The Disney Parks are constantly evolving, from new rides and reimagined old ones to dining, entertainment, and merchandise offerings. The biggest shifts arrive with the opening of a new themed land, creating not simply a fresh experience within a park but an entirely different space to enter and absorb. On June 4, 2021, the latest such expansion opened at Disney’s California Adventure: Avengers Campus. Riding the wave of audience enthusiasm for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it allows fans of the numerous MCU stories to tap into their favorite stories and characters.
The most notable feature of Avengers Campus is how many MCU characters you can observe or encounter during a day, or even just an afternoon, in the land. The DCA park information includes scheduled showtimes for a some of those opportunities. Several are interactive between characters and guests, such as “Dr. Strange: Mysteries of the Mystic Arts” at the Ancient Sanctum, “Warriors of Wakanda: The Disciplines of the Dora Milaje” on the promenade, and the long-running “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off!” in front of the Collector’s fortress. The “Avengers Assemble!” choreographed fights between the superheroes and their adversaries take place on a raised concourse on the Avengers compound building, while “The Amazing Spider-Man!” showcases the specially designed robot built by the Imagineers to perform a flipping web-slinging stunt without requiring (or endangering) a human performer. Other characters can be found while exploring the Campus; in December 2021, these included a quippy Spidey who will strike poses for pictures or stately Eternals in a serene sanctum. Whether up close or from afar, you can quickly run out of fingers to count the number of characters you’ve seen.
Like other themed lands in Disney Parks, Avengers Campus naturally hosts two additional key elements: rides and food. One ride, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, opened in May 2017 as a reimagined version of the previous Tower of Terror, maintaining the same ride mechanic but completely reinventing the story and context of the ride experience. Amusingly, in dialogue with one of the ride’s playlists, Rocket can be heard exclaiming, “Disneyland? That’s thematically inconsistent!” when the shutters open to reveal the DCA vista below. The other ride, W.E.B. Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, was created by Imagineering for Avengers Campus. It combines familiar elements of a moving ride vehicle, 3-D visuals, and targeted shooting to score points with an innovative feature: motion-sensing technology that bases your targeting aim on the movement of your arms – in flicking out webs like Spidey – rather than a mounted weapon in the ride vehicle. The technique may take some getting used to, and your arms might get tired!
The food and beverages in Avengers Campus suit the theme. To bring back memories of the epilogue of the first Avengers movie, you can get shawarma from one of two street vendor carts. The Pym Test Kitchen has tasty breakfast offerings – the Cinna-Pym Toast and the Calculated Breakfast (eggs, bacon, and toast) both earned repeat orders – and a variety of lunch and dinner options, including a yummy chicken sandwich, all of which play with the idea of size. Try Pym’s Testing Lab for adult beverages, and Terran Treats offers churros and other desserts.
Each of the recently opened themed lands – Pandora: The World of Avatar(2017), Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (2019), and Avengers Campus (2021) – contains an impressive amount of attention to detail to implement the vision for an immersive feeling of entering the location. In some ways Pandora served as the proof of concept for both Star Wars and Marvel, with its specially created buildings and “natural” structures, pathways and signage, ambient noise (instead of music), cast member attire, and even appropriately painted trash cans. Avengers Campus meets that standard in every way, including differences among the various locations within the area; the vicinity of sleek Avengers compound is distinct from Peter Parker’s W.E.B. facility and the Collector’s extraterrestrial presence.
What makes Avengers Campus stand out, in contrast with Pandora and Galaxy’s Edge, is its ability to always remain timely for visitors without losing sight of what made the MCU popular in the first place. Pandora offers the conceit of visiting the far-away planet, but with little narrative story taking place within the land itself. (Perhaps this may change when James Cameron’s three new Avatar sequels are released.) Galaxy’s Edge was designed and implemented around a fixed point on the in-universe Star Wars timeline – the period between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker in the Sequel Trilogy era – that encompasses not only the events and characters portrayed in the two rides, Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, but also the starships offered as photo backdrops and the characters appearing in the land. You can visit the Star Wars galaxy on Batuu, but in Galaxy’s Edge you’ll never encounter Darth Vader, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker, Padmé Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Han Solo. You won’t see the clone army from the Prequels or Imperial stormtroopers from the Original Trilogy, but only First Order troopers helping Kylo Ren hunt for Rey and Chewbacca.
In Avengers Campus, on the other hand, you’re in the MCU – but not any particular time or amid any specific story within it. In the W.E.B. Slingers ride, Tony Stark is still alive. When Avengers assemble at the compound, Black Widow and Steve Rogers are just as likely to appears as Captain Marvel, Thor, or Sam Wilson’s Captain America. The roster of heroes is also constantly changing, so that visitors can see the characters featured in the movie or Disney+ series they most recently watched. In December 2021, this included the Eternals as well as Clint Barton, Kate Bishop, and the Tracksuit Mafia. Earlier in the year, guests could have seen Wanda and Vision, Bucky Barnes and John Walker, or Loki and Sylvie being pursued by TVA agents. This creates the potential for the Avengers Campus to be a unique and timely experience with every visit, as opposed to Pandora or Galaxy’s Edge, both of which are tied to a fixed story point. Notably some of the ideas that make Avengers Campus come alive – the numerous performances staged by characters – were originally promised in early pitches for Galaxy’s Edge, but were never realized.
Over the years ahead, Avengers Campus as concept will continue to grow. California Adventure will gain a third major ride, Avengers Quinjet Experience. In the summer of 2022, the new rollercoaster Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will open at Epcot in Florida as part of a Xandarian outpost on Earth as the first extraterrestrial culture featured among the park’s World Showcase. Additional campuses are under construction at Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland, and another outpost will exist at sea aboard the Disney Cruise Line. The MCU has built global appeal, and Disney Parks is extending their theme park reach to match while maintaining flexibility to remain relevant to the Marvel brand goals for years to come.
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