This weekend may be the debut of a little something called Pandora: World of Avatar over at Walt Disney World. Exciting. We West Coast Disney fans know, however, that something equally *awesome* is happening at the Happiest Place on Earth this weekend too. Get your awesome mixes ready.
The most hotly anticipated attraction of the summer at Disneyland is finally here – Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! If you are fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise like my family, you have probably been counting down the days to this opening. It has been awhile since Disney added any major new attractions to either California park. This addition to Disney California Adventure is a big one.
I am in the middle of attending the two day media preview for the ride and could not wait to bring my loyal Disneyland-loving readers as early of a look as possible. I have been able to ride 3 times so far and am hoping for one or two more drops to give you the full scoop before I go home.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT opens Saturday, May 27, 2017 to the public, with a special sold-out ticketed event preview the evening of Friday, May 26.
Replacing the Tower of Terror
As with all changes at Disney, the addition of Mission: BREAKOUT! is not without some controversy. The attraction is a repurposed and redecorated version of the much-loved Tower of Terror. The outside has been totally transformed to look like something from outer space rather than art deco Old Hollywood.
After getting a first look at Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT, I think the vast majority of Disney fans will be very happy with it, even if they have a soft spot in their hearts for the Tower of Terror. Plus, with Mission: BREAKOUT in Disneyland and the original Tower of Terror still open at Walt Disney World, it’s kind of the best of both worlds.
If you want to wait to be surprised by the ride, stop reading here.
First Look & Video of Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
So now to the good part – what is the attraction like? The premise of the ride is that the Guardians have been taken hostage by the Collector Taneleer Tivan (played by Benicio del Toro) and imprisoned high in his fortress on display with this other odd collectibles. With the help of Rocket who has escaped on his own, riders are supposed to ascend the tower and help the other Guardians break out and escape.
The Entrance & Queue
The ride retains the same basic sequence as the Tower of Terror. After queuing, guests enter the Fortress lobby where some of the Collector’s strange relics are on display. It’s a unique and powerful transformation of the Tower of Terror’s haunted hotel lobby. The queue wraps around the entire lobby so guests can get a look at each of the bizarre items and also watch a movie setting the scene with the Guardians imprisoned in glass cages. A certain Marvel legend known for his cameos might just be hiding in this video, so watch carefully.
Guests then enter the Collector’s Office – holding room with another video screen (where the Twilight Zone video played before). A new video starts where the Collector welcomes guests to his collection. An Audio-Animatronic Rocket breaks in and stops the video explaining his plan to break the other Guardians out. As the doors open, he grabs Star-Lord’s Walkman which is in one of the cases.
— Leslie Harvey (@TripsWithTykes) May 26, 2017
Guests then leave the holding room and enter a second queue area to wait to enter the ride. As you may remember from the Tower of Terror, this second waiting area was supposed to mimic a behind the scenes hotel service entrance to access the service elevators.
The area has some of the same pseudo-industrial feel as before, but with new decor. These open spaces now house more spoils and oddities from around the galaxy that the Collector has amassed. As with the ride’s lobby, Marvel fans are going to find a ton of Easter eggs in here by looking carefully.
Aboard the Ride’s Gantry Lifts
At the end of this second queue, it’s all aboard for the thrills. The ride elevators (now referred to as gantry lifts) have the same seating layout as before on the Tower of Terror. Instead of a creepy elevator operator directing guests aboard, a Tivan employee now serves in that role. Although the Collector is presumably keeping close watch, the employees sure seem to be secretly sympathetic to the Guardians’ cause.
The ride starts with a major new twist. Instead of a gradual start, the lift accelerates straight up very suddenly as soon as Rocket stars blasting an awesome tune. The technology behind the ride is definitely more advanced and ultimately more thrilling. My initial reaction was that it seemed like a lot more drops for a longer period of time. In between the ups and downs, riders see video scenes of the Guardians in their attempt to escape, battling strange space creatures and ultimately climbing aboard an escape ship brought by Mantis.
The attraction has six different drop sequences so you’ll have to ride quite often to get the same ride sequence twice. These variations keep guests guessing, much like the different storylines in Star Tours.
