Disney Opens Marvel-Themed Avengers Campus in California
(Bloomberg) -- When Walt Disney Co. debuted its Cars Land themed area at its California Adventure park in 2012, celebrities and TV crews stretched for blocks along a red carpet leading to the resort.
The park’s newest attraction, the Marvel-superhero-themed Avengers Campus, debuts this weekend without that level of fanfare. The company held a relatively subdued opening ceremony Wednesday evening. It was livestreamed with some celebrities -- and fireworks -- but without the usual hoopla.
“I’m excited to see the world returning to some level of normalcy,” Josh D’Amaro, head of the entertainment giant’s parks division, said during the event.
Theme parks in California are still operating at 35% capacity limits -- until at least June 15, when the caps lift statewide and non-California residents can attend. Even then Disney will likely be limiting crowds as it looks to enforce its own social-distancing targets.
The world’s largest theme-park operator is requiring reservations to enter its resorts. And both Disneyland and the adjacent California Adventure, located in Anaheim, California, are already sold out for much of June. As a result, Disney may be holding back on its promotions, billboards and TV commercials for fear of disappointing fans.
“It’s not like they have to promo -- if they do it, they just have to say ‘no’ to people,” said David Price, a theme-park consultant whose father worked on the original Disneyland. “That may be part of their slow opening.”
The Avengers Campus is both an attempt to capitalize on the enormous popularity of the company’s Marvel franchise and freshen up some older parts of the park. The attraction occupies the former A Bug’s Land area, which opened with California Adventure in 2001.
In its place, there’s a Spider-Man ride, where guests don 3D glasses and through some Disney special effects shoot webs at evil robot spiders. There’s also a restaurant and gift shop, but the biggest attraction -- an Avengers-themed roller coaster that was announced in 2019 -- is on hold. The land was originally supposed to open last summer, but the theme parks were shut down because of the pandemic until April of this year.
The space is smaller than some of Disney’s bigger lands. To make it feel larger, the company is connecting the new attraction to the adjacent Guardians of Galaxy Mission: Breakout, a Marvel-themed ride that opened in 2017. That was a repurposing of the previous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride.
Inside the campus, guests can dine on food items, both shrunken and enormous, to fit with the restaurant’s Ant-Man theme. There will also be character appearances and a Spider-Man who swings across the courtyard. The company is employing a virtual queue for the ride to let guests reserve a spot through their smartphones.
Disney has another reason to be skittish about overplaying its hand. The company opened its Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge themed area in 2019 with a media blitz that included a two-hour prime-time special on the company’s Freeform network. Fears of overcrowding may have scared some fans away, then-Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said at the time. Attendance at Disneyland ended up being flat that year.
The company may still decide to increase promotions for the new Avengers attraction later in the summer after pandemic-related restrictions lift.
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