Theme Park Insider

Why Guardians of the Galaxy > Twilight Zone for Disney's Tower of Terror

May 13, 2016, 10:48 AM · How in the world could Disney change the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to a Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror?

That's the question that many Disney fans are likely asking, as rumors intensify that Disney will in fact switch the theme of its Tower of Terror ride at Disney California Adventure (and perhaps even at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida) as early as late this year.

Let's start breaking down this question by noting that Disney already has installed a Tower of Terror ride without the Twilight Zone theme. At Tokyo DisneySea, the Tower of Terror is the former property of a character named Harrison Hightower, a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers who traveled the world collecting antiquities that he brought to keep in his tower hotel.

Ultimately, one of those treasures — the Shiriki Utundu idol — wasn't as inanimate as it seemed. After dispatching Hightower and cursing his hotel, the Shiriki Utundu has been sending visitors on a wild ride on the hotel's elevators — as revenge upon those who would disturb sacred relics.

Even if you've not read any of the rumors about the new Tower of Terror overlay, if you're familiar with Guardians of the Galaxy, perhaps that description of Harrison Hightower might sound familiar.

Here's the way that a Guardians overlay might not just work on Tower of Terror, but might even provide a better narrative device for the ride. Harrison Hightower's equivalent in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is Taneleer Tivan — aka the Collector. Featured briefly in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the Collector searches the galaxy gathering curiosities, including life forms, for his museum.

Disney could make a Guardians overlay work simply by starting with the Harrison Hightower framework for Tower of Terror and swapping the Collector in Hightower's place. Disney doesn't even need to change the exterior setting of the ride. It could remain the Hollywood Tower Hotel, while the story explains that Taneleer Tivan is using the property as cover for a secret new collection of stuff from our corner of the galaxy.

Why are we here? The Collector is trying to collect us, and it's up to the Guardians of the Galaxy to save us. We board the elevator, and the Collector tries to "file" us upstairs. But the Guardians attack, and we bounce up and down in middle of the battle before the Guardians prevail and we are freed.

Frankly, to me, that scenario provides a stronger narrative explaining what happens on the ride that the current Twilight Zone story does.

Here's some tough love for Tower of Terror fans. While I love the old shows, and I love the ride, Tower of Terror makes for a pretty weak episode of "The Twilight Zone." The best episodes illustrated ironic punishment: townspeople fearing aliens discovers that they are their own worst enemy, a woman whom other characters consider a hideous outcast is beautiful to us, a loner who just wants to get away from everyone to read books becomes the last person on Earth... and breaks his glasses.

The show wasn't really about the supernatural. It just used supernatural tropes to hold up a mirror to human attitudes and behavior.

On Disney's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, we visit an old Hollywood Hotel that's been hit by a freak lightning storm. Visitors disappeared in the strike, and now we're entering the decrepit remains of the hotel, only to fall under the influence of the weird forces that remain.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure

There's no irony. No statement about human behavior. Just a wild elevator ride in a fried building. You want irony? With its story of a sacred idol's revenge on a treasure hunter, Tokyo's Twilight Zone-free Tower of Terror does a better job of reflecting the spirit of an old episode of "The Twilight Zone" than Disney's Twilight Zone-themed Towers of Terror.

In my version of a perfect world, Disney would just bring the Harrison Hightower theme to the Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure, including the spectacular preshow, which includes the best visual trick I've ever seen in person in a theme park. (Though videos of the Captain Jack transformation on the new Shanghai version of Pirates of the Caribbean suggest that might top it.) Then Disney would build a Mystic Manor on the parking lot behind the Tower, and give us two pillars for an immersive Society of Explorers and Adventurers land.

But as much as I love SEA, it's nothing when compared with the popular support for Marvel. The use of the Collector seems to create an opportunity for a clever transition from DCA's Hollywood Land into a new immersive Marvel land that could be built behind the Tower. And even if a Marvel land is years away from happening, this proposed overlay creates an opportunity to refresh the Tower of Terror with a fun new narrative that works within both the existing ride and the Guardians franchise.

Disney hasn't confirmed its Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror plans. But after thinking this through the context of what Disney did with the Tower in Tokyo, count me as cautiously optimistic.

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Replies (70)

May 13, 2016 at 10:58 AM · Whatever "story" works so Disney doesn't have to build a Marvel attraction in the states from scratch, I guess.
May 13, 2016 at 10:59 AM · Nicely said!
May 13, 2016 at 11:03 AM · Keep in mind, a key reason for the original version in Tokyo is because "Twilight Zone" was never a big deal in Japan, so they wouldn't have the same connection to it.

I like GOTG and the idea you suggest has merit but I don't know, still prefer the original classic.

May 13, 2016 at 11:17 AM · Kids.

My girls are almost y'all enough for ToT but they would freak the heck out on it. While that's fantastic fun day for me, I kinda want them to actually have good memories (and dreams) at theme parks. So if it's a licensed franchise that trey enjoy then why not.

