Avengers Campus, a whole new land dedicated to the Marvel Universe, opens this Friday at Disney California Adventure. Much of the six acres is devoted to open space and outdoor stages where Iron Man, Black Widow, or Wakandan warriors from Black Panther might show up for a meet and greet or to stage an impromptu battle. A Benedict Cumberbatch lookalike performs mystical magic in Dr. Strange’s Ancient Sanctum. You can load up on Spider gear at the WEB Suppliers shop, or dig the super-sized and/or tiny food and drink at Pym’s Kitchen, inspired by the 2018 superhero film Ant-Man and the Wasp. The Guardians of the Galaxy attraction finally has company.
Do you need to have seen each of Disney’s 23 Marvel movies to know what’s going on here? No, but it wouldn’t hurt. “We’ve hidden a ton of Easter eggs in there for you to find,” Imagineer Scot Drake said at a Wednesday preview. “We had a blank page and 70 years of stories to pull from.” If you didn’t stay for the post-credits scenes of The Avengers you might wonder why a food cart from Shawarma Palace is taking up prime real estate.
Real estate is another big part of the backstory here. The campus is said to have been built on the site of a 1930s auto plant and aerospace company owned by Iron Man’s dad Howard Stark. (It actually replaced a collection of kiddie rides based on the 1990s Pixar movie A Bug’s Life.) We are told that Stark’s outmoded industrial buildings have been transformed into a shoppertainment compound like the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Goodbye boiler plant and scrap yard. Hello craft beer. Pym’s Kitchen has a slew of boozy brews including a blood orange Michelada, microbrew mimosas served in a beaker, and a marshmallow stout ice cream float with mini marshmallows.
“They’ve gone all in on the impossible in this land,” I overheard a guest say during lunch, remembering the mystic stylings of Dr. Strange, before I realized she was talking about the meat-free Impossible burgers, meatballs, and sausage on the menu. The plant-based food is praised for its environmental benefits on a series of altruistic wall plaques. It gave me the same sort of a school field trip vibe that I got in WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, a sort of big-screen video game where you attempt to snare runaway spider robots from your ride vehicle, or in the STEM friendly gift shop where you can buy ride-enhancing devices that change out Spider-Man’s webslingers for Iron Man’s Repulsor Rays.
While the attractions may not be as transportive as Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s still a fun alternative to drop by for lunch. The Dr. Strange stage show may have come closest to convincing visitors that they may have entered another dimension, but the rest of the land is set firmly in the here and now, and that’s just where I was before I arrived at Disneyland.
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