The Return of Live Music (Temporarily) to Tomorrowland Terrace and What Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! Means to the Future of Disney California Adventure Entertainment

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure.

In the past week or so, two significant announcements were made by the Disneyland Resort, which will impact live entertainment at both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure.

The obvious good news was that starting tonight and running for at least the next several weeks, live bands will return to performing on the weekends at Tomorrowland Terrace. Very happily this will include all of the favorite cover bands and tribute bands who most recently regularly played there such as the 80z All-Stars and TOMASINA.

And while I’m thrilled at this news and hope to attend several of these shows, the downside is the “limited” nature of this engagement.

Rumor has it that the bands will only be playing in August and September, ending October 1st. The speculation is that this is the end of the Walt Disney Company’s fiscal year and a new budget would have to be created to extend the bands beyond this point.

For me, it simply hasn’t felt like summer without live bands at the Disneyland Resort. I’ve gone a few times since the Diamond Mad T Party ended and found myself leaving the Resort each time before nightfall with nothing for a Mousertainment fan left to do having seen the Paint the Night parade and Disneyland Forever fireworks shows already (and these shows were also announced this week to be closing with the end of the Diamond anniversary!). Instead, I’ve been going more often to see live performances elsewhere. So the return of the bands to the park is absolutely a welcome one. But knowing this may only be for a few weeks makes it bittersweet.

Still, that good news from Disneyland Park was tempered by the big announcement of the Guardians of the Galaxy theme taking over the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure in 2017. This news made me extremely concerned for the future of that park – and not for the reasons you might think.

First off, I’ll admit I’m personally in agreement with those fans who do not like the idea for this overlay, preferring the California-oriented, spooky Twilight Zone theme to a more comedic, space-themed Marvel storyline.

However, it’s been rumored for simply ages that Marvel was coming to Disney California Adventure and likely gaining a land of its own there to balance out some of the crowds that will swarm Disneyland once its Stars Wars Land opens. So it’s not the Marvel theme that concerns me – I’m a pretty big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I’m actually quite happy it’ll get a land of its own.

So I accept that Marvel is coming to Disney California Adventure. But what concerns me is what it does to the theme of the park itself – but again, not necessarily for the reasons you might think. 

I never quite wrapped my head around the concept of a park *about* California *in* California. And for the first several years of the park’s existence, I actually never went there. It was ElecTRONica and later the Mad T Party that really helped me develop a love for Disney California Adventure – along with shows like Minnie’s Fly Girls, Red Car Trolley News Boys and Five & Dime that helped me solidify this as my home away from home.

And it’s my attachment to all of the above that made my heart sink when I heard the Guardians news. And here’s why:

At a shareholder’s meeting some time ago, Bob Iger let slip that Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort would eventually be getting a name change in keeping with its change of focus from a park about film-making to one about film-immersion. This made sense to me and at the time, I didn’t really think about how Disney California Adventure was Hollywood Studios’ sibling/mirror image park and what this might mean for the future of California Adventure.

And why should I have? After all, just a few short years ago, the California theme had a massive reinvestment and reinvention into the story of Walt Disney’s journey to California and what he found there. This investment rejuvenated the park and finally made it a proper companion to Disneyland. After all that money spent, surely, “DCA” was here to stay, right?

Umm, well, maybe actually not so much…

My next hint really should have been the replacement of Soarin’ Over California with Soarin’ Around the World. Why would a popular and solidly California-themed attraction REMOVE the California theme? At the time, I chalked it up to this being an easy way to refresh this attraction and hoped and assumed that eventually both films would run there.

But the Guardians of the Galaxy announcement changed my perspective of the potential plans for the park itself and made for big concerns for the future of all of the current live entertainment at the park. Here’s why:

Guardians of the Galaxy stories are set in outer space. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is set in California. So first off, another California-themed adventure will be disappearing.

