By Erik Johnson
Rising high above the sight lines in Disney’s California Adventure is a tower. Not a decrepit, crumbling tribute to the Hollywood of old, but a shiny, colorful tower with a bunch of pipes and satellite dishes attached. What is it? Where did it come from? What is going on at the back of the park?
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission: Breakout! answers those questions and more. I have to admit, I really like the title to this post because it manages to add another colon to the already-complicated name for this ride. But the ride offers so much more than a long name and a tie-in to a successful movie franchise. So much more!
Opening on May 27th, 2017, Guardians was much-anticipated, much-observed, and much-maligned. As is so often the case when a classic attraction closes, everyone developed a deep and abiding love for the Tower of Terror. The exterior was described as an eyesore and nobody could imagine how the new attraction was anything beyond a simple re-skin of the original.
The new attraction ends up being so much more than its predecessor.
The Guardians queue features an amazing edifice that was once a horrible, old hotel that didn’t fit in with anything else on Buena Vista Street. The old, derelict building set in a take on the Hollywood of Yesteryear was refit with 4,000 feet of Unistrut metal framing to support the new show elements. Contractors used a 280-pound rare earth magnet to locate the metal studs under the structure in the process. The final product is a weird mix of industrial and Tomorrowland that we all hope eventually fits into the theme of the Avengers Campus.
The Tower belongs to The Collector, a character from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. This eccentric fellow is known to be quite ancient and possesses many of the universe’s rarest objects and beings. Before you enter his tower, you get to roam The Collector’s gardens. You listen to spacey music and occasionally, one of his assistants pops into the audio feed and plays something from his collection of audio clips. There are a fair amount to be heard, including snippets from the moon landing and Great Moments with Mister Lincoln.
Passing a statue of The Collector, you head inside where you get a look at the expansive collection the Collector has collected. The lobby of the building is packed with references to the past of Disney and Marvel comics. Props from Marvel movies are all over, displayed in glass cases with care. If you have sharp eyes, you can catch a glimpse of Figment from Journey into Imagination behind frosted, purple glass.
There is also a video playing on a large screen at the far end of the room. It sets up the whole premise of the ride using the cast from the movie. It seems the Guardians have all been captured and put on display. The video is a great introduction to the mayhem in which you are about to take part.
Next, you walk into Tivan’s private office, surrounded by more interesting items. A great animatronic of Rocket Raccoon explains to the guests that he needs your clearance to access an elevator. He will hijack it and take everyone to a generator which he will blow up, freeing his friends.
When you finally reach the ride vehicle, you have already been treated to several minutes of story and immersion. You load into an elevator car and strap in. A silhouette of Rocket appears and you see him hijack the car with a shower of sparks. And then your lift fires upward.
The movement never stops. Your lift bobs up and down at times, launches up at times, and drops several stories at others. There are times when the doors in front of you open to show a high-def screen that almost looks 3-D. There you see parts of the story of the Guardians’ escape play out. During all of these scenes your car never stops moving, pulsing up and down and making you wonder which direction you’ll go next. The car is a part of the story, and every movement feels organic and real.
The ride offers considerable variation. Each trip is accompanied by one of six classic rock songs. Different video sequences featuring the cast from the movie were filmed and they are mixed and matched to complete the escape story in six different ways. When your lift stabilizes at last, the Guardians are seen thanking you for your help.
BUT WAIT! There’s more. Oh, so much more!
In August of 2017, just a few short months after the attraction reopened, Disney announced a seasonal overlay for the brand-new ride. Monsters After Dark ran from September through Halloween and has returned every spooky season since.
The story of Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission: Breakout!: Monsters After Dark brings guests back inside the Collector’s tower for another mission. It seems that as you helped release the Guardians, you also released a lot of large monsters from around the tower.
Everything has changed from the exterior lighting and soundtrack on. When you walk into the main lobby, the intro video is affected, showing a rotating cluster of clips from the original video, Tower staff roaming the hallways and stairwells with safety vests and nets, and static.
When you reach the Collector’s office, Rocket is still there and he tells you that you now need to help him find Groot, who got lost during the first ride. You and your fellow visitors are now bait for the monsters hunting the adorable tree creature. The ride experience is similar, but you listen to new music and are treated to new videos of Groot and Rocket trying to evade a giant, fire-breathing dragon.
The Cast Members really get into the fun this time around! They are all clad in safety vests and look disheveled, as if they have been fighting off the monsters all night. Don’t be too surprised when one jumps around a corner with a butterfly net!
In all, this new version of the ride makes it super exciting and worth a visit or two every time you hit up DCA. None of us knew what to expect when the attraction reopened, but it delivers on so many levels. If you are a Marvel movie fan, you will love the references and the continuing story of the Guardians of the Galaxy. If you like drop rides, this one delivers over and over, weaving in a different anticipation as you never know how far you will fall or when you will launch upward.
If you want to hear more about the attraction, how it works, and how it stacks up against the original Tower of Terror, check out the recent episode by The Supreme Resort. The podcast goes into the nitty gritty details but retains a sense of fun. Check them out on their site or in any of your favorite podcast apps!
Make Guardians of the Galaxy one of your top priorities when you can head back to the Parks. If you need some help with those plans, your friendly experts at ConciEARS are here for you! Give us a call or send us an email. We are ready to help you plan the magical vacation your family needs!