The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has been such a staple in Disney Parks entertainment that it feels strange to now be in a world where one of the US coasts doesn’t feature the attraction. But the farewell parties commenced in Disneyland last weekend, and on Tuesday the signage came down. It’s real, guys.
For now, Walt Disney World’s version remains – which is good for me as that’s the resort I frequent. I can’t help but think, though, that its days are probably numbered as well. I have great memories on that ride, and I would certainly miss it should that come to fruition. I’m sure fans of the Disneyland attraction are feeling that way now.
And while I would miss it, I can’t say any of this is the wrong move on Disney’s part. Disney has made missteps in the past, but I don’t think this is one of them. I actually think this is a smart move, and a good one at that.
“Guardians” Is on the Rise…
Prior to 2012, Guardians of the Galaxy was largely unheard of in the mainstream. It had sold decently well as a Marvel comic book series starting in 2008, but hadn’t yet edged its way into pop culture. That is, until Marvel Studios announced it was in active development at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con.
After that became news, fans everywhere (comic fans, Disney fans, and film fans alike) were interested in the super-hero team featuring a human, a couple aliens, a talking raccoon, and a walking tree.
After the film’s release, though, it rocketed in popularity. It performed well at the box office, and received favorable reviews from fans and critics. Personally, it’s still my favorite of any of the Marvel films to date. That popularity is important, and if there’s a time to capitalize on it in the parks, it’s now.
…While The Twilight Zone Probably Isn’t
I love The Twilight Zone, and it certainly has a fan base out there. Sadly, though, that fan base isn’t nearly as large as it would have been even ten years ago (let alone twenty, when Tower of Terror got its start). Great shows fade from generation to generation.
I think that’s where we’re at with The Twilight Zone. It’s just not as well known with younger generations today. My generation (I’m in my 30’s as of now) may be the last that has a passing recognition of what this attraction stands for.
CBS has recently discussed plans to reboot the series. Interestingly, they are looking at an interactive game/film mashup (read more here). There isn’t a date attached to this project yet, or even much more beyond the concept (that’s being discussed publicly, at least), so how well this would do is purely speculation.
Contrast this with the fact that Disney already has a property on its hands that eclipses The Twilight Zone in the public consciousness. Parents would have less to explain to their kids as they walk into the Collector’s museum than they would with the black and white serial TV series originating in the 1950’s.
And even more important than brand recognition is brand ownership. The Twilight Zone is owned by CBS, and it costs Disney money to use properties Disney doesn’t own.
Add to this the fact that Disney has already been spending huge money to acquire properties this decade. They don’t sink multiple billions of dollars into the likes of Marvel and Star Wars without plans to use them to their fullest. Star Wars is getting some major attention, but Marvel (due to some widely publicized legal junk) has had a slower start.
Most of that legalese seems to be centralized to the east coast, so it makes sense that the first iterations of this are coming to Disneyland. There is speculation that “Guardians of the Galaxy” somehow falls outside of those contractual obligations, so it also makes sense that Guardians would be the first major entry into US-based Marvel attractions in Disney Parks. If true, it makes Guardians easier to incorporate in other parks.
And if Disney can iron out the details and work Marvel into the parks, isn’t that better for them in the long run than having to pay for licenses and work out contracts?
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Makeover
You may have heard: Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land are coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a story that has gotten some play here and there. And the Studios is facing some major face-lifts as a result. When I last visited in March 2016, the Studios already felt like a half-day park. And that was before areas like the Streets of America closed this past summer.
Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land will take a few years to complete, which will go a very, very long way toward making the Studios a full park again. But once that happens, other interesting things start to take place. First, the rumored re-branding (again) of the park seems more likely, as it starts to take the shape of a park that is home to powerhouse movie franchises. Star Wars, Toy Story, and the Muppets are all incredibly recognizable, Disney-owned movie franchises.
Aside from that, though, you still have one area of the park that hearkens back to that original idea of heyday-Hollywood. And its two main attractions are the one that was already re-themed in Disneyland and the other featuring the now-defunct rock band.
While Disney can’t really afford to shut down and re-theme the Tower of Terror right now with half the park uprooted, it will be able to afford that once those projects are largely behind them. And maybe – maybe – by that time some of the loopholes with the Marvel rights will be taken care of. I wouldn’t necessarily be against seeing this area of the park become Marvel Land. It would be ripe for the picking. I’m just saying.
I don’t relish when these changes happen. I’ve grown to love these sights and attractions as they are. But as times change, Disney needs to stay relevant in all of their parks. In the case of the Tower of Terror, this change is starting in Disneyland, but don’t be surprised when it makes its way east. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.