In case you haven’t heard the news, at San Diego Comic Con 2016, Disney announced that Tower of Terror in Disney California Adventure would be getting a face-lift into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout! The attraction has been described as a kind of warehouse, fortress, power-plant by Joe Rhode, the lead Imagineer behind this project. According to Mr. Rhode, the attraction will take guests up and down, just like Tower of Terror, but rather than the scary element of Tower of Terror, now it’ll be funny and full of humor and music. You can watch the Joe Rhode attempt to kind of describe and sort of give an idea as to what the ride might kind of sort of be like in this video here. As you can see in the header for this entry, there was also this piece of concept art released by Disney. Now, after studying this piece of concept art and watching the video with Joe Rhode multiple times, I’ve come to this conclusion this ride will be nothing but absolute garbage.
To understand why I think this attraction will be terrible, let’s start off by looking at the concept art. Just at first glance, without much studying, you can already see this design is clearly Tower of Terror. There is absolute no attempt at hiding the fact that this is the same attraction and not even the pipes and satellite dishes thrown onto the exterior can do that. And that really brings me to my biggest concern. For me, I love the look of Tower of Terror. The Pueblo Deco style is something so iconic, not only to Hollywood, but to California as a whole it manages to work in every land from Paradise Pier to Grizzly Peak and especially from Buena Vista Street. On the other hand, however, we’ll be seeing this from those same locations, but it will not blend nearly as well, if at all. The “futuristic” dystopian look of Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror (I’ll be referring the attraction to this from now on) simply does not mesh with Buena Vista Street or Cars Land. While some might say that Sleeping Beauty Castle doesn’t mesh with Main Street USA, you’d be wrong to think this as it actually does. Maybe not thematically, but visually they were designed to go hand in hand (not to mention any flaws like that should be worked out after 60 years in theme park industry). Whether you think the concept art looks appealing (I don’t), there’s no denying that it won’t work work well when viewed from the other parts of the park or from even outside of it on the street or the Esplanade.
The next big issue I want to tackle is how long this project will take. Set to close in January, 2017, it will reopen only about five months later in May of 2017. But what does this time frame tell us, exactly? What it tells me is that they want this ride done fast and quick. They want to rush this attraction so much, in fact, they have already taken down the Hollywood Tower Hotel sign and the dome off the top of the building as well as scaffolding up the sides (as pictured above) before the attraction has even closed. Now, why are they rushing it? It’s more complicated than Disney just wants to get a new ride for Disney California Adventure to advertise. The reason that Disney wants to rush this so much is because in May of 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is coming out. By adding Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror to Disney California Adventure, Disney isn’t trying to bring more guests into their parks, but rather trying to get their guests into theatre seats to go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The same thing is (rumored to be) happening with Fantasmic!’s Peter Pan segment being replaced with Pirates of the Caribbean. While this might not necessarily mean that the quality of the attraction will be rushed (although I expect it to be as five months is half the time of Star Tours’, Maelstrom’s, and Luigi’s Flying Tires’ face-lifts who had much less to change), it does mean the attraction is going from an imaginative and creative ride in Tower of Terror, to one that’s nothing more than a billboard to park guests.
Moving onto my next point, I believe this ride will be cheap. The original Tower of Terror, when opened in 2004, cost about $70,000,000 to build. This is a huge step down from the $140,000,000 million that Disney’s Hollywood Studios cost at half the price. Adjusting for inflation, Tower of Terror, in Disney California Adventure, would cost almost $90,000,000 to build today. Where am I going with this? Well, Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror will be using the same exact building and mechanics as Tower of Terror, so it can only be assumed that Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror would cost around the same ballpark. However, we know that it won’t. We know that Disney will not spend ninety million dollars to build this as they don’t need to construct a new building or ride system, only the queue and show scenes (but I’ll get to that later). While we don’t know whether this attraction will be costing Disney $20,000,000 or $40,000,000, we know that they’re already doing it cheap by not building its own attraction in Tomorrowland where Guardians of the Galaxy belong, so why shouldn’t we assume the rest of the attraction will be cheaply done, as well?
Another big problem with Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror is its location. Not just with it being located in Hollywood Land, while that is a big of a problem as Monsters Inc. is, but this rumored Marvel land. In case you didn’t know, the current rumors buzzing around are that, come D23, Disney will be announcing a new Marvel land south of Tower of Terror. That’s a huge problem right there. A Marvel land, in theory, could work fine in a theme park about California, as it could be set in San Francisco (Ant-Man) or any other Californian city and work fine. But, the problem is, we don’t know what the land will be. If (the rumored) Marvel land does end up being a city in California, then how does The Collector’s fortress warehouse power plant make any sense there? Or what if the Marvel land was New York, how would the attraction work there? And more so, how would the land work in Disney California Adventure? Or perhaps Marvel land will be nothing more than a jumble of Marvel properties, which then begs the question, how will that work in a theme park about California? Not to mention a land full of mix-matched properties with no connective tissue (besides the studio who produced them) would be awful. Imagine if Star Wars land took you from Tatooine to Hoth in just two steps. You’d instantly be transported out of the land. This odd theming is very different from the way Tower of Terror, a haunted Hollywood hotel, fits into Hollywood Land naturally. No matter how the changes are handled, the themes of the either the land or the attraction will not flow with what exists.
One other big problem with this new attraction that I have, we don’t know how long Guardians of the Galaxy will be popular. Unlike with The Twilight Zone or Star Wars, which have both been relevant for decades, Guardians of the Galaxy just came out two years ago in 2014. The film, as well as the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has not proven to be timeless. The irreverent humor and pop culture jokes in the film also add to this concern, as that is a very modern and current way of getting laughs, rather than the universal appeal of a “mother-in-law joke” or someone slipping on a banana peel. This attraction, in theory, could only be popular for five years and then fall flat causing Disney to have to change it out again. While I don’t know that will happen, it’s definitely something to be concerned about and an issue Tower of Terror has never faced.
Onto my final point here, this ride will be entirely based upon screens and projections. This is based on what Kevin Feige said during the announcement of Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror and that’s “Benicio Del Toro will be reprising his role as the Collector for this ride.” Now, while that could mean he is coming back to do voice over, but I don’t believe this is the case. What I really do fear here is that, just like with the new Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Shanghai, Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror will use projections and screens to tell its story rather than enhance it (this is something I’ll get more into on another entry). Universal Studios tends to use screens rather than real sets to tell their stories, and the reason they do it is because it’s fast, cheap, and easy to replace. That’s three of my concerns wrapped into one here. If Disney uses screens to tell the story of Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror, not only are they copying Universal, it shows the attraction was cheap, it shows a lack of quality, and it shows it can be easily replaced once it’s no longer popular in five or so years.
In conclusion, I do fear for the worst when it comes to Tower of Terror’s replacement. What currently exists is a fantastic Disney quality attraction with wonderful storytelling, theme, thrills, and a ride experience I can only find in Florida and Paris. What I believe it will be replacement with will be nothing more than ok storytelling, a lackluster theme, thrills, and a ride experience I could get at Universal Studios.