May 13, 2016 at 11:22 AM · We all know I abandoned Disney years ago for the park with the boy wizard (long before he arrived), but this ride is one of my all time favorites. Please don't screw around with it...
May 13, 2016 at 11:38 AM · Personally, I prefer the original "Twilight Zone" theme and I hope they don't change ToT, but I'm not getting upset about any alleged changes just yet. As a former cast member, I have a lot of friends who still work for the Mouse and I hear rumors all the time. (The one about a new, villains-themed park has been around since 2005.) Until and unless the official announcement comes from Disney, it's all just rumors.
May 13, 2016 at 11:48 AM · Millennials have never heard of Twilight Zone, so makes sense. Everything is changing. I'm getting old
May 13, 2016 at 11:54 AM · The idea of them replacing The Twilight Zone with something that will inevitably be short-lived is completely pointless and a waste of money. Way to lose an iconic attraction that Disney California Adventure is known for; heck, even Disneyland resort is known for the abandoned hotel looming in the distance. Leave the tower alone!
May 13, 2016 at 11:58 AM · When is this going to close , I will be over in October this year I'm a bit Pissed off that they are closing so much at one time at this park , is there seriously any point wasting a days ticket going to Hollywood Studios ......
May 13, 2016 at 12:03 PM · Dropping the Twilight Zone theme isn’t as bothersome to me as I know it will be to some. This is because I know how amazing the story is at the TDS version featuring Harrison Hightower. I agree with Robert’s take on the similarities of Hightower and the collector. I like the idea of his using the HTH as his front for his collecting from Earth. The problem is most of the explanation for who Hightower was comes from murals painted on the walls of the lobby. You’d think if the Collector is hiding out in the hotel, there wouldn’t be anything so obvious in the lobby setting up the story. How will the story be developed? Also, what would be our reason to go into such a derelict building in the first place? Come to think of it…why do we go into the two US versions in the first place now? There is a real reason to visit in Tokyo. The Historical society is hosting an open house to see the dilapidated hotel. Perhaps that’s what it will be. Maybe the collector has dispatched some of his minions to lure people into the HTH to see this historical landmark “Today only!” It still leaves some gaps in how the story of who he is left untold, at least in the lobby. Good or bad, real or hoax, it’s going to be fun to see how this unfolds.
May 13, 2016 at 12:06 PM · I agree with your "perfect world".
Bring Harrison Hightower and SEA here, and YES Mystic Manor too.
Every IP has to start somewhere, and look at POTC.
May 13, 2016 at 12:21 PM · We had a poll about this on Disboards. 90% of respondents hated this idea. Frozen was bad enough, we don't need this mediocre movie shoved down our throats and ruining a perfectly themed ride!
By the way, Robert, I love the theming as is. I couldn't give a flying crap about Harrison Hightower. And since when do rides need irony and statments about human behavior?
May 13, 2016 at 12:36 PM · I agree that using GOTG is a bad idea. Is there a way to switch out the story under the Twilight Zone theme? I think the Hollywood Hotel storyline is getting stale.
May 13, 2016 at 12:39 PM ·
I don't understand why people care so much about things like this...

The parks grow, change and evolve so why not accept it and look forward to the changes.

I always wonder if some people just think its cool to be a contrarian but secretly don't mind. I say this for all of the people that when a Disney change is announced claim that they are not going to the park any more and won't renew their AP's. None of the changes destroy the parks and people seem to just take it in stride..

May 13, 2016 at 1:08 PM · Is the collector also a member of SEA?
May 13, 2016 at 1:22 PM · Terrible idea!

Leave the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror alone. Build a new attraction for Guardians of the Galaxy. Disney has the money. Iger and Chapek are just being cheapskates. Fire Iger. Fire Chapek. They're ruining Disney.

May 13, 2016 at 1:37 PM · If they bring this to DHS, they need to retheme Aerosmith, not Tower of Terror. Perfect fit, with the on-board music.
May 13, 2016 at 2:07 PM · Darn it, Robert, you won me over.
May 13, 2016 at 2:30 PM · As far as the IP goes, Twilight Zone just isn't worth the licensing fees anymore. The current generation likely has limited familiarity with the IP and nobody rides the attraction because of the tie-in. Therefore, I support changing the ride to a different IP or, as Robert proposed, removing the IP entirely and going with the Hightower theme. The reality is, however, that Disney wants Marvel and that Marvel would draw way more visitors than Hightower or Mystic Manor, so like it or not Marvel it is.

My main concern with the Guardians of the Galaxy idea is that it feels cheap, contrived, and solely to cash in on a currently popular IP that has unknown staying power. The Collector is a character who was in 2 (or maybe 3) scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy and will not be involved in the sequel. If you set the ride in his mansion (the current plan from what I've heard), it makes no sense because his mansion is on Knowhere, not Earth (which is where the rest of Marvel Land will be). If you want to keep the hotel and make it the Collector's Earth base, that also causes problems because you've then got to explain why he has an Earth base and explain why we are going to visit him. You've then got to make the ride convincing, and it's pretty difficult to imagine a way to fit a high speed elevator into the Guardians of the Galaxy universe. The best thing I can think of would be doing something related to the Kyln Escape sequence, but that's got problems as well.

