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If you asked a Disney Parks fan even five years ago whether anything could ever break the unbroken streak of Buzz Lightyear laser-blasting dark rides at Disney's "Castle Parks," the answer would surely have been a resounding "no."

After all, a blacklight, toy-stylized "shooter" ride based on Toy Story 2 has the unique status of having existed at every single one of the six Disneyland-style parks you'll find across the globe – a status shared with just two other rides. Whether you know it as Space Ranger Spin, Astro Blasters, Laser Blast, or Planet Rescue, somehow, a battery-blasting Buzz Lightyear attraction has become as "Disney Parks" as parades, princess, or pirates... 

But it turns out that Buzz's hold on Disney Parks may not be as evergreen as we once imagined. In 2017, Hong Kong Disneyland decided to close its opening day Buzz dark ride for good. Its ride system was repurposed as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle!, keying off the ride's proximity to the park's Iron Man Experience simulator and the gradual development of a larger Avengers-themed land around it. It seemed like a one-time crack in Buzz's shiny plastic armor... but now, another Space Ranger outpost has fallen... 

"I'm gonna wreck it!"

Image: Disney

What happens when the lights go out at the arcade? That was the question asked by 2012's Walt Disney Animation Studios release, Wreck-It Ralph. It turns out that every night, the heroes and villains of 8-bit arcade cabinet games retire to a shared power strip. It's there that "Wreck-It Ralph" – the antagonist to the perpetually optimistic titular hero of the game "Fix-It Felix" – meets with his fellow bad guys to commiserate over their programmed-in roles as destroyers. 

Desperate to prove that he can be a hero, too, Ralph jets off into a series of arcade games, landing in the candy-themed go-kart game "Sugar Rush" where he meets glitching racer Vanellope von Schweetz. What follows is a film filled with pop culture nods, video game character cameos, and a pop music soundtrack headed by Owl City's "When Can I See You Again?" 

Image: Disney

Okay, okay, so it's a divergence from the timelessness and fairy tales that served as the bedrock of the so-called "Disney Revival" (see The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Frozen, Moana, etc.)... but Wreck-It Ralph was major hit, earning nearly $500 million. More to the point, it did what every modern Disney property aspires to: it launched a franchise. 

Though perhaps decidedly more "timely," 2018's Ralph Breaks the Internet earned another $529 million of its own. (Today, its references to now-problematic YouTubers, abandoned Disney websites, late 2010s pop culture, and fourth-wall-breaking Disney + Pixar + Marvel + Star Wars IP makes it... well... a little cringey.) 

But it's certainly true that Ralph and Vanellope have become sought-after characters at Disney Parks. It's no surprise that in the 2010s, rumors persisted that the closed Declassified Disaster: Stitch's Great Escape and its theater-in-the-round format would be re-used as a Wreck-It Ralph-themed virtual reality simulator. (That never happened.) But clearly, the possibility of infusing Ralph into Tomorrowland has lived on... 

Ralph Breaks Tomorrowland

Image: Disney

And that brings us to Tokyo Disneyland. On April 26, 2024, Disney officially announced that as part of an ongoing overhaul to Tokyo's Tomorrowland (which has already retired the Star Jets, brought a new Big Hero 6 spinner, and will soon debut a brand new, from-scratch Space Mountain), Buzz would head "to infinity and beyond," opening the land's laser-blasting Omnimover for a reimagining...

Now, guests will find themselves passing through a digitization portal, emerging in the video game world of Wreck-It Ralph. 

Image: Disney

Given that Japan's Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters won't even close until October 2024, there's a lot we still don't know about this overlay. But based on the single released piece of on-ride concept art, we can guess that the brightly-colored "Sugar Rush" and its go-kart style racing track will serve as the environmental centerpiece of the reimagined ride. 

Narratively, appears that the former "Astro Blaster" laser guns will also be recast as some sort of de-rezzer, likely tasking guests with targeting virus-riddled sweets that threaten to glitch the entire game. Logistically, we can imagine that this overlay will also release the funds to refresh the ride's targeting system and blasters. 

In typical Disney fashion, we also have concept art for the gift shop, which will stocked with plenty of video game style take-homes. Which really just leaves one question...

Buzz, or Ralph?

Image: Disney

Once Tokyo's Toy Story dark ride closes in October, there will be just three left: Orlando, Anaheim, and Paris. It's probably worth noting that the latter two – in California and France – essentially share a layout with Japan's, since all three were built inside of former CircleVision theaters. Especially since the Oriental Land Company (OLC) that owns and operates Tokyo Disney Resort will have foot the bill for the research and development costs of the new Wreck-It Ralph overlay, it seems possible (even, likely?) that Disney will strongly consider porting this updated and IP-friendly ride experience to at least one of the other three parks with a two-decade-old Buzz Lightyear ride left.

So the question is simple: are you interested in this Wreck-It Ralph ride displacing the Space Ranger blaster at your Disney Park? Or do you think Wreck-It Ralph and the universe it's developed are just too pop culture-y, too timely, and too modern to earn permanent rides at Disney's most hallowed ground – its "Castle Parks"? Or – option C – would you like Disneyland-style parks to drop their laser blasters altogether and try something new with Tomorrowland? Let us know in the comments below!

 
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