It’s been a big week for Disney parks. With Memorial Day weekend came summer crowds hankering for something new and Disney delivered with an innovative fireworks show and the opening of “Pandora — The World of Avatar” at Walt Disney World in Florida, while unveiling “Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!” which replaces “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” at Disneyland in California.
Disney’s first Marvel-themed attraction in the U.S. was met with a fair amount of internet vitriol, as its unmissable jewel-toned facade contrasted with Disney California Adventure’s old Hollywood surroundings.
Although Walt Disney himself famously said the park “will never be completed,” and that it would “continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world,” many people love the Disney they remember from their childhood. And that makes them wary of change. But change happens to be my specialty.
I evaluate and experience the attractions, shows, resorts and restaurants at Disney, both the longstanding favorites and the new. And after a week of hopping between park openings on both coasts, it’s undeniable: Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! is a knockout.
Each time I boarded the raucous drop ride I couldn’t believe how much was happening, and how immersed I was in a story that grew from comic book characters into a universe of its very own. There's an endless element of surprise as the ride takes you up and down, until you fly out of your seat. This ride offers a thrill I’ve never before experienced on a Disneyland attraction, past or present.
Mission: BREAKOUT! combines much of what makes classic Disneyland rides so great: the pitch-black thrills of Space Mountain, beloved film characters like in Indiana Jones Adventure and the surprises of Star Tours, all wrapped up into a robust story that begins the moment you step inside an eye-popping building.
In this case it’s the Fortress, home to Taneleer Tivan — as played by Benicio del Toro in the first “Guardians” film — and his collection of intergalactic goons that now include the Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket Racoon soon escapes, calling on the attraction’s passengers (who are taking a “VIP tour” of the Fortress) to help jailbreak his friends as chaos and comedy ensue.
To create the ride, Imagineers — Disney’s creative engineers — stripped the ride’s capabilities down to the core, and built a story rooted in both adventure and comedy with six “ride profiles” for guests to experience, each synced to a different one of Star Lord’s throwback tunes.
“Some of them are more about just pure vertical speed, some of them are more about catching air and some of them are more about sneaky stops where you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Joe Rohde, creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering. “We’re really trying to create the sense of indecipherably chaotically rich activity.”
With Mission: BREAKOUT!’s jumbled motions and varied rides, I’m confident I’ll never figure out what’s next, making it the kind of insatiable experience one anxiously awaits repeating each time they visit a park.
The details are astonishing, too, with Taneleer Tivan’s “collection” offering hidden nods to Marvel storylines and Disney attractions through its varied queue rooms. Even the in-ride appearances by the movie’s cast, which were shot during the film’s production in Atlanta, were shot on “jillions of cameras” to provide depth.
“The perspective of the scene changes as the vehicle goes up and down,” Rohde said. “You’re looking through that screen to an actual digital world that has dimension in which those characters are standing. As you go up and down, the floor, the walls, all the objects move according to your point of view.”
The high-tech effect is nuanced, but makes the ride stand out among some of its older counterparts.
“There is very little difference between brain activity in meeting someone’s expectation and disappointing them,” said Rhode. “But, if you exceed their expectations, you get this huge surge of reward and people super respond — they hyper-respond. So, this is not just an issue of indulgent designers wanting to do something that's over the top. There is an art and a science to making places that people really, really, really want to come back to.”