It's been about two weeks since Disneyland Resort's newest land, Avengers Campus, opened to the public, and so far it seems like the new land is really popular. It's only been in the past several days that guests have been able to simply walk into the land, with a standby line for the land itself and a virtual queue to get on the land's big Spider-Man attraction. A lot of people have been trying to get in despite the park's still-limited capacity. I've had the chance to visit Avengers Campus a couple of different times now, and the more I look at it, the more I think Avengers Campus may be the perfect blend of theme park fun and storytelling immersion.
To be sure, Avengers Campus isn't the biggest theme park land and it's not the most technologically advanced when it comes to its attractions. However, it's a land that has taken lessons that have been learned in other places and finds better ways to do just about everything. Here's why I hope to see more of what Avengers Campus has to offer when new theme park lands are created elsewhere.
Avengers Campus' Theme Is Focused But Flexible
Throughout most of the Disney Parks, the different lands are themed to general concepts. Tomorrowland is all about looking towards the future, so attractions like Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters both make sense there, even if there's no real connection between them. When Universal Studios announced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it brought forth one of the first theme park lands focused on a single property. This was followed in short order by Disney's own Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
If there's a problem with the Wizarding World and Galaxy's Edge, it's that each one is more or less set during a particular point in the larger franchise. The Wizarding World's attractions set it during the years Harry Potter is a student at Hogwarts. Galaxy's Edge is set between Episode VIII and IX of the Skywalker Saga. While this helps make you feel like you're inside the story, it also severely limits the places that story can go. You can't have Newt Scamander walk through Harry Potter's Hogsmeade and you can't have Obi-Wan Kenobi appear in the same place guests just saw Rey.
Avengers Campus is still themed entirely around the Marvel universe. The Spider-Man ride and the Doctor Strange show aren't just next door to each other, they're literally supposed to be happening in different places on "campus" at the same time. But the land's design (as well as Marvel's own flexible continuity) allow basically any character to appear at any point. Attractions and shows can be updated or replaced without having to redesign the entire land or do some crazy mental gymnastics.
Characters Bring Avengers Campus To Life
Characters at theme parks have always been an attraction unto themselves. Most of the time their job is to simply stand in one place and greet one guest after another. These days, things are working a bit differently. Characters have still been part of theme parks, but in the era of social distancing, they're out there doing their own thing, maybe just walking down the promenade, not unlike you. However, at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, this was always how it worked. Because the land was designed to feel like a planet in the Star Wars universe, Rey and Chewbacca weren't there to simply take photos, (though they're happy to do so); they're wandering around the land because they are part of it.
This is one place where Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge's massive size actually works against it. While Rey or Chewbacca or Kylo Ren might be wandering the land, if you're in the wrong part of the land, you'll never see them. And again, because of the limited time frame that Galaxy's Edge exists in, the number of characters you might see is also limited.
Because Avengers Campus isn't huge, if Thor or Loki is wandering by on one side of the land, you'll see them from the other. When the Dora Milaje arrive to do their show, they don't do it in a theater; they do it out in the open, in the middle of the walkway. You can watch Black Panther and Black Widow fight Taskmaster from an outdoor table at the restaurant if you're lucky enough to get the timing right. All of these live character appearances all happening right around you make you feel like you're "part of the story" in a way that simple cosmetic design can't do.
Avengers Campus Doesn't Require Buy-In From The Guests
I love Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and the way that the land takes immersion to a new level. Not only does the land feel like you've been transported to another planet, even the Disneyland cast members working there will treat you like a tourist on an alien world. For those who want to engage with the land on that level, there's nothing quite like it, at least until the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is built.
But it has to be said that a lot of Galaxy's Edge only really works to the degree you're willing to buy in. In fact, a lot of the storytelling elements of Galaxy's Edge, like the naming of food with its "Star Wares name" and the lack of signage in a language you can understand, has been abandoned because a lot of guests fought it. A lot of people might love to play the game, but the general public really just wants to go to Disneyland and have fun.
Avengers Campus lets them do that. If you want to feel like you're visiting a former Stark Industries location that's been repurposed by the Avengers, you can do that. But if you want to simply visit an Avengers-themed theme park, you can do that too, and each person is going to have just as much fun as everybody else.
It seems quite clear that these theme parks lands based on single properties, not simply similar concepts, are what we're going to continue to see more often as time goes on. And while previous versions of the idea have their strengths, and all are great in their own way, Avengers Campus feels like it's found the right balance. Now, both Disney, and its competitors, can take what Avengers Campus has done, and make each element bigger and better. We certainly haven't seen the end of this idea, but the next massive and impressive theme parks lands we get will largely have Avengers Campus to thank.