Avengers Campus, a truly heroic zone?

We had not experienced such an event at Disneyland Paris for 8 years! Indeed, the last new area or even attraction (that was not a reinvention or technological update) dates back to 2014 with Ratatouille. No other Resort or even Park offers such a slow pace of development, so that’s how much the arrival of Avengers Campus was expected. Especially since it is the first major step in the expansion of the Walt Disney Studios Park.

Such an expectation deserves to be treated with the utmost care. That’s why we’ll have to take a slightly different approach in my review, with not a linear reading, but an analysis from different points of view.

Avengers Campus at Disneyland Paris with the Avengers A in the foreground

1. The transformation of the ugly Backlot

When the Park opened its doors in 2002, one word was on everyone’s lips: disappointment. Small, soulless, with no real vegetation, Walt Disney Studios Park was without a doubt the worst creation in the history of the Imagineers and turned out to be the complete opposite of the neighbouring Disneyland Park, which has all the superlatives inherited from its origins (apart from the arrival of Space Mountain in 1995, it cannot be said that there have been many developments to match in 30 years, but that’s another subject).

Of all the park’s zones, the ugliest is Backlot, with its sheet metal cubes connected by a simple strip of bitumen. But it does have the merit of offering the only truly exclusive attraction in the Park: Armageddon – The Special Effects, and the only one that will be worthwhile: Rock’n’Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. After 15 years of having to make do with it, Disney has finally decided to revise its copy by inviting its biggest franchise: the Marvel superheroes. All hopes were therefore allowed, they couldn’t do any worse.

So goodbye to asphalt and sheet metal. Avengers Campus is extremely green (even if some trees will benefit from growing a little) with a particularly colourful paved floor. As for the buildings, the simple sheet metal has been replaced by brick, steel, glass and concrete for a much less unpleasant aesthetic.

But unfortunately we will have to be content with opening the door to immersion and disorientation, Avengers Campus suffers first of all from the extremely small surface area of its ancestor Backlot by being limited to 2 small alleys radiating around a central square and an aesthetic borrowed from the renovated industrial wastelands of any Western city. Worse, the Avengers HQ facade somehow just replaces a steel wall with another steel wall, far from the extravagance one would expect from a building worthy of Tony Stark, and unfortunately F.R.I.D.A.Y. doesn’t save the day. While the idea isn’t bad in itself, its recurring messages reminded me mostly of supermarket ads and its lighting scheme is far from dazzling.

There’s no denying that the progress is colossal. But it’s still a far cry from Walt Disney Imagineering’s most recent successes that such a licence deserves. In the end, Avengers Campus is content with the level of theming that a good national park would be able to offer without too much difficulty, but it definitely doesn’t try to enter the big league of Cars Land, Pandora – World of Avatar, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge or Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

On the offer side, the absolute counter remains more or less at a standstill. Backlot offered two attractions, three restaurants, a small shop and a big show. Avengers Campus also has two attractions and three food outlets, with the difference being the larger shop with a hard corner, as well as a meeting pavilion with at least one outdoor meeting point, several small animations and what can be considered a stunt show to compensate for the deletion of the Action Engine – Stuntshow Spectacular.

So we come to the conclusion that the arrival of Avengers Campus is by far not the revolution we had hoped for. A simple evolution whose merit will be limited to erasing the ugliest wart in the history of the Disney Parks, without succeeding in giving the Park that hosts it the marks of nobility that it still lacks.

2. The first stage of the Walt Disney Studios expansion

This naturally leads us to adopt a second posture and see this new area as part of the Walt Disney Studios Park expansion plan. As I mentioned above, from a purely accounting point of view, this is broadly a status quo. But it would be dishonest not to push our vision further, after all an apple is not a pear although both are a fruit.

