Goodbye to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Jul 25, 2016 | Disney California Adventure, Disneyland Resort

By now, die-hard Disney fans, and many casual fans, will have heard the official announcement from Disney about the re-theming of what is currently Disney California Adventure’s The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! As with almost all Disneyland Resort related news, the word had already started spreading months ago so this wasn’t particularly shocking, but still disappointing for many.

As a quick note: as far as I know there are no plans to make changes to Walt Disney World Hollywood Studio’s version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This news only concerns California’s version, so those of us who loathe the idea of losing Tower of Terror can at least take solace in the fact that we still have Florida.

I believe I am quite passionate about Disneyland – though there are many fans far more devoted than I am – and generally I tend to be a traditionalist. However, I like changes that are innovative and are improvements that enhance the experience in the parks. And I like to think I don’t often have knee-jerk negative reactions to news just because it is, well, new.

As a life-long Star Wars fan, I was ecstatic about Star Wars Land coming to the park (admittedly I did have a few minor reservations). When it was announced that Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular was being replaced by Frozen: Live at the Hyperion, I felt like I understood the reasoning behind that decision and, while I enjoyed and miss Aladdin, looked forward to seeing what the Imagineers had in store.

In spite of everything I said, I admit my immediate reaction to this particular news was to press the Instant Noooooooo! button.

THEMING AND IMMERSION

My issue with this change is based on the theming of Disney California Adventure and the immersion within this imagined, idyllic version of California presented in the park. It’s rooted in what I remember of Disney California Adventure when it first opened. Even when I was much younger and far less discerning of quality, I thought DCA 1.0 was a complete disaster of an amusement park that was obviously built on the cheap. After DCA underwent its aggressive reconstruction, I became duly impressed with DCA 2.0 and thought Disney did pretty much the best with what they had.

I’ve always thought, and still do, that having a park themed to “California” was ridiculous, but with DCA 2.0 I was willing to go along with the conceit that it is “Walt’s California.” Buena Vista Street is a beautiful elegant entrance area, and comes close to capturing that “Disney Magic” of Main Street USA.

So my problem? Carthay Circle and the Hollywood Tower Hotel go hand in hand for me because they share the same sightline when you’re walking towards Buena Vista Street from Grizzly Peak. They also share the same sightline when looking out at DCA from Disneyland’s Main Street Railway Station. Viewed, together they are a representation of iconic Hollywood, a romantic image of the early days of the film industry – Walt’s industry – brought to life. Maybe this is excessive. DCA 2.0 isn’t even a decade old – and DCA is not even Walt’s park.

But TOT has become a DCA classic. It has been there since the beginning, one of the only attractions from DCA 1.0 that was actually up to par with what Disney fans expect. Fans have consistently loved the quality and theming of TOT.

DISNEY EXECS VS. IMAGINEERS?

As far as I can understand from the “word on the street,” the long-term plan is to eventually turn the Hollywood Backlot into a Marvel-themed land. This is not that surprising considering the area was left as is while the rest of the park underwent reconstruction into DCA 2.0.

To me, this feels like a huge step backwards to the days of DCA 1.0, when Disney executives were making decisions based on the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to make money. I completely understand that the entire point of the Walt Disney Corporation is to make money. But I, and many Disney fans, remember what happens when Disney decides to cut corners and shoehorn things based purely on a profit-driven motive. Simply put, it’s cheap and it’s lazy.

Change is inevitable.

I’ve written a lot of words expressing why I think this is a terrible idea. But at the end of the day the decision has been made. By now, Disney is quite used to the outcry that inevitably occurs when news breaks. As with other changes, Disney will move forward, the dissent will slowly die down, and most everyone will continue to look forward to the latest and greatest and pay Disney lots of money for the new experience.

There are many who are excited about Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! In and of itself, it looks likely to be a very well-done attraction that is innovative, imaginative, and fun.

And let’s face it, the majority of the people who go to Disneyland aren’t the superfans reading and writing these blogs and talking about this stuff. They care very little about the overarching storytelling in the parks. Most people don’t even really notice the Disney Details. They want fun rides and their favorite characters in new shows.

The Twilight Zone might be a classic bit of Americana, but many people younger than… say, Generation X don’t remember it that well. And most kids have little more than a vague notion of what it is, that is if they know it at all. But they all know Marvel, and they know Star Lord and Rocky and Groot, and they will likely love Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT!

Your Thoughts?

I’ve written a lot but I could’ve written much more. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments on this news, whether you’re less than thrilled or even if you’re super stoked about it!

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