Disney to Open Avengers Campus June 4 at California Adventure Park

Walt Disney Co. will open a long-anticipated Avengers-themed attraction at its California Adventure park on June 4, helping the company attract fans following a yearlong pandemic shutdown.

The debut will come five weeks after the park is slated to reopen, alongside Disneyland in Anaheim, California, on April 30. Disney initially planned to open the Avengers site last July, but Covid-19 forced it to close all of its California properties and delay the project.

Josh D’Amaro, who runs the entertainment giant’s parks divisions, previewed the changes awaiting guests during a presentation on Thursday, saying the Disneyland experience would be far different than what customers are used to.

The way people will buy tickets, order food and line up for rides has changed, he said. And some old standbys, including the annual-pass program and FastPasses, which allowed guests to reserve a time for a specific ride, have been scrapped.

“It’s been a challenging and transformative year for our company,” he said. “The shutdown also gave us the opportunity to accelerate planned improvements.”

Disney acquired the Avengers characters as part of its 2009 acquisition of Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, and it’s been working to integrate them into its theme parks. Fans will be able to see “Spider-Man in true form slinging through the air” over the new campus, just like Tinker Bell over the Disneyland castle, D’Amaro said.

Covid Limits

Because of Covid-19 limitations, all visitors will need to book a specific date when they buy their tickets. And they better move fast: Disney’s four parks in Orlando, Florida, which are operating at reduced capacity due to the pandemic, were sold out for several days this month during spring break. And not every ride will be open.

Mobile food ordering is now the norm, D’Amaro said. More than 80% of guests pay for their meals that way, up from 9% before the pandemic. And a virtual queuing system, where visitors use their phones to get a specific time to board the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride, may be used at other attractions in the future.

The pandemic has been particularly hard on Disney’s parks business. The company laid off some 32,000 employees, mostly in that division, and slashed spending as result of the coronavirus, which forced the company to close its resorts around the world for months. Capital expenditures at the parks fell 30% to $2.9 billion last year, and Disney has said the number will be lower this year, too.

The company is still looking to wow guests with new attractions, many of which were already well along in construction. A Ratatouille ride, modeled after one in Disneyland Paris, will open later this year in Orlando, and a Star Wars-themed hotel will debut soon.

Fans will have to wait for other projects in the works, including a Tron roller coaster and a Guardians of the Galaxy ride in Florida, as well as a remodel of the Splash Mountain attractions to incorporate a new theme based on “The Princess and the Frog.”

The company has had to “adapt our operations in a variety of ways,” D’Amaro said during the presentation.

Things are looking up in other ways. Disney said it’s resuming cruises in the U.K., short two-to-four day “staycation” trips that don’t call on any other ports. The company’s fifth cruise ship launches in June 2022.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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