineering. After Shanghai opened, there’s been some unexpected announcements. We knew Pandora would open this year, we knew construction is truly underway and the Star Wars Lands and Hollywood Studios. But Hong Kong is getting a complete overhaul and Parks and Resorts will soon buyout Disneyland Paris entirely. Without a doubt, the most polarizing thing was Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! – the re-theme of The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror at Disney’s California Adventure.
It was San-Diego Comic Con. I don’t usually follow it because the big ‘news’ often comes directly from Marvel beforehand. It was during the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Panel that I got bombarded with messages. One read: “They’ve fucked Tower of Terror at DCA”. The wording made me fear the worst. I was scared that the ride had malfunctioned and caused what would be Disney’s biggest theme park disaster, months after what was Disney’s worst incident at Parks and Resorts (I would know, I arrived on Walt Disney World property that same day). What I got was, puzzling. A re-theme of Disney’s most iconic and popular thrill ride attraction. To something that seemingly didn’t fit the ride system or the themed area. At the time, I called it “Something only Universal Creative would think of” on Twitter.
Tower of Terror is themed to be in that area. It’s in Hollywoodland. Where all of the nods to 30s-50s Hollywood are. The building is designed to look haunting, to look like an Art-deco hotel skyscraper. So why would Disney decide to re-fit a 50s hotel thrill ride based on The Twilight Zone to become a heist on an intergalactic museum?
After that tweet criticizing the re-theme, a Twitter user replied saying “Walt Disney wanted Disney parks to consistently change”. Which is true. But Walt also believed in themed areas. All of Disney’s parks follow a strict themed area policy. It’s the same if it’s a Magic Kingdom or not. You have your Fantasylands, Adventurelands, Tomorrowlands in the Magic Kingdoms and your Africa, Toy Story Land, World Showcase and Port Discovery in other themed parks. Every attraction follows the theme and its story is closely related. It doesn’t make sense for this re-theme to happen yet.
One would argue that this re-theme is happening as DCA transitions away from its California themes much like Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris. All three of these parks are seeing huge overhauls. Paris is also seeing a Marvel expansion. But I would counter by saying this area was only renovated in 2012. That’s when Buena Vista Street came, and what was, to many, the perfect tribute to Walt’s past, the very history of Disney. I can say without any doubt that Disney haven’t seen enough of a return to warrant such an overhaul.
That being said, Marvel-land would be a guaranteed success. They’re yet to capitalize on Marvel attractions. The obvious thing would be to build at Walt Disney World, but with the Marvel/Universal agreement, this is the next best thing. Would I have done it differently? Sure. I would’ve tested Mission: Breakout at Paris first. The building and ride is identical, the IP tests well in Europe and most importantly, Walt Disney Studios is the weakest park in Disney’s portfolio and would benefit greatly.
My thoughts after seeing the ride is what would surprise you. I really like it. I think the ride system works really well. The queue is perfectly matched. The exterior is still disgusting but I think if the entirety of Hollywoodland gets overhauled, it’ll work.
So, I think the whole point of this is to say that it’s early days. D23 will possibly bring news of more attractions for DCA, heck, maybe even Paris. But one thing I’ve learnt is that you must trust the mighty Imagineers. They’re the ones making the magic, it’ll be great in the end.