Avengers Campus: Better than Galaxy’s Edge?

At the D23 Expo in August, Disney shared more details about the Avengers Campus coming to California Adventure and Hollywood Studios Paris. The story goes that pockets of energy have been showing up around the world. The Avengers happen to be building new recruiting centers near them. These two Avengers Campuses, along with the Stark Expo in Hong Kong, and the Avengers Outpost in Florida will be part of a cohesive story. That story revolves around recruiting people everywhere to join the fight against evil. There was also a “Avenger’s Mobile Base” shown on a map in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We don’t know if this points towards a Marvel Day at Sea or an entire Marvel themed cruise. But we do know that the cruise ships will be linked to the theme parks.

A map showing locations of Avengers Campuses around the world.

Avengers Campus – Anaheim

Bob Chapek shared concept art for the building and ride system for the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (WEB). WEB will be a team of engineering recruits working with Spiderman. The vehicle looked similar to Toy Story Midway Mania’s vehicle, with two major differences. First, the benches were longer, so you could fit four people on each vehicle. Second, there seemed to be a pane of glass attached to the vehicle in front of the riders, almost like a windshield. In the image, the riders were shooting webs out of their hands. This is sure to be an augmented reality screen with that follows hand movements to plan your web-slinging. I expect it will be more accurate, more fluid, and more fun than Microsoft’s Kinect gaming peripheral. The WEB attraction will be on the west side of the land – where It’s Tough to be a Bug used to be.

Meet and greets on campus with Ant Man, the Wasp, Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Star Lord, Groot, Gamorrah, and many others yet to come will support the attraction. Pym technologies will be setting up a brewery as well. The scientists at Pym have been experimenting on food, so don’t be surprised to see oversized or undersized food there. I’m hoping that some of the food props from Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train will be reused in the brewery. Giant candy corn makes a fantastic snack! But unfortunately, Disney hasn’t hinted that this may happen.

One of the spider robots that the Worldwide Engineering Brigade will be working on.

Chapek capped off the Marvel portion of the presentation by introducing a brand new E-Ticket attraction for California Adventure. The new ride will start as a training mission, flying a Quin Jet to Wakanda. While we aren’t sure about what the ride system will be for this attraction, the concept art showed many of the super heroes we know from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This points towards an attraction with all of the avengers, rather than just one character. Most of Avengers Campus will open in summer of 2022, but this Quin Jet attraction will be a part of Phase 2 of Avengers Campus construction. This will likely be on the expansion pad just east of Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, which was once considered as the new location of an Autopia-like ride.

Is a global network better?

That’s what Disney is building, but is it the right thing to build? Does having a connected land like that really add to the theme park experience? My take is no. You might as well treat these as independent lands. It’s nice for Easter Eggs and Fan Theories. But the people who are able to visit multiple Avengers Campus locations are relatively few. And the number of people who visit all of them is almost negligible. So, each land will have to stand on its own.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the first to lean hard onto the themed lands side of the spectrum. In that case, it turned out to bean absolute success. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge tried the same thing, and has not been as popular. So, just having a wildly popular set of characters doesn’t guarantee the land will be successful. The attractions and experience need to be popular on there own.

Does Theming Lead to Crowds

As for whether the land needs to be themed, I think the answer is no. Disney invested in converting Paradise Pier to Pixar Pier because it would be more character centric. Here’s a graph of the average queue times for California Screamin’ in red and the Incredicoaster in gold. The Incredicoaster definitely has a longer wait. There is no drop in the mid-afternoon, and the evening drop off happens later than it did for the California Screamin’. The average wait time is only 2 minutes longer for Incredicoaster.

Average difference in wait time for California Screamin' and the Incredicoaster is 2 minutes.

What does 2 minutes mean in terms of crowds? With an hourly rider capacity of about 2000, this means the ride now has about 60 more people in line at any given time. That doesn’t mean 60 more people getting on the ride in a day. If the same number of trains are running now as before the retheme – which seems to be an accurate assumption – the number of people that can get on the ride in a day hasn’t changed. The only difference is that there are 60 people who decide to get in line a little earlier than they would have. This isn’t a big change. Even though Pixar Pier does have a good theme and seems more popular, the retheme hasn’t had a huge effect on the demand for the ride.

Will Theming be Good for Avengers?

Let’s bring this back to Avenger’s Campus now. My point is that just because there will be a “Marvel Land” with a cool backstory that matches other lands, doesn’t mean the area will be great. Having the most immersive land ever built with the mega-IP Star Wars wasn’t enough to make Galaxy’s Edge overflow. What you need is strong attractions. That means fun rides, entertaining shows, good merchandise. You need iconic landmarks to get people to linger. Great food will plant people down for an hour or so and helps the land look filled. This is the way Disney has always built parks.

The strong pull for Frontierland isn’t standing outside the Mark Twain’s dock and saying, “Look! A saloon and a train-themed roller coaster.” Taking a scenic ride along the Rivers of America, eating inside the Golden Horseshoe, and taking a train ride on the “wildest ride in the wilderness” are what make the land fun. The theming between these attractions is like a glue that holds those anchors together, or the icing on the cake. But just like you’d get sick after an entire meal of icing, you can’t base your entire theme park experience on the theming between attractions. If Disney uses real anchors for Avenger’s Campus, and makes the overarching theme for the campus the icing on the cake, it’ll be a great land. Otherwise, it’ll look like something we should want, but just can’t bring ourselves to swallow.

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