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Avengers Campus, which opens at Disney California Adventure July 18, is so much more than a new ride, themed food, and robotic battle-ready Spider-Bots. Billed as a land teeming with Earth’s mightiest heroes, Disney is setting the Avengers themselves up as one of the main draws of the expansion — and possibly the thing you’ll walk away raving about most.
At first read, it sounds like somewhat of a cop out, as plenty of Avengers already have photo ops at Disney California Adventure within its re-themed annex of Hollywood Land. Right now, you could head to Disneyland Resort and meet Captain America, Black Panther, or the Guardians of the Galaxy up close, but the main difference is that when Avengers Campus debuts this summer, those characters will finally exist together in a permanent way.
Instead of heroes like Thor and Loki annexed off into separate corners and thematic backdrops, they’ll be mingling among the crowds, forming a veritable explosion of superheroes in the center of Disney’s Southern California theme park, which will come with plenty of unexpected encounters. “I’m [so excited] to have so many heroes and have them roaming and interacting with each other,” Dan Fields, Executive Creative Director of Disney Parks Live Entertainment, tells SYFY WIRE. “When you start to think about ‘Who knows who?’ and ‘What past do they share?’, [I] think you're gonna get to witness moments that are truly new in this world of Avengers.”
From what it sounds like, entering into this new Marvel-themed land will feel like that final battle in Avengers: Endgame, minus a reality-jumping Thanos and his army of Space Dogs — Avengers assembling, sure, but for much more delightful reasons.
Not only will Iron Man meet guests at Avengers Headquarters throughout the day — a first for the American parks — but he’ll do so in a brand new Mark 80 suit, which can only be found in the land. “There's a compactness to these later versions of the suit,” Fields says. “So, he still has all the powers of the arc reactor in forming it, but his range and mobility [are] better than ever.”
Spider-Man will also see an upgrade with an exclusive Web Slinger suit in honor of the eponymous new attraction, which can be seen when greeting fans face-to-face in “heroic encounters” (the land’s version of a classic character meet-and-greet) either outside the new WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure attraction or even while he tries out some new moves up in the sky. “Throughout the day, you are going to see Spider-Man perched up on the parapets of the WEB workshop,” Fields says. “He’s also going to be swinging into action high above the rooftops with amazing acrobatics and gravity-defying feats, and when Spider-Man does come down to earth, he’s going to be more than happy to hang out with some future heroes that he meets.” This meet-and-greet will see Spider-Man — technically the first use of Walt Disney Imagineering’s free-flying “stuntronics” robot — leaping through the air and chatting with folks for a hybridized experience that has not been done before in Disney Parks.
The high schooler-turned-superhero won’t be the only one putting on a show when Avengers Campus debuts. Throughout the day, Black Panther and Black Widow will face off against Taskmaster, a soon-to-be-revealed villain from the next MCU film, Black Widow, along the upper banked walls of the central Avengers Headquarters building. Viewable from the entirety of the land, the fight sequences were developed by the same team who worked on the upcoming film; to keep performances varied they won’t always be identical, and at times, even Captain America will step in. “The authenticity you’re going to see with the film characters...and the way you see them move, that’s the best part of it,” Dave Bushore, Vice President of Franchise Creative & Marketing for Marvel Studios, explains. “You come to the land and it’s like they walked right out of the movie.”
Details are still forthcoming about Doctor Strange’s interactive show experience — set in a small, ancient outdoor sanctum intended to feel like a secret garden, he will utilize audience participation while channeling the mystic arts — as well as a brand new atmosphere show led by the Dora Milaje and Okoye in the heart of the land among the crowds. The experience, which has yet to be named, centers around the training and wisdom of Wakanda; don’t be surprised if Black Panther, aka King T’Challa, drops in for a visit.
If you’re finding it difficult to imagine what an hour or two spent roaming through the middle of Avengers Campus will feel like, know that the odds of you bumping into Ant-Man and The Wasp while grabbing shawarma or catching Star-Lord and Gamora’s dance party as Captain Marvel strolls past are all but guaranteed to happen, constantly, in a land rife with chance encounters. (That Guardians of the Galaxy show, along with the Groot meet-and-greet, will continue to run when the new land opens.)
“We want there to be some things that you know are reliable, but we also want to make sure that you have the opportunity to discover. And the next time you come back, it may not play out the same way,” Field says.
It’s a conscious move that will feel less like a theme park and more like a casual gathering, the fluidity of which will lend itself so nicely to a park that, unlike Walt Disney World, doesn’t require much advanced planning. The ability to not just fight alongside your heroes but actually hang out with them? Now that’s a way to spend an afternoon.