And it wouldn’t be Guardians of the Galaxy without THE MUSIC. Star Lord’s Awesome Mix tapes play a central role in both movies in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and imagineers knew that they had to get this feature of the ride right to make true fans happy. The music doesn’t disappoint. The six ride sequences are set to the following six songs, one of which was featured in the first movie:
- “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar
- “Give Up The Funk” by Parliament
- “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf
- “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 (from Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1)
- “Free Ride” by The Edgar Winters Group
- “Burning Love” by Elvis Presley
Lots of favorite characters from the movie make appearances in the ride, including Star-Lord, Gamora, Baby Groot, Drax, Mantis, and of course – Rocket. Learn more about the development of the attraction in my interview with the ride’s creative director.
And…. of course – watch this full ride video!
The attraction ends with a lot of havoc wreaked but the Guardians ultimately freed. Guests exit to check out ride photos that capture that those memorable looks of terror that only a great thrill ride can bring.
As with every major Disney attraction, riders are shunted into a gift shop filled with all things superhero. Since my daughter is a penny collector, I immediately went for the pressed penny machine and got all three new designs. The multitude of Baby Groot items are certain to be best sellers.
Is Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! Good for Kids?
With a 40 inch height minimum (the same as Tower of Terror), even pretty young kids can conceivably make the cut to ride. My daughter hit the 40 inch mark before she turned 4.
Just because kids are tall enough doesn’t mean they are ready. Drop rides are really a beast all their own. Some children are terrified of them even at older ages while being totally cool with the craziest of roller coasters. Other kids are just fine with drop rides long before they are ready for coasters. My now 8 year old daughter rode Tower of Terror for the first time when she had just turned 6. She was much more comfortable with it then than she was with Space Mountain the same trip (which she is even still a bit reluctant to ride). In short, your miles may vary. And you may not know what kind of kid yours is until you give the ride a try.
If your child is already comfortable riding the Tower of Terror, this ride will likely be a good fit. Although the early ride acceleration is a bit of a shocker and the ride is more thrilling for longer as a result, it’s not in a totally different league that will disqualify a lot more kids.
Finally, if you are wondering whether Guardians of the Galaxy is a good fit in terms of content, the answer is definitely yes. The Tower of Terror had a creepy supernatural factor with the potential to disturb or worry some more sensitive children. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! is more action movie than horror or mystery, so the content is actually more kid-friendly. Of course, there are noises and surprises to startle but I don’t think any of it will cause any lost sleep.
Line Avoidance Strategies for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT
As with all new rides at Disneyland, expect long lines for the first several months after the grand opening. The Tower of Terror has always been a popular ride at Disneyland because of its thrill factor, but the appeal of something new plus the popularity of the Guardians franchise will certainly mean record demand.
So how do you do Guardians without spending a half day in line? Luckily, there’s a Fastpass for that! I fully expect Fastpasses will go as fast as they did in the first several months for Radiator Springs Racers. If my memory serves me correctly, Fastpasses were often gone within 2 hours of park opening back then.
The bottom line: if you are headed to California Adventure this summer, I’d recommend lining up for rope drop at least 45 minutes to one hour in advance of park opening and either a) making an immediate beeline to Hollywood Land to grab a coveted Fastpass or b) riding ONE ride to take advantage of short rope drop queues and then grabbing a Guardians Fastpass before they are gone (my pal Casey over at Disneyland Daily recommends that Soarin’ be that ride in her newly-released itinerary). The Fastpass distribution area is in the same kiosks used by the Tower of Terror across the “street” from the ride. Once the ride opens to the public, I’ll keep you updated with information on how quickly Fastpasses are selling out in the mornings so you can adjust your ride strategy.
Remember that a new Fastpass system called MaxPass is coming to Disneyland later this year. MaxPass will be an extra $10 per day per person, but will allow you to book same-day Fastpasses on the app instead of doing the mad dash of running to individual ride Fastpass kiosks. Disneyland has yet to announce a start date for MaxPass, but when it is here, it might be a worthy investment to be able to snag a Guardians Fastpass as soon as possible after park opening.
(And if you were hoping for a speedier single rider line option like Radiator Springs Racers has, I hate to burst your bubble. No single rider line is planned for this attraction.)
Summer of Heroes
Curious about more than just the new Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! ride? Disneyland is making this summer all about superheroes – not just the Guardians. Come back tomorrow for my complete guide to what Disneyland is calling the Summer of Heroes over in California Adventure. And in the meantime, don’t miss my overview of all the things that are new at Disneyland for summer 2017!
Disclosure: Disneyland hosted me at the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! media preview event, providing tickets, accommodations, and transportation. My family regularly visits Disneyland other times at our own expense. All opinions are my own.