When the Walt Disney Co. wrote a check for more than $4 billion in 2009 to acquire Marvel Entertainment Inc., Disney fans predicted a massive invasion of superheroes at the company's Anaheim resort.
That seems a step closer to reality with the opening next month of Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout, a reworking of the classic Tower of Terror attraction at California Adventure Park into a hero-infused spectacle.
During a media preview Tuesday of the Guardians attraction, Disney executives side stepped any discussion of future Marvel plans, noting that the new ride is officially part of the park's Hollywood Land. After all, the ride opens May 27, a mere 22 days after the debut of the second movie in the franchise, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."
But Disney enthusiasts have been speculating that the new attraction might become the gateway to a Marvel expansion at California Adventure.
Todd Regan, founder of the fan site MiceChat.com, noted that Disney owns a parking lot and other property behind the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, a perfect spot to build a second Marvel heroes ride, plus shops and eateries.
"Absolutely, that is what they are planning," said Regan, who relies on insider information from Disney employees and former employees.
From terror to prison break
Disney spokesman George Savvas refused to discuss fan-site theories about a major Marvel expansion except to say that "Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout will anchor a broader superhero presence that will grow over time at Disney California Adventure park."
The Guardians of the Galaxy attraction is still a drop-tower ride, but instead of depicting a haunted 1930s-era Hollywood hotel based on the old "Twilight Zone" television show, the attraction will represent the fortress of the Marvel character Taneleer Tivan — also known as the Collector — who has collected the Guardians and put them on display. In the ride, guests help an escaped Guardian, Rocket Raccoon, try to break out the other superheroes.
During Tuesday's preview, Disney representatives said the attraction would offer six different experiences so that riders would want to try it multiple times. Each version will be accompanied by a classic rock song from the 1960s, '70s and '80s, including "Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf.
"There will be a lot of unpredictability in what you feel," said Estefania Harbuck, a creative producer for Disney Imagineering.
The ride's line will let visitors see examples of the plants and creatures collected in the fortress, with about 220 movie props on display throughout the ride. After the ride, guests will exit through the souvenir shop.
In addition to the tower overhaul, Disney plans to launch "Summer of Heroes" next month. The four-month celebration of superheroes will include dance parties, face-to-face meetings with costumed characters and a training initiative for young wannabe heroes.
The new Marvel superhero attractions will launch three months after Disney raised ticket prices between $2 for daily passes and $20 for multi-day tickets and annual passes. Disney fans decried the price hike, saying the Disney resort had offered few new attractions to justify the increase.
The wait for ‘Star Wars’
At the adjacent Disneyland park, crews continue to work on Star Wars land, a 14-acre, $1-billion project in the northwest corner near Frontierland. It is set to open in 2019. Construction of the project forced the closure of several nearby attractions.
Starting this summer, Disneyland will begin to bring back some of the attractions that were closed, including the Disneyland Railroad and other features on Rivers of America, including Fantasmic, the nighttime light and water show. Exact dates have yet to be announced.
Disney also has extended its Main Street Electrical Parade until Aug. 20, instead of ending it June 18 as previously scheduled.
On June 1, the park also will return Space Mountain to its original form after an interlude in which scenes and characters from "Star Wars" films were incorporated into the indoor roller coaster.
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6 p.m.: This article was updated with details of a tour of the ride construction site and with a statement from a Disney spokesman.