In keeping with the ever-evolving and more malleable MCU, Avengers Campus is what we might call a "flex space." Unlike the rigid and immovable timeline of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Avengers Campus is set in a variant universe of its own – a clever way to write-off the fact that heroes long-dead in the MCU can meet-and-greet alongside whichever new heroes are being promoted. Built on a much smaller scale than Disney or Universal's typical "Living Lands," Avengers Campus is full of heroes who leap and swing and wave and conjure and strut (and plenty of "must-try" food and souvenirs) but it's suspiciously short on attractions.
We took a tour of what to expect (and what not to) from Disney's first Marvel hero land, and surprisingly, the only new ride to debut as part of the land's June 2021 debut was Web-Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. (When fans first saw this "leaked" layout, it was assumed to be a practical joke drafted by troublemakers just to see how much chaos they could sow. Surely Disney wouldn't relegate Spider-Man to a 3D, screen-based Toy Story Mania spin-off...!)
The premise is simple: as part of the Campus' "Open House" recruitment to train the next generation of heroes (that's us), we're invited to tour the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (W.E.B.) laboratory, where all manner of grad students have left their mark.
Among them is young tech-genius Peter Parker (reprised by Tom Holland, but no, he doesn't show up as an advanced Audio-Animatronic during the pre-show as fans had hoped...) whose handy new Spider-Bot accidentally gets caught in replication mode, absorbing matter to generate endless, exponential copies. Luckily, Spider-Man arrives just in time, and that gives us the chance to test out the new SLINGR project – a vehicle that'll give us Spider-Man's web-slinging capabilities to recapture the Spider-Bots before they eat away at the entire Campus.
In short, what follows is "Toy Story Midway Mania, but with gesture recognition instead of carnival poppers." Guests physically use their arms to aim, with webs seeming to spring from hands as they web, yank, toss, and catch Spider-Bots. The cadence of the ride will feel incredibly familiar to anyone who's experience Midway Mania, including parallel screens that spring to life once guests are parked in front of them.
Though it doesn't make a ton of spacial sense, each screen brings to life a different part of the Campus overrun with Spider-Bots: from the W.E.B. facility to the neaby Pym Labs (where the Pym Test Kitchen's shrunken and expanded foods are prepared), then into the Collector's Warehouse (home of Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!) and finally the Avengers Compound (where, theoretically, an announced-but-possibly-cancelled Avengers E-Ticket will serve as the land's headliner).
Web-Slingers ups the immersion by blocking guests' views of other cars and including light "motion simulation" (i.e. appears to moving sideways or slowly sink via an elevator). It also includes Easter eggs and secrets that can be activated by parties who work together. And conceptually interesting, it scores the whole vehicle's collective effort over individual's – one of the "lessons" we're meant to learn during our time on the Campus. But frankly, it's very odd to re-use the so-instantly-recognizable Midway Mania ride concept a few hundred feet from where it debuted on Pixar Pier...
Yeah, Web-Slingers is fun; it's cute; and it's absolutely a kind of ride Avengers Campus and Disney California Adventure needed, especially since Avengers Campus wiped out a handful of toddler-friendly flat rides in "a bug's land." No one would deny that more height-restriction-free family rides are always a good thing, and of course Spider-Man is the MCU hero who should oversee a ride for the whole family. (Think of how many kids aged 5 to 10 no doubt wear Spider-Man costumes to the park, and how depressing it would be if Avengers Campus had zero rides for them.)
But a slow, 3D, screen-based, "flat" dark ride feels like an odd use of Spider-Man...
Look – it's entirely unfair to compare Web-Slingers to Universal's Modern Marvel: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Both set out to use the character in very different ways. But in the wake of No Way Home, it's impossible not to imagine Disney California Adventure offering a 'SCOOP' ride-system-based Spider-Man ride, sending guests through Sling Ring portals and facing off with villains through the streets of New York. That's the kind of ride that Marvel's headlining hero deserves; a ride that captures the massive, emotional, interconnected, action-packed, and epic sensations that a Spider-Man movie does.
Okay, okay, Disney once promised that a proper E-Ticket Avengers ride will one day come to Avengers Campus – sort of the "Rise of the Resistance" to Spider-Man's "Smugglers Run" – and I guess that's the place we'd see the epic, action-packed, emotional, thrilling journey into the MCU that we'd expect... but with a promised $900 million cut-back on spending and no earth having moved on that supposed expansion, it's beginning to look like the Avengers won't be coming to save the day anytime soon.
So especially right now – with Spider-Man positioned as the central emotional anchor of the MCU and its descent into the "Multiverse of Madness," Disneyland's low-stakes, low-key, and no-height-requirement web-'em-up attraction that so closely echoes a ride the park already has just feels like a bad choice and the wrong investment in the character. What do you think? Do you wish Disney Imagineering had used Spider-Man as the basis for an action-packed, epic, thrilling dark ride? Or were they right to position Spider-Man as the entry-level attraction in a land that needed to feature something for kids and grandparents alike?