By Fowl Owlerson
Disclaimer: Unless where otherwise noted, the following is rumor and speculation, and should not be regarded as fact unless confirmed by the companies mentioned.
This is a rumor that I’m incredulous about and it’s why I haven’t covered it until now. MiceChat wrote the story after murmurings were heard around the Internet in April about Disney California Adventure’s The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror being overhauled with a Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” theme. Two sources are said to have confirmed Shanghai Disney Resort — which debuts on June 16 — is over budget and has resulted in cutbacks across all of the Disney Parks divisions. The MiceChat piece affirms this information and states that Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek sent a missive this past winter that “$500 million” must be cut from the operating budget of the company’s American parks for the third fiscal quarter (July, August and September) to mitigate the excessive cost of the Shanghai resort. The Star Wars expansions in California and Orlando, as well as Toy Story Land and Avatar Land in Orlando will stretch the budget of the American parks for a great deal of time, which has left Disneyland Resort with a conundrum.
According to MiceChat, Chapek was shocked to learn that after five years of owning Marvel, a proper attraction had yet to be built in Disneyland Resort. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is rumored to close this fall and open in time for the “premiere“ of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 next summer, per MiceChat. The website claims Disney cast members have seen Disney Imagineering conducting tests in the elevator shaft and surveying parts of the Tower of Terror attraction – which portends the closure of a ride in the theme park industry. MiceChat goes on to say that this would allow Chapek to get a Marvel attraction in Disneyland Resort, which will then lead to a “Marvel mega-coaster” where Stage 17, Monsters, Inc., and Stage 12 reside, all of which are within the vicinity of Tower of Terror. Removing “The Twilight Zone” from Disneyland Resort would save Disney the cost of licensing “The Twilight Zone” property for California, as well as be a cost-effective solution for replacing the ride without constructing an entirely new attraction in its place.
There are two concepts out there for what Disney Imagineering is rumored to be doing with Tower of Terror. The first would be modeling the experience to visit the Collector’s museum on “Knowhere” in the first Guardians film with a new queue, preshow and altered ride experience (albeit with the drop mechanism intact). The second is modeling the ride after the “Kyln” prison run by the Nova Corps in the first Guardians with an “escape” sequence that’d presumably happen in the drop element of the attraction.
I have my doubts of this change and here’s why: theming. Disney Imagineering is renowned for its impeccable theming and attention to detail. The first Tower of Terror was opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios — then known as Disney-MGM Studios — in Orlando on July 22, 1994. Every facet of the experience was modeled after a 1930s hotel; something to encapsulate the peak of the glitz and glamor age of Hollywood. According to an insightful article written by Tower Secrets, the architecture style for Orlando’s ride was based on Neo-Mediterranean architecture which was popular in Florida and California around the time period the attraction was set in. According to former Imagineers, the bulk of the ride’s inspiration came from the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa located in Riverside, Cali.
For the California version of the ride — which opened May 5, 2004 — Imagineering changed the architecture of the tower to an American Pueblo Deco style. According to Tower Secrets, the motivation was to have this version be a dedication to Los Angeles instead of Orlando’s architecture style which was intended to be a dedication to Old Hollywood. I’d argue there is a distinct difference as I’ve flown around both, much to Disney’s chagrin. The Collector’s Museum in “Knowhere” doesn’t match the architecture of Tower of Terror. I’m not sure if Imagineering could take a structure that was built with pain-staking precision to resemble a California hotel and make a convincing transition to something from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Cosmos the Guardians films are set in.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is one of my favorite Marvel films, but this doesn’t feel like the best way to go about bringing the characters to life in the parks. My love for The Twilight Zone makes me feel sad that the West Coast may be losing an iconic ride for a retrofitting of a property that wasn’t meant for the space; the Walt Disney World version is said to not be in consideration for this rumored overhaul. Perhaps Disney Imagineering will prove me wrong, although I remain skeptical of the rumor’s veracity until the company offers an official word on it.
• Fowl Owlerson has been attending theme parks since he was a little owlet. When he’s not filtering through the latest murmurings around the industry, he can be found writing, reading, and snacking on the occasional rodent. Follow him on Twitter @fowlowlerson for the latest rumors, and drop an anonymous letter to him at [email protected] or via Direct Message on Twitter.
Photo by Banks Lee.