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Does new Guardian of the Galaxy attraction at Disneyland break the mold?

As a huge fan of The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror, it’s difficult for me to fully enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. I wish I could; I enjoy the Guardians films, and they have plenty of potential for being turned into well-made rides, but unfortunately I don’t think that’s what Disney has done here.

The announcement of Mission Breakout was our introduction to Marvel Land. Compare this announcement to that of Star Wars Land. From the beginning we’ve had an idea of what SWL will look like as a whole, and it’s going to open all at once. It’s clear that the Imagineers want it to be as authentic and immersive as possible. You’d think this would be their goal for Marvel Land as well, but everywhere you look on Breakout there is evidence of the former attraction, so it just isn’t as immersive as a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction has the potential to be. Even those who didn’t go on Tower of Terror are likely to question why the infrastructure of the Collector’s supposedly high tech fortress is composed of early 20th century pipes and chain link fences. It would have been an easier change for fans to accept if Imagineers had gone to greater lengths to distinguish the ride from its predecessor, and explained how Breakout will fit into the new land.

Or they could have just built it somewhere that wasn’t already a popular attraction.

While the original concept art for Breakout’s exterior still saw the ride as having essentially the same shape as Tower, it looked considerably more in line with the look of the Guardians films than the exterior we ended up getting.

Something was lost in translation that makes it look more like a giant Nerf gun than a building from an otherworldly city, with the lighting at night giving it more of a hard-drive-with-vomit-on-it aesthetic. It’s an unintelligible mess; nothing about it says Guardians and it’s visible from all over the parks.

The building is supposed to be museum of rare artifacts and creatures from around the galaxy curated by an alien who calls himself the Collector, a character from the first Guardians movie. Your tour of his famous collection begins with the queue of the attraction; as you walk through his outdoor run-of-the-mill succulent garden, random audio clips of various sorts play in between unintelligible voiceovers, all supposed to be part of the collection I guess. I heard mariachi and opera music as well as a clip of Neil Armstrong on the moon. For a Collector, you’d think the guy would be more organized.

The new lobby is decently well themed. I wish we could get a better look at some of the Collector’s specimens, and that there were more of them, but what’s there is interesting. Marvel fans will appreciate the many references to its cinematic universe, and the uninitiated can appreciate sights such as a dog in a space suit in their own right.

What follows is my favorite part of the entire experience, where an animatronic Rocket Raccoon explains to us his plan for breaking out the other Guardians who somehow ended up on display in the Collector’s museum. The figure is swift, expressive, and makes me excited for the future of animatronics.

Imagine a ride that uses a dozen or so creations like this, all interacting with one another. It’s only a matter of time. It’s a shame that a part of the line for Breakout upstages the attraction itself though. Plus, the stuff Rocket’s talking about is about as bare bones of an excuse for needing our help as you can get. Anyone with a set of fingerprints can disable this security system? Really? That doesn’t sound secure at all.

After Rocket debriefs us we wander into the bowels of the Collector’s fortress, which as I indicated earlier hasn’t been altered that much since its time as Tower’s boiler room. The visual styles of the two attractions are completely different, and I don’t think they mesh well.

We then enter through a Monsters Inc-esque door into the “gantry lift” elevator that makes up the ride portion. There are six ride profiles, each set to a different classic rock song.

Each profile begins with a silhouette of Rocket Racoon tearing up the top of the elevator and plugging Star-Lord’s walkman into it somehow, starting the soundtrack. The lift rockets upward (sorry) and we see the fortress’ generator control room.

On Tower this was a long hallway in which ghostly figures appeared and beckoned riders to join them in the great beyond, and then faded away as the hallway transformed into a field of stars, leaving only the door of a doomed elevator on the other side of the hallway before the elevator dropped. It was my favorite part of the ride thanks to its great use of forced perspective and projections. The generator control room isn’t quite as impressive, but I guess it’s still my favorite part of the actual ride since it blends a screen with a physical set more convincingly than latter portions of Breakout.

After the generator blows and the elevator proceeds to drop at various intervals like in the latter half of Tower, we intermittently see a screen that shows the Guardians escaping and engaging in various antics in very short bursts. I was under the impression that each profile would have its own unique set of scenes, but it turns out that many of them are used in multiple profiles so they aren’t as unique as Disney has implied. All of this plays out so quickly that there isn’t much time to process what’s going on. I understand that Guardians is a faster-paced entity than something like The Twilight Zone, but part of what made Tower so great is that it not only delivered fast-paced thrills, but also took its time to let guests take in the environment, and the Guardians films do this too. For a ride with Guardians of the Galaxy in the title, we sure don’t get to see them for very long.

The screen is “framed” by a physical set but they don’t blend very well; the space is so confined that it’s hard to believe that the screen we’re looking at really is this expansive place. And It’s far more difficult, when all of a sudden, any semblance of immersion you may have had is interrupted by reminding you that you are, in fact, at Disneyland as you move from the screen to an outside view of the parks and one of the Guardians comments on this. This view was made famous by Tower, but it was easier to suspend your disbelief in that situation. You were overlooking a land with similar theming, and you didn’t have Rod Serling in your ear going “Oh, by the way, you’re still at Disneyland”. They’re going to go to the effort of transforming this entire area of the park into a Marvel LAND, only to completely destroy that illusion for a 4th wall joke that doesn’t make sense. The “easter eggs” referencing past Disney attractions in the queue are a bit overkill as well; normally these are subtle, such as a hidden Mickey, but to me these seem like an insincere attempt by Disney to appease longtime fans who are skeptical of Marvel’s presence in the parks thus far.


Still skeptical.

Anyway, eventually Rocket restores the power, the Guardians are reunited, and the mission is complete. If you couldn’t tell by now, as a whole the ride disappoints me. Though the soundtrack is fun and the drop mechanics are still thrilling, the appeal of Tower of Terror for me was its theming, and this is where Mission Breakout fails to live up to its predecessor. This isn’t very surprising considering the project’s quick turnaround time to ensure it debuted alongside Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. These characters deserved a fleshed out, unique experience, not a cheap cash grab at the expense of a good ride. Hopefully any future Guardians attractions at other parks will be more elaborate.

But as for Hollywoodland, it doesn’t have any other thrill rides Disney can hollow out and inject with Marvel so they’re going to have to get creative for their next Marvel Land attraction. Here’s hoping they take their time with it.

Rating: 6.5/10