My hope is that Disney will announce this and receive enough negative reactions that they decide to go back to the drawing board and come up with something better. Without spending hours writing a Theme Park Apprentice type proposal, here's just one idea: Retheme the ride to Stark Tower Hollywood. Guests have been invited by Tony Stark to test his latest invention: A teleportation device based on the energy of the Space Stone that can be used to evacuate an area rapidly in the event of a catastrophe. In the preshow, Stark appears via video conference from the original Stark Tower in New York and briefs testers on his device, telling them that he will be transporting them across the country and warning that they may experience some strange gravitational shifts during the journey. Once guests board the test vehicle, the ride backs into the elevator shaft and then swirling light occurs during the initial rapid ascent, with the first show scene opening to show an animatronic Stark in his laboratory. However, Thanos shows up and takes the Space Stone, then uses the power of the Infinity Gauntlet to send testers to several different locations (possibly Wakanda, Asgard, and deep space to maximize character cameos). The climax of the ride occurs when riders view the Disneyland Resort from the top of the tower and a scrim over the opening makes it appear as if the Avengers are fighting Thanos above the park. They succeed in knocking the Space Stone from Thanos's gauntlet, which sends riders plunging all the way down the tower and returning to their point of origin at Stark Tower Hollywood.

Whatever Disney ends up doing, I'll wait until I ride the final attraction before passing judgment on it. However, I just have a hard time thinking a Guardians of the Galaxy redo can be equivalent or better than what we have now, both in terms of quality and popularity. The current proposal sounds a little too much like, say, retheming Splash Mountain to the Adventures of Mr. Big...it has an IP tie-in and could possibly work, but there are just so many better options.

May 13, 2016 at 2:44 PM · Twlight zone is a classic of television, and American culture.

That said, does the average member of the disney-brand target market know what it is? No, they weren't born then, not even for the remake. Plus, the last remake, and what seems to be the last attempt to remake it in 2013 aren't even linked to disney owned media outlets.

It is as the Sesame gang put it, that something that doesn't belong.

In that light, it makes perfect sense.

May 13, 2016 at 2:54 PM · I love the Tower of Terror and the Twilight Zone so selfishly I wish Disney would leave that attraction alone, but I also know Disney has to think of the future generations that will be spending their money on stuff that I will not relate to.
So I get it if it gets re-themed. Someday the millennials will whine about some ride or show closing and being replaced by something that hasn't been created yet. It's the circle of life.
May 13, 2016 at 3:07 PM · Journey into Your Imagination fiasco all over again.
May 13, 2016 at 4:02 PM · After doing the original at DHS, DCA's version is puny and not worth the Twilight Zone IP. Even worse, do any remember the hideous television movie version of the ride that didn't even bother acknowledging the Twilight Zone. It's simply called Tower of Terror.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Terror_(film)

"Unlike the theme park ride, the film has no connection to any incarnation of The Twilight Zone."

I don't mind a re-theme. Maybe re-theme Pirates at the Magic Kingdom to improve it since it is a big disappointment. Re-theme Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom to Indiana Jones Adventure.

May 13, 2016 at 3:37 PM · "The climax of the ride occurs when riders view the Disneyland Resort from the top of the tower and a scrim over the opening makes it appear as if the Avengers are fighting Thanos above the park."

AJ: Not a bad idea, but how about being more ambitious. Build out the show building structure that pulls the elevator car out at the highest level as if the superheroes will save the tourists from the evil enemies. Saved from doom, the car descends down the shaft at increasing speeds and saved again by Thor. Gladly, you live to tell your tale.

May 13, 2016 at 3:51 PM · The theme of the ToT is beautiful, classic, and so perfect with the old California theme of that section of the park. The old jazz music sounds otherworldly and creepy. My kids know what the Twilight Zone is--they've watched and re-watched episodes on Netflix. Neither has expressed any interest in watching Guardians of the Galaxy, or wanted the toys. They do like Tower merchandise at the park store, however. I say keep the classics.
May 13, 2016 at 3:59 PM · Gotta give Robert a shout out for his story analysis. I'm a "Twilight Zone" tv show fan and have never felt like the attraction told a satisfactory story at all. I mean, we get told the whole story in the library in a few seconds, and we never learn anything more. People were zapped away by lightning. Ok. We never find the lost people. We don't bring them back. We are none the wiser for our adventure, and we spend an awful lot of time in an ugly boiler room rather than, say, a fascinating hotel area with things to look at.

The thrill of the ride is great and I love going on it, but I do think there's opportunity for a more well rounded experience. I kinda love AJ's idea of being zapped to different Marvel realms! With a few projection effects, those destinations could even change randomly (a-la the new Star Tours!)

May 13, 2016 at 4:21 PM · I can't quite comment on how it would work in DCA since I'm a Floridian. That being said it's hard for me to imagine a reboot at DHS because the whole theme of that area is old Hollywood. I understand the collector angle and how the tower is used as a front, but placing a Marvel ride on Sunset sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

This is probably going too far but if they are bent on adding GOTG/Marvel to DHS I'd rather see them re-do Rockin' Roller Coaster. That has more potential and frankly more room to flesh out a narrative. It's not like the majority of kids recognize the band outside of Steven Tyler anyways, but I'm probably jumping off the deep end at this point.

May 13, 2016 at 4:47 PM · If Disney wants a GOTG ride so bad and they don't want to build one from scratch, may I suggest swapping out Rock n Roller Coaster instead? Aerosmith is a way more tired IP than the Twilight Zone. To make it work, theme it to a space chase against Yondu while playing music from Quill's mixtape. It'd be a better move than losing Tower of Terror.
May 13, 2016 at 4:58 PM · The fans sure do love a good "story," no matter how hackneyed it is.