Let’s move on quickly to the attractions, I’ll come back to them in detail later.
As for W.E.B. – A Spider-Man Adventure, the arrival of a 3D Interactive Dark Ride was expected. It was a great lack from Disneyland Paris, as no one ever thought it was relevant to import Toy Story Mania (2008) to our continent. The attraction obviously offers the predictable fun and energetic experience, all enhanced by the latest technological innovations: impeccable 3D and a motion recognition system. One could not expect anything less from a clone of an attraction created in 2021.
Next to it, the Rock’n Roller Coaster is somehow still present, including the original trains, with the introduction of a new skin, or rather disassembly, because we can’t say that we will have really gained from the change, the only interest of Avengers Assemble: Flight Force residing in Iron-Man’s Audio-Animatronic (the very first one in the Park if we don’t count Bruce in Crush’s Coaster). For the rest, a lot of grey paint, some panels and screens that end up on the Show Ride side, on black. There is nothing left of the extravagant night club, replaced by some too rare projections.

On the restaurant front, Disneyland Paris is presenting the thirtieth edition of its annual promise to offer a culinary experience worthy of the name under the guise of going upmarket, which is mostly synonymous with going up in price. Personally, I tested PYM Kitchen, to which I award the title of the worst buffet in Disneyland Paris without emotion.
The theming is limited to the famous quantum tunnel, three TVs above the main buffet and some honeycomb panels to evoke the experimental side. In fact, we just replace a studio canteen by a lab canteen. It must be said that the idea of giant elements has already been exploited next door at the Bistrot Chez Rรฉmy, so that limits the options.
As for the organisation, it’s a mess, there’s no other word for it. It seems that there was no budget to put signage above the different areas and their organisation in corridors makes it very difficult to move around, especially in the desserts and cheeses area which faces the starters.
In terms of food, it’s also ubiquitous. The so-called giant pretzel is not, it’s what we call a standard size in Alsace where I come from and the main dishes are mainly limited to a giant burger, a giant hot dog and a giant sandwich. All this for more money than a Plaza Garden, it stings. In fact, the whole concept is based on an abusive use of food coloring at the expense of tasty dishes. So I have only two words for the food teams: Molecular Cuisine. This should give them some ideas on how to properly exploit such a rich potential concept.
However, there is a good note to remember, the dessert buffet, which is very well done and which alone will be worth a visit if Disneyland Paris introduces a Snack Break formula one day.

Finally, the animations, for which I unfortunately cannot comment, having had the bad idea to visit Avengers Campus once in a 40ยฐ heat wave and a second time in torrents of rain, which led to their absence with just a few sporadic character appearances.
Yet the programme is attractive, almost too much so, as it shows even more how brain-dead the rest of the destination is on this point.

It is now time to take stock. As the first stone of a half Park that wants to become a real Park, the result is more than mixed. With 2 Attractions out of the 5 promised by 2026, we can’t say that there is anything to get excited about. Avengers Campus, although nice, is cruelly lacking in scope and ambition to really put Walt Disney Studios Park on the path to becoming a real Disney Park.
If it were up to me, Disneyland Paris would be wise to urgently release an additional budget to move as soon as possible from an Avengers Campus alone to a Worlds of Marvel with at least two other zones. On the one hand, to include the Stunt Show arena where Spider-Man’s Stuntronic (the great absentee of the Parisian Avengers Campus) could shine, and on the other hand, to take over the Place des Stars and turn it into a landscaped park including a Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout clone and animations occupying the different rooms (those who would like to see a real Magic show by Doctor Strange or an interactive Groot Live! animation, please raise your hand).

3. The first real innovation since 2014

It’s time for the third and final viewpoint. Avengers Campus finds itself being the first real new feature in 8 years. While all the other Parks in the world, Disney or not, compete in ingenuity and grandiosity, Disneyland Paris drags its feet. So was it worth the wait?

Let’s go back to W.E.B. – A Spider-Man Adventure. As I said, the experience is a lot of fun. But unfortunately, Walt Disney Imagineering didn’t put much effort into the theming. Thus the queue, mostly indoors here, loses the few inventions in progress that punctuate the path in California, ending up in a monotonous corridor without interest. Worse, the meagre signage openly relies on the Californian building and even proposes a wink to the Shawarma Palace, which is absent from the Parisian Avengers Campus. An inconsistency that can be found even in the attraction itself, since our route, which is supposed to make us eradicate the SpiderBots from the Avengers Campus, takes us to the heart of the Tivan Collection of the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout attraction. Some will see this as a tribute, others as a sign of a possible future, but personally I see it as an incoherence resulting from a certain laziness, or from budgets that were cut way too low. Disneyland Paris would be well advised to make the project official, if it is still in the pipeline for a hypothetical Phase 2.

