March 9, 2021

Disney considered Spider-Man and Doctor Strange themes for DCA’s Tower of Terror ride

The Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout ride at Disney California Adventure could have been turned into a high-flying adventure starring Spider-Man or a mystic experience featuring Doctor Strange, according to recently retired Imagineer Joe Rohde.

Walt Disney Imagineering considered Spider-Man and Doctor Strange themes for the Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror when the creative arm of the company was planning a Marvel overlay for the indoor drop tower ride at Disney California Adventure.

Rohde discussed how Imagineering settled on a Marvel overlay for DCA’s Tower of Terror during a recent podcast with Disney’s official D23 fan club.

Imagineer Joe Rohde with a scale model of Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout. (Courtesy of Disney)

Imagineering evaluated – and eventually rejected – themes for the ride based on the web slinger and sorcerer supreme before settling on a Guardians of the Galaxy transformation that debuted at DCA in 2017, according to Rohde. Disney ultimately turned the Twilight Zone-themed 1930s haunted hotel into a fortress filled with a collection of alien creatures – including the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Transforming the popular Tower of Terror ride with a new Guardians of the Galaxy overlay seemed like an odd decision in May 2017. But Disney was playing a long game that would soon be revealed in July 2017 at the D23 Expo in Anaheim when it was announced Mission : Breakout would anchor a new Marvel themed land at DCA called Avengers Campus.

Much like many ideas cast aside at Imagineering, the Spider-Man and Doctor Strange themes didn’t go to waste. Both Spidey and Strange will have their own attractions in Avengers Campus – which is set to debut in 2021 after DCA reopens following an extended coronavirus closure.

Disney acquired Marvel for $ 4 billion in 2009 and the big question was when some of the 5,000-plus superheroes would start appearing at the Disneyland resort.

Rohde had been working on conceptual ideas for Marvel and asking key questions about how to introduce the superhero characters into Disney parks.

“What does Marvel mean to us? What do we mean to Marvel? ” Rohde said during the D23 podcast. “What is this thing that we now have? How do we make it have meaning that is relevant to us? ”

Savannah Montgomery (left) and Aaliyah Greenwood, both from Los Angeles, pose for photos in front of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction at Disney California Adventure on Monday, its last day of operation. The attraction is getting a new theme based on the Marvel / Disney film series “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The new version opens in May 2017. (Photo by Mark Eades, Orange County Register / SCNG) Taken in Anaheim at Disney California Adventure on Monday, January 2, 2017.

Rohde and his team of Imagineers were given a short time frame to strip the Twilight Zone theme from DCA’s Tower of Terror and develop a new Marvel backstory for the existing ride that would serve as the anchor for the still unannounced Avengers Campus.

Rohde’s marching orders were broad but simple: “We want you to take Tower of Terror and find an overlay we can do so we can open something big.”

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout was announced during San Diego Comic-Con in July 2016 less than a year before the re-themed ride would open at DCA in May 2017 – a short turnaround time for a Disney attraction.

Imagineering considered several Marvel backstories for Tower of Terror before settling on the Guardians of the Galaxy characters – which had gone from relative unknowns beyond comic book fans to blockbuster franchise superstars with the July 2014 release of the superhero team’s first feature film. A sequel came out in May 2017 with another film planned for 2023.

“We ran a couple ideas,” Rohde said during the D23 podcast. “We could do Doctor Strange. That would work really, really well in almost what Tower of Terror is. Spider-Man needs some space. It’s a different thing. And then Guardians. ”

Rohde’s initial response to a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay: “That’s impossible. That’s a dumb idea. But then you have to work your way through that. ”

The more time Rhode spent walking around Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror the more a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay seemed possible.

“There’s only a certain number of details on that building that make it look like a hotel. I can count them on one hand, ”Rohde said during the D23 podcast. “If I pop those details off, I have a generic thing and I can make that generic thing look like anything. I bet I could make it look like something from the world of the Guardians – either from the film or from the comic books. ”

Once Imagineering settled on a Guardians overlay, Rohde and his team went to work figuring out how to tell an entirely new backstory without dramatically changing the drop tower ride experience.

“If it’s Guardians, that’s a whole different emotional tone,” Rohde said during the D23 podcast. “It’s not like Tower of Terror. It’s not the same emotions. What are the emotions? How do we evoke these emotions? ”