San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing this weekend, and Disney fans finally heard some news we were all a bit in denial about: the Tower of Terror is closing. The classic Hollywood Land attraction will become a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction called “Breakout”. This new ride will still be randomized drop-ride, but will have theming and music from the Marvel franchise.
Disney also stated that this attraction will “anchor a broader universe of super heroes that will grow over time in Disney California Adventure”. Translation: Hollywood Land is probably on its way to a re-theming (or perhaps splitting) into a new land, Marvel Land.
My initial reaction? Rage. I was pissed.
Pissed that Disneyland would throw away one of California Adventure’s original attractions. Pissed that the resort seems to be completed disregarding California Adventure’s theme…a celebration of California. And most of all, pissed that the cross-promotion is so blatant that you actually pay attention to it. That is a far cry from the expected genius subtlety of Disney marketing in the parks.
But once the initial anger subsides, it’s not that simple.
Hollywood Land is a problem in California Adventure. Aside from the Tower of Terror, Frozen, and parades, the land has very low traffic flow. The restaurants in this land are some of the worst in the park. Not to mention the entire rear section (where Monsters Inc. and the Backlot stage sit), has almost constant turnover of most attractions. The land is front and center in the park, but it’s often just a pass-through land for many visitors.
Disney has to fix it. They can’t afford to have any dead space in a park as small as California Adventure, and with a brand new, ridiculously lucrative universe in the canon, it makes no sense not to incorporate it somewhere. I understand why Marvel Land is on its way (I know Disney has not confirmed this, but it seems guaranteed now). I just wish that Disney could figure out a way to incorporate this new universe while still respecting existing attractions and iconic lands.
So what do I think about this announcement?
I don’t know.
I guess I am concerned. I worry, because Disneyland has always been a classic park. That’s what distinguishes it from parks like Universal. Of course, Disney is always updating and adding new things, but the park maintains a sense of familiarity and nostalgia. You can ride a brand new, state-of-the-art roller coaster, and then take a spin on a nearby dark ride you’ve been visiting since you were a kid. But I also know that Disneyland is at its best when it tries new things. Fans were furious about the park adding roller coasters in the 70s, because they were never part of Walt’s original design. And now, rides like Space Mountain are some of the most popular and world-famous attractions at the resort. Those people had legitimate concerns. They loved the peacefulness of Disneyland, the quaintness of it…and that changed. The park became a louder, busier place. Sure, it wasn’t how it always had been, but fans realized that it still worked. It was still Disneyland. Which leads me to my final thought:
You can mourn the old and still give the new a chance.
I wrote a post a while back about how important it is for Disney to preserve its magic, and I still believe that they can, and they will. The reality is, they do listen. They care a lot more about guest satisfaction than any other theme park I’ve ever been to. If a show doesn’t work, it goes away. If a ride is poorly received, it’s usually tweaked. Of course, sometimes they close or change things guests like, but they do it to give more people more of what they want. After all, there’s a reason the Avengers movies smash box office records each time. People love the Marvel universe.
As much as I’d like to declare this decision a complete failure on Disney’s part, it‘s too premature to make that judgment. Marvel Land might be really cool. Maybe it’s the “Adventure” part of California Adventure. Or it might be awful, and feel like a giant in-park commercial. The Tower of Terror is an absolute treasure in California Adventure, and I’ll never be happy about it leaving. I still think Disney is throwing away a brilliantly original ride, and I hate that they’re messing with a building visible from almost every land in the park.
But when the time comes, I am going to do the best I can to go into this new Marvel realm with an open mind. So many people love these parks because Disney is incredible at what they do. And if this new land is a disaster? Well…let’s cross that bridge when we get there.
Until then, I’ve got an appointment on the 13th floor of an old hotel.