But taking a look at the bigger picture of this, there’s a much larger impact to be felt. First of all a practical one – the construction of this new overlay/re-theme for the first six months or so of 2017 is supposed to cause the Pixar Play Parade to go dark once again.

But what else starts their route next to the Tower of Terror? The Red Car Trolley. So will that be going down as well or running a more limited route temporarily during construction? And if so, who rides the Trolley daily? The News Boys. How would the Trolley route (or loss thereof) impact this show? Will the show be adjusted to a walk-on by the cast or to a new shorter Trolley route? Or will that show go dark entirely during construction?

Five & Dime also begins their drive in their jalopy at this location. Same questions: will they adjust the route, lose the car or will the show also disappear during construction of the Tower overlay/refresh?

Then comes the question of what happens after the new Guardians Tower opens. Why would a historic California Trolley Car run to a space station? Why is there a space station in historic Hollywood? Why is there a space station next to a theatre in Hollywood Land showing Frozen?

And where will the rest of Marvel’s Super Hero Land (or whatever it’s ultimately called) go? Imagineer Joe Rohde who announced the Guardians re-theme also confirmed it was just the first appearance of Marvel in the parks and more was to come. For many months it has been rumored that this Marvel Land will wind up either behind Tower of Terror – making Mission: Breakout the entrance to this land – or taking over the Hollywood Backlot (removing the theater currently housing movie previews, the Monsters, Inc. attraction and the former Mad T Party stage). With this area being the new home for the Captain America and Spider-Man meet and greet, it was clearly already another hint of what is coming.

If it does wind up in the Hollywood Backlot area, there again is the question of why a Frozen show sits between Marvel properties.

But for me the bigger message is: everything is pointing to the entire California theme going away from the park altogether and becoming once again the West Coast version of Disney’s Hollywood Studios with both committing simply to a more general “movie” theme and ‘Disney Hollywood Adventure’ (or whatever) being the Anaheim home of predominantly Pixar and Marvel attractions (Bug’s Land, Cars Land, Marvel Land and however else the rest of the park is re-themed).

While I do think the whole Paradise Pier area is ripe for a teardown and re-theme (aside from the ever-popular Toy Story Midway Mania!), and Soarin’ and Grizzly River Rapids could easily anchor any land in their area, losing the California theme would be devastating to the park entertainment specifically and here’s why:

Without the “California Adventure” there is no place for the Trolley, the News Boys, Five & Dime, nor the Citizens of Buena Vista Street. Not to mention seasonal performances such as the Christmas Tree Lighting and the Buena Vista Street Community Bell Ringers.

The Hyperion Theater could still be utilized as part of a “tribute to the movies” theme, though again would seem odd sandwiched between two halves of a Marvel land.

And if the Marvel land does go into the Hollywood Backlot, that would be the end to any future dance parties at least in that area. This idea alone breaks my heart as it’s what made me love this park to begin with.

Basically it would strip all of the live entertainment out of the park other than the Frozen show, the theoretical return of the Pixar Play Parade and a few small shows out on the Pier along with DJ’s Dance n’ Drive in Cars Land.

Is this an extreme possibility? Yes. But I still think it may be an inevitable one in the nearer-than-predicted future.

I hope I’m really wrong on this and whatever re-theming of the Hollywood areas of the park would not negatively impact the incredibly beautiful Buena Vista Street and all of its wonderful shows and performers. Maybe the “Walt’s Journey” theme of the front of the park could still be retained simply as its own “Hollywood Land”.

But for now I’m really worried about this being the beginning of the end for a lot of the current Disney California Adventure entertainment.

If this does come to fruition, new shows will be developed to replace the current ones – and maybe I’ll like them as much or better than the ones we have now. But in all, it’s yet another reminder to me that the lifespan of a park show is often shorter than we ever expect it to be and to not take for granted what we have and to enjoy the heck out of them while they’re here.

Am I just being a worrywart for nothing or do you think the Guardians overlay heralds a whole new direction for Disney California Adventure?  And do you plan to take in a Tomorrowland Terrace show while the bands are back?

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