The INSIDER Summary:
- A new “Guardians of the Galaxy”-themed ride opened in Disneyland May 27, 2017.
- “Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!” replaced the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride in Disneyland’s California Adventure.
- Despite fan concerns over replacing the classic, it’s a much-needed and fun update to a ride that may not have been relatable to younger generations anymore.
- Little kids loved it, too, wanting to re-ride it immediately.
- It’s one of the park’s most popular rides so make sure you either get there early or nab a FastPass.
Disclosure: I’m a big theme park junkie.
Ever since Disney Parks announced a “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride was coming to California Adventure in Disneyland, I couldn’t wait to try it out. It’s arguably one of Marvel’s best movies since 2008’s “Iron Man,” and it was only a matter of time until the Mouse House decided to implement it into one of its theme parks. “Guardians of the Galaxy” also happens to be a personal favorite of mine so while in Anaheim, California for Disney’s D23 Expo 2017, I stopped by the parks to check it out.
Not everyone was as excited as me. A lot of Disneyland fans were upset and frustrated their beloved “Tower of Terror” was getting pushed aside for something that felt like part of Disney’s attempt to streamline its parks into a reflection of its newer, more successful brands.
I was slightly hesitant about going on the ride because “Guardians” had a lot to live up to. Would the ride be dumbed down for youngsters? Would it be less scary than Terror of Tower or would the drops be less intense because it’s a Marvel-themed ride now?
All of those worries faded when I left the ride grinning with what I could only describe as nerd tears running down my face. People cheered and even laughed around me the entire time as we skyrocketed up and down the transformed ride. I was actually a bit sad I opted for the FastPass on the ride so early in the morning when I could have waited in a 45-minute line (I’ll explain). I couldn’t wait to go on it again.
What the “Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!” ride is all about
If you’ve never seen the 2014 movie, the ride revolves around one of the movie’s oddest character’s, The Collector. He’s one of the oldest living beings in the Marvel Universe, and, as his name suggests, he has a penchant for collecting rare and unique objects. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride lets us commoners see his vast collection, which ranges from a cocoon teased at the end of the 2014 movie to a robot from “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
The Collector’s latest addition is the Guardians of the Galaxy and they’re trying to find a way to break out of his prison. That’s what we’re here to help with.
Why it left me wanting to go back again — it’s basically a two-in-one ride
I grew up going to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. One thing Disney excels at more than other theme parks is making you feel completely immersed in other worlds when you go on a ride, whether it’s “Star Tours,” “Cars Land,” or even “A Small World.” I was especially impressed by the layout and detailed design that went into “Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout.”
Before you even get on the actual ride, there is a lot to take in that will make any Marvel fan giddy. The plants in front of the attraction are labeled with fun, quirky space names to look at while you’re trying to stay cool in line in the Anaheim sun. As you get closer to the entryway, a large golden statue of the Collector himself (Benicio del Toro) welcomes you into his humble abode.
Stepping into the converted “Tower of Terror” will immediately transport any Marvel fan into a chamber full of Easter eggs. (You can see a roundup of 36 spotted on the ride here.) Even if you’re not a big Marvel fan, it’s tough to be anything but overwhelmed by all of the objects scattered throughout the room, against the walls, and dangling from above at varying heights.
In contrast, the Tower of Terror ride guides you through an old dusty hotel. The detail is great, but you’re not going to spend much time staring at this stuff. If you’re missing the feel of an old haunted mansion or hotel, head over to Disneyland’s “The Haunted Mansion.”
Portraits adorn the walls and I was amused to catch sight of one which shows The Collector hanging out playing a boardgame with Jeff Goldblum’s “Thor: Ragnarok” character, The Grandmaster, a guy who is really obsessed with games. It was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con the two are brothers, so it makes the photo all the more enjoyable if you know what you’re looking at.
And if you think you’ll see everything the first time around, guess again. Imagineer Joe Rhode told Inside the Magic that some of the Easter eggs refer to things that haven’t even occurred in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.
“There are Easter eggs about stories you know, there are easter eggs about things that will soon happen, and there are easter eggs about future developments that no one knows yet,” said Rhode in May. “There are also clues and things from completely other universes.”
Tricky, tricky, Marvel!
If you get bored looking at all of the objects, the center of the room plays a video on loop featuring the “Guardians of the Galaxy” actors. It’s not a rehashed scene from one of the movies for the ride. “Guardians” director James Gunn actually filmed the scene with the original cast just for the Disneyland attraction so it feels like something extra special.
After leaving the first chamber, you’re sent into the Collector’s office, which is covered wall-to-wall in even more Marvel goodies. As we were too busy eyeing up all of the items in the room, a tail suddenly scurries across the wall above, and you realize it’s Rocket Raccoon. He eventually pops up to talk to the crowd and give elaborate details of his prison breakout plan.
I happened to stand in the worst possible spot where I couldn’t get a good eyeful of Rocket, but I knew he was “there” speaking to the crowd and that was a really nice touch for younger kids who love the raccoon.
My group was then shuffled straight to our elevator pod, passing by even more items in the Collector’s massive treasure trove that I didn’t have enough time to catch sight of, and the real fun began.