You want a story? Read Shakespeare. Theme parks are about visceral experiences and atmosphere; The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has both in spades.

May 13, 2016 at 5:44 PM · There are so many rides with old themes, stuff that doesn't work or fit in the parks... Yet, here we are, Disney fixing something that isn't broken..
May 13, 2016 at 6:08 PM · If they do this, I will seriously consider never going to Disneyland or Disney World ever again. ToT at both parks is one of my favorite rides and I very much dislike both Marvel and its movies. A rebuild like that would be a shallow, unnecessary means of remaining "relevant." I'm seriously getting tired of Marvel and the Star Wars taking over the parks.
May 13, 2016 at 7:01 PM · I would really hate to see a re-theme of ToT. I have always felt this was a well done attraction. It seems like only yesterday it was built, I must be getting old. It's hard to believe that was 22 years ago. Why would they bother to build a bar in the attraction if they are planning to change it to GotG?
May 13, 2016 at 7:25 PM · I'm still holding out hope for the announcement that the attraction will be remade as the Superstar Limo Tower of Popularity, where you plummet and rise based on your popularity as your films tank or become hits, as well as public reaction to political statements you make as a celebrity.

But in all seriousness, as much as I love the Twilight Zone theme, I'm not against shifting to Disney-owned IP. I'm not personally a big Marvel fan (and Guardians of the Galaxy was very "meh" to me), but I also realize that I'm in the minority. I just hope that if Disney does this, they do it well and throw in some new impressive tricks. If it's just switching out some props and making a new intro video in the library, that would be a waste of closure time and a waste of money that would be better spent elsewhere.

Like maybe a Guardians of the Galaxy PeopleMover.

May 13, 2016 at 7:37 PM · Why fix what is not broken? Well I guess I can answer my own question. Because Disney was too cheap/greedy to build a 3rd gate for Star Wars/Marvel and now, having forced SW into Disneyland, they are trying to force Marvel into CA Adventure. Whatever I guess it's the new Disney way. Build the best and most original stuff in China and squeeze themes and cheap overlays (frozen/test trak) into the US parks where your most loyal fans are.

At any rate I hope the original in Florida remains untouched. Disney should preserve it's timeless attractions.

May 13, 2016 at 7:48 PM · I think it's being underestimated how many kids and millenials are familiar with the Twilight Zone IP. With Netflix (and illegal downloads), I think quite a few have watched it, and became interested in Twilight Zone due to the ride. At least my kids have.

I don't know if GotG has much longevity. I found it quite "meh" as well. Disney should just build a third gate with a large Marvel land or even lands. If they really want to dump the Twilight Zone IP, then bring on Hightower and retheme the entire area to a spooky, old Hollywood with a Mystic Manor style ride in the mostly empty backlot section.

May 13, 2016 at 7:59 PM · "Because Disney was too cheap/greedy to build a 3rd gate for Star Wars/Marvel and now, having forced SW into Disneyland, they are trying to force Marvel into CA Adventure."

Disney may be cheap, but having a 3rd gate is no solution. Disney World had 4 parks and they never thought to stock their parks with enough rides. It actually worked for at least 3 decades. Disneyland Resort with 2 parks have plenty of underutilized acreage that adding capacity might be better. Do you really want to buy a 3 park pass? You can save money and hassle by just visiting the well-rounded 2 parks. There's more rides at DL Resort than WDW.

Anyways, the bad rides should be updated and the good rides should be improved. It seems like Florida doesn't get the latest updates unlike Disneyland so that's the way things are.

May 13, 2016 at 8:11 PM · Robert, stop trying to defend the indefensible....I mean just look at the overwhelming disapproval here on your blog (other than the contributors of course) and the general public. Build Marvel from scratch and don't mess with the classics, unless you want to improve them!
May 13, 2016 at 8:18 PM · Anon, just trying to keep it realistic. If Disney was willing to invest $100 million or so and completely redesign the attraction, something like what you suggested would definitely be worth considering.

For those concerned about the DHS version of the ride, know that the Guardians retheme is currently only being considered for DCA from everything I've heard. Besides, Universal's Marvel contract gives Universal Orlando the exclusive right to all Marvel IP within a certain radius (I believe 60 miles), so until Disney negotiates a different agreement there will never be a Marvel attraction at Walt Disney World. It is possible they may decide to drop Twilight Zone in Florida at some point, but given that they are adding a bar to the attraction I doubt it will change anytime soon.

Regarding a 3rd park in California, this is something Disney plans to do but the resort infrastructure just isn't there to support it yet. At the moment, a third park is probably 20+ years away, so it makes a lot more sense to put what's currently popular into the existing parks and put what's popular in 20 years into the 3rd park. You can't sit on an IP for decades and expect it to still be popular.

May 13, 2016 at 8:22 PM · Agree with Tony, I'm a millenial and myself and every other millenial I know have watched The Twilight Zone. It's on cable, Netflix and Hulu. It's one of my favorite shows! Beyond that, millenials seem to have a great love of Old Hollywood and Mid-Century culture (think of all the young people who dress up for Dapper Days). A new attraction is always fun, but I would miss the TofT.
May 13, 2016 at 11:38 PM · @ Anon

I wouldn't buy a 3 park pass. Even when visiting WDW I've never visited more than 2 parks in a single vacation time. Last time did Epcot, Animal kingodom and Park hopped Islands of Adventure/USF. So I would pick the 1 or 2 parks that I want to see most and go with that. And yes I would pick 3 moderately filled parks than 2 parks that are crowded every day of the year.

