In today’s post, we share Seth Kubersky’s review of the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction at Disney’s California Adventure. Seth is the coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.
In 2017 Rod Serling was evicted from the abbreviated adaptation of Walt Disney World’s terrific Twilight Zone attraction when Disney gave the once-stately Tower of Terror a gaudy cyberpunk makeover, turning it into the first major foothold of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s expansion into Anaheim. What was formerly a once-famous Hollywood hotel gone to ruin is now the pipe-festooned futuristic fortress of Taneleer Tivan, also known as The Collector (played here, as in the films, by Benicio del Toro).
The amoral accumulator has invited park guests inside to tour his museum of arcane artifacts from across the universe, which features a rotating display of weapons and armor from multiple Marvel movies (plus some vintage Disney artifacts) to marvel at while you wait. Tivan’s greatest treasures are the Guardians of the Galaxy themselves: Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), and even Baby Groot have all been captured and suspended in display cases hanging over a vast abyss.
Luckily, the wily Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) has broken free and is crawling around in the ventilation system overhead. While you’re waiting in The Collector’s Easter egg–filled office (check out the objects on his desk), Rocket enlists you to help liberate his pals. The life-size Audio-Animatronic of the reckless rodent is among the resort’s most realistic figures and is a highlight of the revamp.
For the ride itself, guests board a gantry lift (also known as Twilight Zone’s service elevator) and are propelled up and down the tower, experiencing multiple free falls while immersed in intense visual effects and rockin’ tunes ripped right from Star-Lord’s Awesome Mix tapes. Like Walt Disney World’s Tower of Terror, Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: Breakout! features multiple randomized ride profiles, with different video sequences and drop patterns synchronized to six different songs. Musical options include the Jackson 5, Pat Benatar, and even Elvis (but unfortunately not Blue Swede’s “Ooga Chaka/Hooked on a Feeling”), and each sound track is accompanied by a different combination of comic vignettes depicting our hapless antiheroes’ escape. Whichever sequence you get, you can still count on the doors opening at the top of the shaft for a bird’s-eye view of the resort.
The hardware behind DCA’s tower attraction is very similar to the Walt Disney World version, but they are definitely not clones. Thematic differences in the queues and preshows aside, the two attractions really part company once you are in the ride vehicle. In the Disney World version, the elevator stops at a couple of floors to reveal some eerie visuals, but then it actually moves forward out of the shaft and through one of the floors; you don’t realize that you’ve entered the drop shaft until the elevator accelerates vertically. In the DCA attraction, the elevator never leaves the shaft, creating a more straightforward ride experience.
Guardians of the Galaxy Replaces Suspense with Nonstop Acceleration
Lacking the eerie atmosphere and lateral disorientation that distinguishes the Florida attraction, DCA instead replaces suspense with nonstop acceleration from the second the doors close, resulting in a rambunctious ride that’s in keeping with the spirit of these comically chaotic characters. As long as the superior original East Coast Tower of Terror remains untouched, we don’t object to Disney swapping Serling for Star-Lord, especially since the reimagined attraction’s wilder drop patterns are much more thrilling than the original version.
Perhaps the most important legacy of Guardians of the Galaxy will be if it leads to Disney building a larger Marvel area (hopefully with an original E-ticket Avengers thrill ride) out of DCA’s underutilized Hollywood Land.
This attraction is a whopper at 13-plus stories tall. As a result, it has great potential for terrifying young children and rattling more mature visitors. If you have teenagers in your party, use them as experimental probes—if they report back that they really, really liked it, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
Guardians of the Galaxy Touring Tips
Because of its height, the tower is a veritable beacon, visible from outside the park and luring curious guests as soon as they enter. You can count on a footrace to get there when the park opens. Get a FastPass or try standby during the first or last hour of the day. Mission: Breakout! is one of the few attractions that distributes FastPasses during the early-entry hour, and FastPasses may run out for the day by midmorning.
To access the attraction, bear left from the park entrance into Hollywood Land. Continue straight to the Hyperion Theater and then turn right. To save time, when you enter the preshow area, stand in the far back corner across from the door where you entered. When the doors to the loading area open, you’ll be one of the first admitted.
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Photo credits: By Cory Doctorow from Beautiful Downtown Burbank, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons