November 19, 2016 UPDATE: No. That’s the answer to the post title’s question. Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek announced at D23’s Destination D event this morning that, while “Marvelous” things are coming to Walt Disney World, Tower of Terror will remain Twilight Zone-themed at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This announcement was met by an inundation of cheers from the audience, hopefully sending a message that this is not the type of Marvel integration Walt Disney World fans want in the Florida parks.
This still leaves open the possibility of a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay at Epcot. We reported on this rumor a few months ago, but had since heard the project was killed, potentially due to a swelling budget (see below). Ideally, Guardians of the Galaxy–or whatever Marvel plans come to fruition in Florida–will be a new build, giving the Marvel characters and franchises (to the very limited extent that they can be used in Walt Disney World due to Marvel’s contract with Universal) the attractions and themed areas they deserve.
There’s also the possibility that Disney management has gotten cold feet about using Marvel at Walt Disney World at all. The Doctor Strange meet & greet was something of a dry run for this, demonstrating just how the Florida uses of Marvel characters would be restricted. That meet & greet was not advertised in any way (not even in Times Guides), and would really only be found by guests who stumbled upon it or read about it on third party blogs. Perhaps Disney has decided that spending hundreds of millions of dollars on an attraction in Florida that it couldn’t even promote or advertise was not a wise move. Time will tell, we suppose…
What follows is the original story from October 29…
A new rumor has surfaced that Guardians of the Galaxy is on its way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, with info that the plans for Guardians of the Galaxy at Epcot’s Universe of Energy are dead. We’ll cover the main details in this post, along with my speculation as to the likelihood that this will come to fruition.
This is one of several projects on the table for Disney’s Hollywood Studios (which almost assuredly will receive a rename and relaunch after Star Wars Land opens). In addition to Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land, both of which are in the early stages of construction, The Great Mickey Ride (my favorite idea of the bunch) is also a concept that could potentially replace Great Movie Ride during “Phase 2” of the park’s overhaul. Other proposals are in play.
As for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout, this is actually a resurfaced rumor. I want to make it abundantly clear: I have no sources on this. I’m just regurgitating what has been posted elsewhere and adding my own commentary. Given his strong track record, I thought this was worthy of a post. I do know, independent of this rumor, that the Guardians of the Galaxy plans for Universe of Energy were real, and that the budget for those plans continued to swell until the decision to re-evaluate them had been made. Even that is second-hand info, though.
I also suspect that we are seeing, and are going to see, a lot of rumors relating to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios as the mid to long term futures of both parks are in flux. There are a lot of plans being weighed–beyond what has already been announced–for both parks, and the “favored” plans will ultimately change, and change again, as the timelines are major groundbreakings are beyond 2018 at this point. Obviously, a lot can change between now and 2018.
If you’re more interested in confirmed news than rumors, all of which are subject to change, you should stop reading anything about Epcot or DHS (beyond Star Wars and Toy Story Lands). Personally, I enjoy hearing from the rumor mill, even if I know some of these projects will never come to fruition.
The current status of Universe of Energy still calls for it to be replaced in the near to mid-term, with a replacement opening in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. I doubt many long-time EPCOT Center fans would disagree that Universe of Energy is due for an update/replacement. So long as it is thematically appropriate to Future World, I can’t really quibble with this.
The current status of the Guardians of the Galaxy rumor is that after Toy Story Lands opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2018, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror will go down to receive the Mission: Breakout treatment. The rationale behind not doing this prior to then is that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is already light on attractions, and closing a flagship attraction right now would be too much of a strain on the park.
Well, I’m also not a fan of it coming to Walt Disney World’s Tower of Terror, but I see this rumor as “progress” (that’s me falling over myself to be optimistic regarding this abomination of an idea) because it kicks the can a bit further down the road. That’s significant because it means someone else could make the ultimate decision as to whether Mission: Breakout is greenlit for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Bob Chapek took over as Chairman of Parks & Resorts in February 2015. Before him, Tom Staggs served in the position beginning in 2010. Jay Rasulo preceded him, holding the position from 2005. So, it seems 5 years is about the normal tenure for this position before being promoted/replaced. Normally, that would be enough time to see this project greenlit and construction commenced.