@AJ

"You can't sit on an IP for decades and expect it to still be popular"

Disney sat on Star Wars for 40 years before building its own land. Jules Vernes stories are more than 100 years old and are the centerpiece in DisneySea. So I think if an IP is truly worth building in a theme park then maybe the presentation is more important then the popularity of the IP.

May 13, 2016 at 8:43 PM · The Guardians idea -- if true -- absolutely stinks, period. Leave the iconic TZ Tower alone and develop new attractions.
May 13, 2016 at 8:45 PM · My long-time patronage of DLR will come to a permanent end if the Tower is ruined with a cheap and pointless re-theming to some passably entertaining Marvel flick no one will give a damn about ten years from now.
May 13, 2016 at 11:02 PM · On the future 3rd park, I wonder why Disney passed up the chance to buy GardenWalk when it was auctioned due to bankruptcy. Also, why didn't it buy the street facing parcels of the employee parking lot on Katella Blvd, the former strawberry fields. A new hotel will somehow become the closest hotel to the future 3rd Disneyland Resort theme park. Many hotels changed ownership on Harbor Blvd yet Disney didn't buy much except for the one hotel that will be ripped out for the new bridge to the new parking structure. Yeah, Disney is slow walking this. Maybe a decade later after Its latest foreign investments we will know if Disney cares about its US parks.
May 13, 2016 at 10:02 PM · 1. The reason for the GotG in California is that the area where ToT is will be transformed into Marvel Land. As many people who shake their fist at California Adventure's ToT getting a GotG overlay, there will be those who shake their fist that, if untouched, the ToT won't fit the theme of the new Marvel Land. So, we have a battle of theming purists v. nostalgia purists. Put them all in a room and let them fight it out. Hopefully, no one comes out alive. :p

2. This is a rumor. Still. Floated by one guy on one blog over a month ago and not confirmed anywhere else. It keeps getting repeated in the Disney blogosphere which makes it seem more likely than it is.

3. The rumor says "and possibly coming to Hollywood Studios' ToT." HAH! Just two weeks after that rumor, Disney announced they're building a Twilight Zone theme lounge that will get attached to ToT in Florida. Which means, that at the time our rumormonger was 'hearing' that it might come to Florida, they had to have been discussing this lounge at the supposedly same time. Which means that there couldn't possibly have been real discussion about bringing this overlay to Florida, where Disney can't have a Marvel land... yet.

May 13, 2016 at 11:07 PM · Daniel,

Disney didn't sit on Star Wars for 40 years as they didn't have the rights to Star Wars for 40 years. The first Star Wars movie was released in 1977, and the original Star Tours opened just ten years later as Disney's first attraction not based on Disney IP. Various other Star Wars concepts have made their way into the parks, and once they purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 and got unrestricted rights to the franchise they began development on Star Wars Land immediately. Something else to consider with Star Wars is that it has been an active franchise since 1977, with new material constantly being produced. While it hasn't always enjoyed extreme popularity, it has never died out and has become a timeless franchise that spanned generations. How long has Marvel been nearly as popular as it is today? While the comics have been around for a long time, it really wasn't until the late 90s/early 2000s that it started to take off. Will it be able to sustain its popularity? Nobody knows for sure, but the superhero genre is so saturated right now I have a feeling it is a bubble waiting to burst. Now, it is a decent investment. 10 years from now...maybe not.

Something else about IP is that it is smart to use it to enhance an attraction, but it is an enormous risk to make an attraction reliant on it. If you think about all of the attractions that involve IP, the ones that could be genericized and still provide an outstanding experience are the ones that everyone loves. The ones that would likely become dull and boring without IP are the ones that generate mixed opinions. This is a problem that some Disney and many Universal attractions developed post-2000 have...they rely excessively on the IP and can't connect well outside a specific demographic. I can't say for sure, but I have a feeling there will be attractions that may be popular now but are considered a bad investment 5-10 years in the future.

May 13, 2016 at 11:44 PM · AJ

Star Wars was the original cinematic Blockbuster and the first or second most profitable film of all time considering inflation. It has always been pooular. You are assuming that they couldn't build a land because they didn't own Lucasfilm. If they created Star Tours with Lucas' blessing then you can infer that they could've built a land with his blessing. So yes they sat on it for decades.

We know from Cars that the strength of the IP is not as important as the quality and immersiveness of the attraction. Again, I would challenge you to how many Japanese people have read or even heard of Jules Verne, yet Journey to the Center of the Earth still brings in 2 hour wait times regularly. How many Americans have seen or even heard of Third Man on the Mountain? Yet Matterhorn Bobsleds always has a line nearly 60 years after it was built.

Even hugely successful films like Little Mermaid are not made into attractions for decades. I could go on. Disney didn't want to put up the funds for the third park because their priority is foreign investment, not because they have weak or short lived IP, and we all know that they're only building Star Wars and marvel lands because Universal built Harry Potter.

May 14, 2016 at 12:08 AM · Throwing a new skin on a ride is like a Hollywood reboot. Usually somewhat entertaining, and often forgettable. I grew up a huge fan of comics so I may be somewhat biased, but Marvel deserves its own land in California, Id happily visit its own park. They should have done it instead of Star Wars to make people have more of a reason to visit both coasts. Marvel is killing it at the box office and the characters aren't getting younger, it should be happening.
May 14, 2016 at 12:29 AM · Daniel,

There is no evidence that they could have built a Star Wars Land in the 1980s, nor is there any evidence that they wanted to. Keep in mind that entire lands themed to a single IP are a really new idea that didn't really begin until the late 90s and weren't shown to be effective until Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened. Building an entire land is an enormous financial risk, and doing one based on an unproven IP can be a disaster. My guess is that nobody in the 80s thought Star Wars would ever become as big as it is now, as it has been growing and growing.

Cars Land is an example of an entire land based on an untested IP. Radiator Springs Racers is an outstanding attraction, but is the rest of the land appealing for those who don't care about Cars? Sure, guests can appreciate the detail, but if they don't feel a connection to the land they aren't likely to hang out there or spend money on merchandise. I know people who feel this way about Wizarding World of Harry Potter, mostly those who are older and didn't grow up with the books, and it is something that may become a problem in the future if there is an over-reliance on IP in the theme park industry.

Matterhorn Bobsleds and Journey to the Center of the Earth are entirely different animals. Matterhorn Bobsleds was inspired by the real Matterhorn, but there is no IP connection in the attraction. Journey to the Center of the Earth is based on the Jules Verne story, but that is a story that has passed into public domain and the attraction can be thought of as one with no IP connection. Both of these are outstanding attractions, and that is why they continue to draw crowds. And that just proves my point...strong attractions can be enhanced by IP, but don't need the IP to be successful. Weak attractions are successful because of the IP, not because of their inherent quality.

Trust me, Disney wants a third park in California, they just are not in a position to benefit from it yet. The biggest problem right now is that the resort's infrastructure is currently at capacity, so that needs to be built up before a third park becomes a viable option. As for why Star Wars and Marvel, it is because these are currently the expansion options likely to yield the biggest return on investment and because it is necessary to build new attractions to keep visitors coming. 80% of Disneyland's visitors live within a 4 hour drive of the resort, and if the parks went 5+ years between new attractions they would definitely see significant attendance drops. Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Cars Land have unfortunately set a precedent so it's likely now going to take a land to achieve the results a single E-ticket would have done 10 years ago. However, even without that I would bet Marvel would still be at the top of Disney's list for new attractions.

May 14, 2016 at 4:33 AM · "if the parks went 5+ years between new attractions they would definitely see significant attendance drops."

This has not been Disney's experience. Disneyland consistently maintained its attendance by refreshing existing rides for years. This worked well for them. You can say Disneyland reached a mass concentration of attractions that works well for them. Expanding to Star Wars and Marvel is about park capacity. Having reached peak popularity at Disneyland, not every part of the park is 100% efficient. The crowds must be spread out. I also think Fastpass dumped too many people out of the queue lines and increased expectations to visit more rides.

May 14, 2016 at 4:38 AM · Agreed
May 14, 2016 at 11:57 AM · ToT is an original. It has a huge fan base and re-theming it to "Guardians of the Tower" is quite possibly the worst idea WDI has had since the opening of DCA. If they truly wanted to build a "Marvelland", then they could most likely find a way to incorporate ToT's facade into "Marvelland". Instead of trying to hide ToT's facade from "Marvelland", WDI should be spending resources on fixing Paradise Pier's sight lines. Currently, one can see the Anaheim Convention Center and other Anaheim hotels from Paradise Pier. If anything, this issue should be prioritized over fixing "Marveland's" sight lines. Lastly, I'm still praying that Iger and Chapek get removed ASAP. Luckily with WDC's latest quarterly earnings, it appears that this might happen within the next 1-2 years.
May 14, 2016 at 1:01 PM · I do not believe that this could be done in Florida. The contract with Universal would not allow that. The contract does not allow Marvel's in any park within 50 miles of Universal. Disney could not even run the monorail with the Avengers wrap on the EPCOT because it goes through the park.
May 14, 2016 at 2:15 PM · Thats so long let me make this quick.

Regarding Star Wars Land, there is more evidence then not that Disney could have built a land because they built Star Tours which enjoyed popularity for decades. It is clear that they didn't have the desire to do so until Wizarding World of HP caught them off guard.

About Cars Land. I can guarantee you that it will be just as popular 20 years from now because of the quality and immersiveness of the land. We see this everywhere in Disneyland. The old west has nowhere near the IP appeal that it in the 50s but has no problem filling it's attractions, shops and restaurants due to their quality and immersiveness. The Wizarding World will certainly be a very popular themed land for decades as well.

You can make the excuse that Journey and Matterhorn do not have IPs but that is only an excuse. They definitely do and although those IPs are not popular today that only proves my point further. Instead of excuses for everything that Disney does we can recognise the great new things they are doing like Shanghai which looks phenomenal although it is yet to see if it was worth the investment. We can also criticise when they make poor and cheap decisions like letting Epcot degrade for decades or forcing huge IPs like Star Wars and Marvel where they are not needed.

May 14, 2016 at 3:07 PM · Anon, not every attraction is a ride. By my count, excluding temporary attractions Disneyland has added six new attractions in the past 10 years (two rides, two parades, a nighttime spectacular, and a miniland with a show and character encounter) and DCA has added six as well (a whole themed land, two additional rides, a parade, a show, and a nighttime spectacular). Even if we restrict it to only rides, that's still all of Cars Land and four additional rides in the past ten years. Sure, a couple of them are new versions of old attractions, but to the public something like the Nemo Subs or the new Star Tours are new rides. I don't disagree that Star Wars and Marvel Land are designed to increase capacity of the resort, but most additions do not have a single purpose and those lands are designed to bring in just as many additional people into the park as they'll allow to visit by simply existing.

Daniel, to refrain from rehashing points I'll just say this: Lands based on a single IP are a new phenomenon in the theme park industry and there has not been enough data to prove they will maintain popularity indefinitely. Look at the decreased performance of Wizarding World of Harry Potter at USH compared to the lands at IOA and USJ despite all three locations being very similar. To me, this indicates that popularity of an IP land is absolutely tied to interest in other parts of the franchise. As long as Cars, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel, etc. remain popular with the general public, their lands will remain popular. If interest in the franchise in general declines, a perfectly detailed land may lack appeal.

Remember, Disney is first and foremost a business. They are always going to choose the option that they believe will yield the largest return on investment. If a park doesn't need major investments, it's not going to receive them. If an IP isn't a perfect fit but is guaranteed to be popular, it's likely going to be utilized. What may be good for business may be unpopular with fans, but the only way to show that is to take your business elsewhere. As long as the visitor counts and revenue at the US parks continue to increase, we are unlikely to see any major shifts in direction. When they start incurring losses, not just for one quarter but for several in a row (enough to create a reliable trendline), then, and only then, will things change.

May 14, 2016 at 6:39 PM · Whew! Finally read all the comments! My turn to put in my 2 cents!

Now, I'm a huge Disney fan and a huge Marvel fan. Words cannot describe how much I want to see these two come together. But not at the expense of one of my favorite rides.

I'm a millenial and I'll admit I've never seen the Twilght Zone, but I still appreciate and flat-out adore the theming on TOT. I mean, why would anyone wanna change a ride that always drags in such huge crowds and is beloved by so many? If there's any Disney ride that should get a GOTG overlay, it's Buzz Lightyear. That ride is painfully outdated and only draws wait times of about 15 minutes. Plus, the ride is a space shooter, which would be a perfect fit for GOTG, and you wouldn't have to do quite as much redecorating, especially considering that it's Tomorrowland.

And even if the TOT doesn't delve that much into the human psyche, so what? WWOHP doesn't delve much into the themes of adolescence like the books and movies do, but it still keeps their original spirit. Similarly, I feel that TOT really does use the Twilight Zone theme to it's advantage. I have a theory that mankind's greatest fear is the unknown. The less we know about something, the more we're afraid of it. That's why racism, sexism and homophobia had such a huge influence on our culture for centuries and why we have scientists and philosophers try to find out how our world works. I think they make the Twilight Zone seem so scary by being so vague about it. All the riders know about it is that it's some mysterious entity that transcends even imagination itself, which is pretty terrifying and very intriguing.

May 14, 2016 at 8:27 PM · Disney is hoping the Anaheim angels announce they are leaving in 3 to 5 yrs. Once a new city builds then a splashy New park. In fact, the angels are currently operating on a yr to yr contract. The long term lease has expired. So Disney may get a chance to buy the land from the city at a big discount to market. Disney wants to do the trump way to build a resort. Get the land from a government for a big discount
May 14, 2016 at 8:44 PM · In fact. The original fantasyland is a package of related ip. Just like marvel is. It's an old marketing idea. Not a new one
May 15, 2016 at 12:03 AM · Yes, this is a terrible idea, but don't blame WDI. It's the dubious idea of the new parks chairman, Bob Chapek.
May 15, 2016 at 5:30 AM · There are things which simply cannot be discussed. Changing the ToT theme to some insipid Marvel nonsense that will be forgotten in a couple of years is an insane idea that only a corporate idiot could come up with. Why not tear down the castle and build "like an epic, you know, VR-coaster there - and they could add Jack Sparrow,how epic would that be!"

"You're dead if you aim only for kids" (Walt Disney)

May 15, 2016 at 5:53 AM · I first didn't like it but after your article I'm a bit more on board. In the end I rather have a remake paring it to the Adventurer mansion.
I like GOTG and hope it will get it's own miniland one day.
May 15, 2016 at 11:00 AM · It seems really strange that they would take a wildly successful ride, one that is probably top 5 most popular across every Disney park that has it, and want to change something because the theme is 'stale' and 'outdated'. Whenever people say things like 'kids dont know what x and y are', I feel that is not giving some people some credit. Kids also have parents who know of these things. Whether or not they DO know, they enter this building, and there is an entire theme and mood to this ride. It's its own story, and I can safely say not one child walking off that ride thought "I dont get the story."

If you truly want irony in rides, then taking a stellar attraction with one of the best stories and thematic presentations and destroying it with Marvel....well, there's you irony right there I guess.