Why it was better than “Tower of Terror”
If you’ve ever taken a ride on “Tower of Terror,” “Mission: Breakout!” straps you into the same familiar six rows you’ve sat in before. Disney didn’t reinvent the wheel with its revamped attraction, but it succeeded in creating an immersive experience that elicited an entirely new emotion while riding the drop tower — pure joy.
The quirky prison escape transformed the drop tower experience from one of horror to extreme delight. I didn’t want to leave and from the cheers and laughter within our car, it didn’t sound like anyone else wanted to either.
As soon as the doors closed and Rocket Raccoon throws on Pat Benatar’s 1980’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” that was the moment I knew we were in for a treat. You can’t have a “Guardians” movie without an exceptional tune married to the scene, and “Mission: Breakout!” surprised me by including one I wasn’t even expecting to hear.
From there, we were catapulted into the middle of a scene that may as well have felt like it was in “Guardians 1.5” with Rocket guiding us along the way. For fans of the movie, it’s worth the wait just to see the additional bonus sequences of Star Lord, Drax, Gamora, and Baby Groot that were filmed for the ride as they work to break out of the Collector’s fortress. By the end of the two-minute adventure, I was wiping away tears because of how well done the ride was executed.
But what really sold me on the ride was the response from two young girls with their father ahead of me in line. All the way through the queue, they were nervous, asking their dad if the ride would be scary. As they strapped themselves in behind me, they expressed their final worries and concerns for the drop ride. I prepared my eardrums for some very loud screams. However, they never came. Instead, there was jubilant laughter. They were saying how much fun it was. After the ride was over they were asking to go on it again. They were still talking about the ride when they reached the gift shop on the way out, calling it the best ride ever. Multiple times.
That alone convinced me “Mission: Breakout” has one edge over Tower of Terror: It’s a good ride for all ages, especially for kids who may not understand and actually be a bit scared by the concept of the older ride.
Let’s be honest. Tower of Terror never felt completely on brand for Disney. The company licenses it from CBS to have in the park. It’s filled with creepy imagery of an eyeball and you’re moving around in a lot of pitch black before you are tossed up and down through a hotel. In this video, you can hear a child say they’re spooked and that they want to leave before they even get to the ride portion.
When I think of crying, screaming, and scared children, I don’t think of Disney. “Mission: Breakout!” wasn’t scary. It just made you feel like you were part of an awesome party that you didn’t want to end.
What to know before riding
Since “Mission: Breakout!” opened at the end of May, it’s currently one of the most popular rides in both of Disneyland’s parks along with Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Cars Land, and Indiana Jones Adventure. Each of those can average a steady 75-minute wait by noon.
The longest wait I saw for “Mission: Breakout!” when I headed to Disneyland was two hours. Keep in mind that was on a Tuesday in July. Here are some tips I recommend if you want to get the most out of your experience with the ride I wish I knew ahead of time.
Consider skipping the FastPass if you arrive right when the park opens.
I secured a FastPast early in the morning to guarantee entry, but if I could have replayed the day again, I would have done “Mission: Breakout!” without it and stood in line as soon as I entered Disneyland’s California Adventure at around 9 a.m.
There’s no doubt that FastPass — Disney’s virtual queue — is great. It helped me zip through 11 different attractions in one day at Disneyland. But that’s just it. I sped through the Collector’s fortress and office in less than 10 minutes. While that’s great for someone who’s trying to get the most out of a day in Disneyland, I was being rushed so quickly through the FastPass queue that I barely had any time to marvel at all of the goodies that were added to the attraction. And that feels like half of the fun.
Unlike most rides where you’re counting down the moments until you get to the front of the queue, “Mission: Breakout!” had something to ogle at every turn and Easter eggs waiting to be discovered. I was turning my head in rapid speed to take it all in as I was ushered from one room to the next. I even let people go ahead of me as I tried to snap some pictures of the joint.
I also noticed you get slightly different experiences in line if you stand in the general admission “standby” queue or opt for a FastPass throughout the day. The FastPass people get their own separate entry into the ride — and that’s on just about any ride.
There are six different versions of the ride
You’re probably going to want to ride this more than once.
After getting off the ride, I later learned that my experience was one of six different versions of the ride I could have experienced, adding yet another incentive to go back and try the attraction again. The other ride profiles may play Parliament’s “Give up the Funk,” Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild,” The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Elvis’ “Burning Love,” and The Edgar Winters’ Group’s “Free Ride.”
Consider heading there late at night
This isn’t a foolproof plan, but a lot of parkgoers head to Disneyland and California Adventure’s nighttime shows when it starts getting dark. It might be the perfect time to head over to some of the busier attractions — including “Mission: Breakout!” — for a shorter wait time. I used this trick after seeing Disneyland’s revamped Fantasmic to jump right onto “Pirates of the Caribbean” afterward.
Overall, “Mission: Breakout” is a must for any Marvel or “Guardians” fan. Grab the FastPass if you just want to experience the ride, and its many iterations. If you’re still itching for the original “Tower of Terror” you can head down to Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World, where the original ride still exists.
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