Memorial Day Weekend was one of the biggest weekends ever for Disney Parks. On the East Coast, Walt Disney World officially opened Pandora: World of Avatar at its Animal Kingdom park and on the West Coast, Disneyland Resort’s Disney California Adventure Park opened Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout.
More than just a re-skin of what was once the original Tower of Terror attraction, and more than just the first ever Marvel ride at a North American Disney park, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout is the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe expansion to theme parks. And it’s an exciting and successful launch of what will eventually become a major part of Disneyland’s future, especially since Disney World on the other side of the country can’t add any Marvel-themed attractions…
At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Marvel characters can’t be included in rides, as characters at the park, or even in merchandise at Disney stores. That’s due to Universal Studios having the rights for Marvel in the area which has been a sore sport for Disney since acquiring Marvel in August 2009. So, instead of simply using iconic Marvel Comics characters at their California parks, Disney is embracing the super popular work and success of the Marvel Studios movies to add to their California Adventure park. This begins with the stars of Guardians of the Galaxy, timed with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in theaters, and it adds something especially unique and powerful to Disneyland, especially since Disney World just got a new Avatar Land. The sequel has already outgrossed the original domestically and internationally at the box office and a third film has already been confirmed.
We attended the Mission Breakout launch event on the evening of May 25th in Disney California Adventure, and saw how the The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was transformed into The Fortress, or Tivan’s Collection. Taneleer Tivan a.k.a. The Collector, is the oddball cosmic character introduced in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film and played by Benicio del Toro. The premise of the attraction is that Tivan is inviting guests to tour his impressive collection of rare and otherworldly artifacts and creatures, his most recent major addition being the Guardians of the Galaxy themselves!
And you, with the help of Rocket Raccoon, need to help them escape!
Guardians of the Galaxy movie writer and director (who’s already confirmed to return for the third movie) consulted on the Mission Breakout experience, and even directed the actors who appear during the ride on screen. He shot those scenes while filming Vol. 2 last year, and during the opening ceremony, was more enthused than we’ve ever seen him be at the idea that he could learn something entirely new and have his work be a part of a major Disney attraction. This makes the Guardians of the Galaxy ride particular notable since it’s not using one of many depictions of the characters from the comics, but instead uses the stars of the film that fans and families will recognize. Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Dave Bautista’s Drax are all there alongside franchise newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and of course, Rocket and Baby Groot.
Note: The continuity of the ride itself doesn’t exactly line-up with the goings on of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it certainly captures the spirit and aesthetic of the films, as intended by Disney’s Imagineering team and James Gunn. But it exists in its own universe.
At a glance from afar, the attraction looks like they threw shiny bits and pipes all over the classic Tower of Terror but if you take a moment to look, or better yet, get close and embrace the details – an insane amount of work went into making Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout different, interesting, and uniquely Marvel (MCU, specifically). For Theme park goers and kids who love the Guardians, Mission Breakout the best experience you can have. It’s a flagship level attraction that’s worth making a trip to Disneyland for, and one that’ll continue evolving to keep itself fresh, but more on that later. Throughout the weekend as the ride officially opened to the public, attendees waited for hours and hours to be the first to check it out.
And we can’t blame them. We rode it five times during the media events and want to go again. There’s that much to see; it’s that much fun, and it’s different each time thanks to the six different songs you can get for your ride:
• “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar (1980)
• “Give Up the Funk” by Parliament (1975)
• “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf (1968)
• “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 (1969)
• “Free Ride” by The Edgar Winter Group (1973)
• “Burning Love” by Elvis Presley (1972)
Touring the Fortress and its collection is just as intriguing too. Just outside the main entrance of The Fortress, there’s a gold statue of Taneleer (The Collector) and once inside, the line funnels attendees through The Collection, the biggest real-life display of MCU Easter Eggs. And there are added details everywhere, from cube containers on the ceiling filled with random objects and artifacts – many of them organic things – to paintings and weapons from the movies.
Tower of Terror riders will recognize the next part of the attraction, when groups enter into The Collector’s office. There are even more interesting little objects here, all over his desk and filling the display shelves on every wall. It’s far too much to take in, even after riding it multiple times. In this room, a screen plays an introduction by Benicio del Toro’s Taneleer character who explains the Gantry tour ride before being quickly interrupted by fan-fave hero Rocket Raccoon, realized brilliantly through animatronics and voice acting. He appropriately mocks Taneleer before proclaiming that “of course” he escaped his containment unit and he has a “plan” that needs your help to free the other Guardians of the Galaxy, so they can get on the Milano starship (where Mantis is waiting) to escape. After this, the group is moved the darker industrial area for lines to the Gantries (like waiting for the elevators in Tower of Terror, but decorated with alien stuff instead).
The ambiance is there too, from sounds of escaping creatures (even Howard the Duck!) to the music of Tyler Bates, composer of the two Guardians of the Galaxy films. The employees are in on it too, fully decked out in costume and subtly reminding riders of the “mission” while trying to evade notice of The Collector. They want to escape as well, and you may hear some Cast Members say similar things on your way out through the gift shop as guests exit the ride.
All together there are more than 2,200 rare artifacts from around the galaxy in The Collection, ranging from plant life and creatures to weapons, costumes and other items of unique interest. Guests might be familiar with many of these items through their knowledge the films and comic books. And going with the theme of the attraction, and the future of Mission Breakout and other potential rides that undoubtedly will join the park, The Collector may choose to change out these artifacts at any time as new items come into his possession.
What was there during opening week could already be hinting at the future of the MCU, like the Asgardian war hammer which could be something Beta Ray Bill would use, the Cocoon of unknown origin featured in the first movie, or mysterious artifacts found in the depths of Terran’s (Earth) oceans. There were even masks of Celestial heads on the wall right beside a wonderful painting of The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) playing (and seemingly losing) some sort of chess-like alien board game against The Collector. No wonder The Collector saw it fit to hang up that one!
Outside of the attraction, guests can also interact with cosmic heroes Star-Lord, Gamora and Groot in “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off!” at Disney California Adventure Park. In Hollywood Land during Summer of Heroes, guests can also take part in the Avengers Training Initiative featuring Black Widow and Hawkeye, and meet Black Widow, Captain America and Spider-Man.
For the foreseeable future, it’s only at California’s Disneyland where guests can experience these MCU attractions and encounters. And up next… Star Wars Land…