The premise of the new-look Guardians of the Tower of the Galaxy of Terror will be that The Collector is displaying his newest acquisitions, the Guardians of the Galaxy, deep inside his fortress-like compound. The Guardians are trapped in customized cases, suspended in an abyss. Guests, who are on a VIP tour of the Collector’s fortress (this has some parallels to the plot of Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea) are enlisted by Rocket Raccoon to help the other Guardians of the Galaxy escape. From there, the whole drop sequence bit starts.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! will use the existing building (obviously, given that concept art) for Tower of Terror, as well as the freefall ride system. It will feature all-new visual and audio effects to create a variety of ride experiences. To make way for Mission: BREAKOUT, Tower of Terror will close in early 2017 with the Guardians of the Galaxy experience opening Summer 2017.
I’ll start with the good: the concept art and premise for the attraction don’t sound totally phoned in, and if the released art resembles the finished product, this looks like it will definitely be more than a light re-skinning of Tower of Terror. So at the very least, there’s that silver lining in this. That’s about as positive as this reaction is going to get.
Admittedly, I’m a bit surprised this is the first Marvel announcement to be made. It’s been nearly 7 years since Disney spent $4 billion to acquire Marvel, and so far, no Disney theme park in the world has received a new Marvel attraction. This is excusable at Walt Disney World, where contractual limitations prevent the vast majority of popular Marvel characters and other branding elements from being used.
It’s less justifiable at the other parks, where only minor restrictions (or none at all) exist. When you consider box office receipts and merchandise sales, it’s downright puzzling that the only Marvel attraction in development from 2009 until present has been the Iron Man Experience for Hong Kong Disneyland, an attraction that looks like a sad imitation of Star Wars, with visuals ripped straight from Mission: Space.
Many people, myself included, have pleaded for Disney to return to building original attractions, not those based on intellectual property. However, even I am baffled that something with as much pop culture appeal and longevity has not been a priority for an incredible, immersive area in the parks.
Today’s announcement does nothing to address that befuddlement. Just as Marvel’s rich universe deserves something more than a Star Tours knock-off, it deserves something more than a retrofit of an existing attraction. This is what happened with Frozen Ever After, and it appears what’s about to occur with Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
In my Frozen Ever After Review, I harped on how the current direction of Parks & Resorts seems rather risk averse. This could probably be countered with the capex numbers for the next 5 years, but I stand by that sentiment. Frozen and Guardians of the Galaxy are two of Disney’s most successful and imaginative films in recent memory–deserving of original attractions both due to their popularity and given their rich environments and interesting characters.
While I praised the Imagineers who worked on Frozen Ever After as, essentially, making lemonade out of lemons, it should not be a matter of that. These stories should be done proper justice in the parks, not be “best case scenarios” as they are crammed into existing spots.
Further, I think that shoehorning Marvel into an existing attraction in a corner of Disney California Adventure is not a pragmatic long-term decision. It shows a desire to minimize investment while still cashing in on the Marvel phenomenon in the parks, with the hope that Marvel fans and families will turn out in droves for anything Marvel, irrespective of scope, scale, and quality. It is demonstrative of risk averse mentality.
Marvel, along with Star Wars, is one of the most bankable brands in the Disney empire. Disney’s long-term plans call for a third gate in the Anaheim Resort District, and the bold move–rather than shoehorning Star Wars into a park where it doesn’t belong and playing it safe with Marvel in an existing attraction–would’ve been developing that third gate with these brands as the cornerstones. I understand converting Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! is a quick and dirty way to inject Marvel into Disneyland Resort, but we’ve already waited 7 years, I’d just as soon wait several more and have it done right.
As for the specific attraction, I don’t doubt for a second that the average guest will love it and it will do wonderful numbers on guest satisfaction surveys, thereby vindicating the decision in some eyes. The thing is, Tower of Terror presently commands some of the longest waits in Disney California Adventure and similarly high guest satisfaction scores. The real question is whether Disney will push the envelope and innovate with their first stateside Marvel attraction, and I’m not holding my breath on that one. (Not optimistic enough of a post? Hooray that Disney isn’t trifling with the best version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the one in Walt Disney World!!!1!!)
I’m incredibly excited for Star Wars Land and Pandora, and I think both will really push the envelope, offering incredible, immersive experiences. However, my excitement for the anticipated substance of these lands is starting to feel at odds with my regard for other decisions, as well as the long-term vision for the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. The fact that Disney is a creative company should not need any reiteration in these news stories about the parks.
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Do you agree or disagree with our take ofGuardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! in Disney California Adventure (and potentially beyond)? Are you excited for it? Share any questions or additional thoughts you have in the comments!