I wasn't able to read all the comments so I'm curious if this has been mentioned before but here's what I am thinking this is:

TEMPORARY OVERLAY?? Space Mountain is no stranger to this. Red Hot Chili Peppers overlay, Hyperspace Mountain, Ghost Galaxy etc etc. Maybe this will just be a promotional and temporary overlay. These rides are easy to re-theme with modifying projections, or sounds, whatever. So it's fine for a temporary overlay. If Disney is dying for a permanent Marvel ride, then fine, Change Midway Mania. Or better yet, create a new attraction. But leave ToT out of this :(

May 15, 2016 at 12:51 PM · If it's truly a matter of IP costs, then simply drop any allusions to the twilight zone but keep the haunted hotel theme. A little bit of creative re-imagineering to the show scenes and voila! Everyone's happy!
May 15, 2016 at 7:16 PM · FROM WHAT I'VE HEARD: Here's what's odd: apparently, Disney is currently in pre-production on a Twilight Zone Tower of Terror film (to replace/update the older version that--let's just say it--stunk). They want it to be scary and exciting. If that's so, then the ToT isn't going away, right? The answer: It's going away in California but not Florida.....Florida still does not have the legal rights to Marvel films/properties, they belong to Universal. So Florida is staying AS-IS for probably a very long time. The California Tower, though, is going to change into a GOTG attraction. There's no details yet on timing, but you can bet the announcement won't be long after the opening of Shanghai Disneyland.
May 15, 2016 at 7:16 PM ·
May 15, 2016 at 8:54 PM · So, I mentioned this story without any bias to my family, and my 14 and 12 year old, both of whom love guardians of the Galaxy, responded with shock and disgust. They both stated it is a perfect ride, and we love the Twilight Zone. My opinion is if they leave the Orlando intact, that is fine by me, since it is the better of the two; however, I disagree with their rationale. All of the kids in my family under 20 love it currently. Look, Disney has billions. Billions. Why not expand and make a Guardians ride? It is easily my favorite Marvel movie, but they really are making bad choices with the theme parks. Orlando did not need to revamp the fast pass system to make it more convenient for them. They should add to the theme parks instead of taking away from it. They announce a massive expansion to Magic Kingdom, and all it is is a very poor little mermaid ride and a restaurant (a very nice one I'll admit). How many unbelievable attractions did Universal add during that time? Several, and you can still go there and ride 15-20 attractions in a day. Disney? Maybe 10. They have no idea how many people they are driving away.
May 15, 2016 at 10:22 PM · Yeah this is a great idea! Then Disney could retheme the Haunted Mansion to a Zootopia ride and just put animal masks over the dancing ballroom ghosts faces because the story for the mansion is lacking and Zootopia is such a hit! Then they could just retheme Jungle Cruise to Star Wars to save money instead of doing a whole land! Just paint the boats to look like the millennium falcon, dye the water black and add a few LEDs to make it look like stars and space and there you have a hit attraction! And I almost forgot to put a DarthVader and storm trooper masks over the canable tribesman to blend them into the story!

What a stupid idea this really is in my opinion! I love Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy but this is not the way to bring it into the park. Disney already missed a great opportunity for a proper Frozen ride by just doing an overlay in Epcot and this would be another huge missed opportunity. If they no longer have the rights to Twighlight Zone or if they just want to rebrand it I'm all for a change up, but trying to shoehorn the Guardians into this ride is just ridiculous. At this point in the MCU the newly formed Guardians have not been on earth with the collector so this storyline would be strictly out of the blue. If in the second movie we find them on earth in similar situations (the collector has fronts in famous buildings for his collection) and it is intricately woven into the narrative, then ok, but otherwise NO WAY! Disney needs to do it right with a new ride and land and not take already great beloved rides and change them into something they are not. The Hightower story or a different supernatural storyline needs to be used and not characters who at this point in the movies operate in space. Just No!

May 16, 2016 at 7:17 AM · You know what? I can rage all I want about the loss of the Twilight Zone experience, but darn it Robert if you haven't swayed me with this fantastic option.

I really hope Disney execs read your articles, they should even possibly make you an imagineer, Guardians done this way would fit, it wouldn't be hard to convert many of the existing set pieces there either.

Bravo for making it seem less painful.
I was fearing a repeat of the loss of Alien Encounter.

May 16, 2016 at 8:41 AM · Guardians of the WHAT!?!? You're all just making stuff up now!! :D
May 16, 2016 at 11:30 AM · We were recently asked exiting the Rock & Roller Coaster if we liked Aerosmith. We assured the surveyor we did. I wish someone would have asked me if I thought Tower of Terror should be re-themed with a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY overlay. My answer would have been, "As a lifelong Disney and Marvel fan and passholder-"NO!" Don't try to shoehorn a mismatched IP into an existing attraction because you don't think kids recognize the original. I discovered THE TWILIGHT ZONE in syndication when I was kid on a local independent TV station in the '80s-long before we had MeTV, Cozi, Antenna, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and all the rest. The attraction is perfectly themed to fit into a movie and TV themed park as it is. If Disney doesn't want to pay the licensing fee anymore, fall back on the Harrison Hightower model-but keep it appropriately themed to its area: Old Hollywood. This is just common sense! It's not in Tomorrowland!
May 17, 2016 at 4:30 AM · Robert, how much does Disney pay for Twilight Zone licensing fees? I'll bet the number is shockingly low. Licensing fees are an excuse for greedy Iger and Chapek to monetize every square inch of Disneyland.

The real agenda is to sell more Marvel merchandise. That's why the Harrison Hightower attraction will never replace Twilight Zone. Disney can't sell enough Harrison Hightower toys.

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