Change is inevitable, especially at Disneyland. The place that Uncle Walt built operates under a simple edict. Its founder once proclaimed, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
Even half a century after his death, Disney’s edict has placed constant pressure on Imagineers. They know their leader’s expectations for the park that bears his name. They feel compelled to honor Disney’s stated desire about Disneyland. And that’s how unprecedented change arrives at the Happiest Place on Earth.
One of the most recent examples came in early 2017, when Disney California Adventure unexpectedly shuttered one of its most popular and beloved attractions, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. That same “tower” would shut down long enough to receive a new theme, one that prioritized superheroes over the supernatural. In only a few short months, Imagineers converted something wonderful into an attraction that many feel is superior. Let’s take this opportunity to go Behind the Ride to learn how Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! rose from the ashes of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
The Experience: Replacing a tower with a collection
The Trick: A new coat of paint
The striking part of Disney’s announcement about the closure of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was the timeline given. The Rod Serling masterpiece would operate for the final time on January 3, 2017. The intended launch of its replacement was roughly the same time as the release of the second movie in the franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which opened on May 5, 2017.
The seemingly impossible schedule allowed Imagineers only four months to create something entirely new. Sure, they would repurpose many of the existing elements of the building, but the stated deadline was brutal. To their credit, cast members effectively reconstructed the drop tower dark ride in only four months and 22 days. Basically, Disney built an entirely new ride in a single semester. No pressure, college students!
In order to have an entirely new ride ready within five months, Imagineers obviously had to make some sacrifices. They couldn’t fundamentally alter the structure of the building. It would remain a drop tower ride, but the style and tone would change almost overnight.
The original version of the attraction was a gothic take on an abandoned hotel, a building that somehow existed in an alternate dimension. The modified take on the premise is in our dimension...but it is entire galaxies away. And I mean it when I say that the primary difference on a surface level is a new coat of paint.
Disney modified the façade of the tower, eliminating the darker tones in favorite of extremely bright colors and oddly alien designs. These cosmetic changes were easy to achieve but changed the perception of the attraction from a distance.
The new tower is inviting rather than foreboding.
Guardians of the Galaxy -- Mission: Breakout! is like one of those makeover montages from teen romantic comedies. The dorky shell of Twilight Zone, the part that Disney wanted left in the past, was discarded in favor of a new outfit that forced everyone to reevaluate their preconceived notions of the tower. The addition of a few shiny baubles changed more than just a building façade. It also hinted at a dramatically different Disney California Adventure in the offing…