Speaking of cut budgets, let’s move on to Avengers Assemble: Flight Force. Don’t look for it, all the little money invested clearly went into Iron-Man’s latest generation Audio-Animatronic and the few screens. The overall aesthetic is by no means ugly, but again is limited to the bare minimum: walls painted in shades of grey and flashing LEDs. So the so-called lobby turns out to be so small that the Hulk couldn’t fit in it, and the story takes a back seat to Iron-Man asking for our help with a vague story about Kree missiles as an excuse for a stirring mission in the dark.
For a trip into space, this time you can close your eyes without missing anything, there’s nothing to see. The few screens and lighting effects that were innovative for Space Mountain – Mission 2 in 2005 are absolutely cheesy here and if you’re in the first half of the train, you won’t see anything anyway. It’s hard to believe these are the same people who produced Tron Lightcycle Power Run (2016) or Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind (2022). Even if this is only an update of what already exists, didn’t Iron-Man deserve better?
The visitor/customer deserved better too, as the trains only got new hulls. So welcome to the realm of slaps and nasty jolts. As if the new trains inaugurated with HyperSpace Mountain (2017) hadn’t demonstrated that this problem could be easily corrected overall. For a 20 year old Coaster that has been renovated for 3 years, this should have been the starting point for this transformation.

As for the rest, what can I sayโ€ฆ The decorative elements of the area are also minimal service, since we can only retain the giant PYM particle on one side and the famous Quinjet on the other. The superb Arc Reactor on the floor of the Californian Avengers Campus is limited to 5 LED strips in a vague cobblestone pattern. Disneyland Paris even goes so far as to sell a miniature of a Wakanda ship as part of its collection, including the Quinjet and the Superhero Papamobile (also known as the Avengers Deployment Vehicle).
Speaking of Superheroes, the current selection of characters on offer could do with a good update, a problem that is all too common in Paris. As we are in the summer of 2022, where are Scarlet Witch, Miss Marvel or Mighty Thor who shine by their event presence in California? The most recent character turns out to be the new Captain America, who arrived on our screens over a year ago.

Conclusion

It is now time to make a final assessment in the light of these different points of view.
Avengers Campus turns out to be a nice patch on a wart. But its blatant lack of ambition and budget means that no standout feature stands out, the conspicuous absence of Spider-Man’s Stuntronic being just one of many examples. Worse, it even spoiled the only valid element of the late Backlot by massacring the good old Rock’n’Roller Coaster, for an heir that is still stuck in the early 2000’s if we put aside Iron-Man’s Audio-Animatronic and the giant screen present in the queue.

This raises serious questions about the real ambitions of Disneyland Paris in the context of the famous expansion plan. As a reminder, Paris will only have half of Arendelle – World of Frozen compared to Hong Kong Disneyland and the Star Wars zone (or possibly something else) will not arrive for another 4 years. So some people in high places would be wise to urgently release an extension to fix this and evolve Avengers Campus as part of a larger Worlds of Marvel. Even if it would obviously not have been possible to lose Backlot and the Hollywood Tower Hotel at the same time, things should really be done quickly if Disneyland Paris does not want to be locked into the role of the sluggish snail in the face of competition that is determined to fight, Asterix and Europa-Park in the lead (they will both be opening big new Coasters next year).

You will have understood that, for me, there is no need to run and get recruited in the Avengers Campus. Wait a little, the frenzy surrounding its arrival should quickly blow over and you will then have conditions to visit that are more in line with what little it has to offer.

The positivesThe Negatives
The area is less ugly than beforeWe miss the Rock’n’Roller Coaster
Lots of characters and animations, weather permitting and as long as they are not removedWhere is the Stuntronic from Spider-Man?
Marvel finally gets a real permanent presence
for a change from the Princesses
No recent characters
Walt Disney Studios finally has a real Audio-AnimatronicA zone that is far too small
Less people in the rest of the ParkWhy does Paris now systematically inherit inferior versions?