This past May, Disney California Adventure (DCA)’s iconic Hollywood Tower Hotel, which hosted the spooky thrill ride Tower of Terror, was completely transformed into a new ride based on the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Formally titled Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout!, the ride provides a similar experience to Tower of Terror, with a ride in an elevator that drops and shoots you back up a few times, but the theme is entirely different.
During Disney’s Halloween season, Mission: Breakout! transforms into “Monsters After Dark” at 5:00 p.m. Monsters After Dark is physically the same ride, full of intense drops, but the entire story of the ride changes. The story is, the Collector’s fortress is malfunctioning after Rocket broke the Guardians out of their cells; in turn, all the cages were opened, releasing countless monsters that are now roaming freely. All over the park, you can see the tower's warning lights flashing and electricity pulsing, indicating something is not right. Despite the fact that the fortress is clearly in disarray, us humans, or terans, still decide to go on a tour of the collection. (For those not familiar with the regular Mission: Breakout! story, you are there to ride an elevator to tour the Collector’s full collection, which now includes the Guardians of the Galaxy.)
The foyer of the Guardians ride shows security-camera footage of the Collector’s employees nervously walking through hallways as monsters gurgle and growl in the background. Tour guides pop up to warn you not to approach the monsters and to make your way carefully. Everything is glowing red or pulsating, making for a very uneasy but exciting entrance to the ride. In the normal version, you have to have your hands “scanned” to get on the ride. However, since everything is malfunctioning in this version, the scanners are not working, but you’re able to move ahead with the tour anyway. As you enter the Collector’s office, you are greeted by Rocket, who is surprised to see you there. In order to not give too much away, I won’t go into any more of the story, but I will say that we loved his witty and sarcastic banter, as expected from Rocket.
While I love the regular Guardians ride, Monsters After Dark offers a fun change in theme, and the story actually works really well with the ride — even a little better than the regular version! In the regular Mission Breakout!, when the lift doors open, the scenes on the screen in front of you seem a bit random, although fun. In Monsters After Dark, it feels more purposeful and part of the story. We also loved the new original song created by Tyler Bates, the composer for both Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It’s spooky with a hard-rock edge that just adds to the thrill and suspense of the ride. I am actually sad that it will end after Halloween!
I will say, overall, I have always found the physical experience of the ride quite scary. In general, I am not one for roller coasters or free-falls. However, for me, the themeing makes the ride worth it. Monsters After Dark especially, with the hard rock music and witty dialogue from Rocket, makes the fearing-for-my-life, falling-to-my-death experience well worth it. If I could, I would ride Monsters After Dark multiple times in a row, but due to the popularity, that is just not possible.
The most disappointing aspect of Monsters After Dark is that there was very limited seasonal merchandise for the ride. Out of the entire gift shop, there was only one T-shirt with the Monsters After Dark logo on it. My fiance and I were both really hoping for a special Monsters After Dark pin or something we could use as Halloween decor, but we had no such luck.
Also, word to the wise, the attraction is VERY popular. Fast Pass distribution starts at 3:00 p.m. for Monsters After Dark, and when we got in line at 2:40, it was already a very long line — and they do run out of Fast Passes within an hour of distribution opening! If you don’t want to wait in line, I highly recommend buying Max Pass (where you can reserve Fast Passes through the Disney App) for the day.
If you won’t be able to make it to DCA before Halloween is over, there are several POV videos of the ride on YouTube, and it will be back next year for Halloween!
If I could use one word to describe Monsters After Dark, it would be INTENSE. So I’m someone who loves roller coasters and thrill rides; I even had a Six Flags pass for several years. But drop towers still terrify me. (A friend once put me on Six Flags’ Drop of Doom — NEVER AGAIN.) Not knowing exactly when they’ll drop you sends butterflies — think butterflies swarming in terror — through my stomach. But I guess fear is what makes it all that more thrilling, right?
Whenever I wait in line for Mission: Breakout!, I’m simultaneously excited and scared out of my mind. I’m excited because I love what Disney did to remake the Tower of Terror. I was initially against the revamp, but the ride really is so well done. The animatronics are incredible, and the Collector’s, well, collection is pretty cool to look at while you’re waiting in line. The ride itself is a lot smoother, so you feel as if you’re on an actual ride instead of just a creaky elevator shaft that just happens to go up and down really fast. As I mentioned before, what’s scary is that you don’t know exactly when they’ll drop you, and you have NO idea how many times either. Every ride is different, so I can’t really prepare myself. In the end, I like that, but it still makes me grip those metal handles until my fingers turn white.
Now, for Monsters After Dark — I have to say, I absolutely LOVED this. It was still scary, but this time the excitement level was amped up by the music. When the ride starts, you’re hit with this heavy metal screaming from the speakers. It was so unexpected that I couldn’t help but grin with delight the entire time. Because the music is heavier and so much louder, the ride seems like it’s going faster. It was as if my heart rate sped up to match the pulsing beat, which made the experience that much more INTENSE. Because of that, you’re completely immersed into the ride, and I was even disappointed at how fast it seemed to end.
I can’t recommend Monsters After Dark enough. It’s thrilling, terrifying, and amazingly fun. Sadly, it does have to end after October 31, so if you want to try it, go now!! Still, I’m so excited that I’ll have this to look forward to every Halloween.
Please let us know in the comments what YOU thought of Monsters After Dark if you had a chance to ride it or your general thoughts on the Guardians of the Galaxy ride. I know there are some heated debates with the removal of the Tower of Terror. We'd love to hear your thoughts!
Keep on smooshin' on,