However, Disney CEO Bob Iger will be leaving in June 2018, and at this point, further extension of his contract seems unlikely. As with any regime change, Iger’s replacement is likely to shuffle up positions and large projects to make a big splash that is supposed to demonstrate the new CEO’s immediate impact (ha…). As such, I think any large capex project that has not begun construction by 2018 stands a reasonable chance of being significantly altered or cancelled completely.
Even if Chapek remains the head of Parks & Resorts past 2018, a lot could change between now and then. The Guardians Tower at Disney California Adventure could suffer more setbacks, delays, and cost overruns during construction. Guest response to the new attraction could be tepid. Someone in Imagineering could propose something that Chapek and other executives like more.
If the rumors are correct, cost overruns and design challenges are already occurring with DCA’s Guardians of the Galaxy Tower, as the plans to enclose the shafts had to be scrapped (although that could only impact that version of the attraction due to California earthquake code). It’s still early in the construction/demolition, though, and a lot more issues could be encountered. If, for whatever reason, the overhaul is delayed far past Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s May 2017 opening date, it could throw cold water on the concept.
I don’t think guest response will be an issue. Fans point to the amount of backlash over Tower of Terror being changed at DCA, and there has been a higher than average amount, but this is still a vocal minority. I suspect the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout will have the second highest guest satisfaction rating in the park, second only to Radiator Springs Racers. And that’s without ever riding the attraction, and not being a fan of the concept myself.
The thing is, average guests love thrill rides and they love Marvel. Even if the Mission: Breakout attraction is a creative mess, it will still have those two elements. Most guests will equate their like of those things for enjoyment of the attraction, and thematic concerns won’t register. Regular guests do not care about overarching thematic integrity, until they do. This is no value judgment–it just isn’t on their radar. They go to theme parks to have fun, not to dissect or think critically about the experience. The whole is the sum of its parts, so long as the parts more or less work together.
The wheels only fall off for the casual guest when those individual parts are so disjointed and poorly thrown together that it is facially apparent. Anyone who walks into Walt Disney Studios Park can see that park is a mess. Even though WDSP has a solid collection of rides, it still suffers in attendance and guest satisfaction because its layout was designed by drunken manatees pushing around idea balls. There, even for the average guest, the whole is far less than the sum of its parts.
I don’t think it takes a thematic mess of that proportion for guests to notice and have that impact their subconscious opinion of a park. (I’d hazard a guess the same happens with Future World in Epcot on a daily basis.) I think seeing a mess of pipes and whatever-it-is towering over Carthay Circle will give even the average guest pause–and certainly seeing that at the end of Sunset Boulevard would have a similar impact–and will lessen the whole of their experience in the park.
However, when asked to rate an attraction in isolation, I think Mission: Breakout will get high marks. Taking the short view, that’s the only metric about which Disney will care when determining whether to clone Mission: Breakout to Walt Disney World.
The other possibility is that a better proposal comes along between now and the the completion of Toy Story Land. This is another likely scenario, as I assume the Imagineers will keep pitching alternatives. The most obvious answer is building something new from the ground-up. Failing that, second choice, I think, would be an overlay to Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster.
There would likely be less resistance to this idea, both from WDI and fans, as it is pretty far from a masterpiece of Imagineering. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun thrill ride, but can anyone honestly defend this as brilliant in the way that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is? Guest response would be just as strong because the key elements–rollercoaster and rock music–would still be present.
Most importantly: it would be easier. Record a video of Groot giving the shock …errr… four branches held up, as the group races off through space to battle some foe (and takes us with them!), create some dark light cardboard raccoons with laser lighting effects (pew pew!), and swap out Aerosmith songs for the Awesome Mixtape Vol. 1. You’re good to go. I could literally do this myself during a 3.5 day refurbishment and I know literally nothing about anything.
Do you agree or disagree with my opinion on Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Do you think this rumor will actually come to fruition? Are you excited for it? Share any questions or additional thoughts you have in the comments!