After they are returned safely to Disneyland, visitors can meet Tony Stark's armor-clad alter ego, test out Iron Man's tricked-out suit in an interactive demo, and engage in other superhero antics.(Photo: Graham Uden, Disney)
Mickey Mouse welcomed Captain America, Thor, and the rest of the Avengers gang into the fold when Disney acquired Marvel in 2009. But the superheroes have not made much of a mark in Mickey's theme parks — until now. Earlier this year, the E-Ticket Iron Man Experience ride opened at Hong Kong Disneyland. And this spring, guests at Disney California Adventure will be able to help rescue the Guardians of the Galaxy in a repurposed attraction.
Disney is trading out The Twilight Zone theme on the California park's popular Tower of Terror ride and replacing it with one based on the intergalactic Guardians galoots. The finale will still feature stomach-churning drops, but riders will be braving extreme G-forces to free the quirky, space-traveling crew from the clutches of the evil Collector. The attraction will include randomized drop sequences (choreographed to the retro rock tunes favored by Peter Quill, otherwise known as Star-Lord) and randomized show scenes, which should keep park visitors coming back for multiple missions.
Not everyone has been in the zone about losing the Tower of Terror story, with some diehard fans voicing skepticism and outright disapproval. Bob Chapek, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, acknowledges the dilemma the company faces when it considers making changes that would help keep the parks fresh but might offend loyal traditionalists.
Unlike Florida's massive Disney World, the more compact Disneyland Resort in California does not have much room for expansion, he notes. Anything new often comes at the expense of removing or changing something old. (Although the Star Wars land coming to Disneyland Park in 2019 will be located mostly in former backstage areas and won't be displacing many existing attractions.)
"Sometimes that means we need to take something great and, quite frankly, make it greater,” Chapek says. To those concerned about how the Terror of Terror might turn out after the Imagineers retool the classic ride, he reassures that Disney is "all about exceeding guest expectations. That is our mantra."
The parks chairman says that there are ambitious plans for Marvel around the globe. It appears that Disney California Adventure, the park adjacent to the original Disneyland, will serve as the U.S. headquarters for the comic book and movie heroes. Because Universal had licensed Spider-Man and other characters for Islands of Adventure in Orlando before Disney bought the brand, The Mouse does not have rights to Marvel east of the Mississippi and cannot use the franchise at Florida's Walt Disney World.
In addition to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (for you grammarians out there, Disney's official name for the ride includes the capital letters and the exclamation mark, so take it up with Mickey), DCA will host a Guardians-themed dance party as well as meet and greets with the tree-like Groot and other Marvel celebs. For a limited run during what the park is calling "Summer of Heroes," visitors will also be able to participate in an Avengers Training Initiative, watch Black Widow arrive in style, and purchase Marvel-ous food and doodads.
That's only a prelude to what may be in store, however. "We believe that [the Guardians ride] gives us an anchor for a much larger superhero presence inside Disney California Adventure," says Chapek. While he wouldn't say whether a new Marvel zone might take over a section of the existing Hollywood Land or replace it altogether, it's clear that more tights-wearing, muscle-bound do-gooders are on their way to Disneyland's sister park.
Do-gooder Tony Stark brought his Stark Expo and Iron Man Experience to Hong Kong Disneyland. The Tomorrowland attraction includes exhibits and interactive displays of Stark Industries technology and innovations. Chapek says that the pre-boarding queue through the expo is so immersive, it qualifies as an attraction in its own right. "It sets a new high-water mark in terms of entertaining our guests as they're waiting to get on the actual attraction."
The actual attraction is a motion simulator ride that uses cabins and media screens similar to the Star Wars-themed Star Tours at Disneyland, Disney World, and other parks. Passengers take an exhilarating, if relatively uneventful 3-D flight above downtown Hong Kong aboard the Expo Edition Iron Wing Mark VIII until — in typical theme park fashion — things go horribly wrong. Archenemy Hydra wreaks havoc, and Iron Man swoops in to (spoiler alert) save the day.
After they are returned safely to Disneyland, visitors can meet Tony Stark's armor-clad alter ego, test out Iron Man's tricked-out suit in an interactive demo, and engage in other superhero antics.
As Hong Kong Disneyland expands, Chapek says that Marvel will figure prominently into the plans. And, he says, the Iron Man Experience, which has been well received, could find its way to other parks (such as Disney California Adventure, perhaps?).