Ah, the "Disney Bubble"... The invisible – but very real – iridescent dome that hovers over Walt Disney World is a thing of legend. Once you're inside the "Disney Bubble," the real world seems very, very far away.
But over the last several years, we've seen disappointing and distressing moves at Disney that suggest that the legendary "Disney Bubble" might be on the verge of popping. It was this time two years ago that we first explored Disney's new era of slashed perks and new upcharges – where Disney seems to invent problems, then sell the solutions. Then we endured a flubbed 50th Anniversary, a year without any ride announcements (and during the meteoric rise of a competitor), and – predictably – falling attendance as guests return home to report how drastically prices have increased across the board.
But even beyond rising prices, frustrating upcharges, and general lack of enthusiasm that Disney seems to have for its parks so far in the 2020s, there's another issue worth discussing... the things that have come to Disney Parks in the last decade – all IP-based, of course – have some serious problems... The projects below all have an inherent issue that leaves fans frustrated... and worried about Imagineering's future. Are you?
1. Avengers Campus
The Problem: No E-Ticket
When then-Chairman of Disney Parks Bob Chapek stood on stage at the semi-annual D23 Expo in 2019, it was to unveil the long-gestating details of Avengers Campus – the high profile land meant to embody the biggest film franchise of all time and Disney's then-current golden goose. But even then, Chapek hedged his bets, showing a two versions of the same piece of concept art. The second version merely inserted a massive white warehouse emblazoned with the Avengers "A". This, he promised, would be an incredible, technological, all-out, innovative thrill ride that – like the Avengers film – would serve as a mega crossover event. The only problem? It wouldn't be part of the land to start.
Instead, the legendary "Avengers E-Ticket" would be part of a "Phase II" expansion of the land... some day. It seemed like a short-sighted move, especially for the company who'd just opened Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge without its anchoring Rise of the Resistance U-Ticket, and predictably had seen attendance and public response fall far below expectations. So it's no surprise that fans had the same kind of reaction with Avengers Campus, which really only added the fun-but-frivolous Web-Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure to the park's ride count.
Don't get us wrong: Avengers Campus is a nice land. It's fun. It's lighthearted. It's got lots of Easter eggs. And it's filled with character (literally) thanks to Disney's commitment to keeping the land stocked with heroes. But there's no denying that it's still missing that big budget blockbuster E-Ticket experience that the Marvel brand really requires and that the Avengers deserve.
In 2022, Disney re-confirmed that the original, expansive, E-Ticket thrill ride had morphed into a lower-scale, more family-oriented "Plan B" version of an Avengers ride... but a major downswing in Marvel's box office popularity (and the fact that no dirt has moved at California Adventure) leaves fans worried... And given Disney's track record, even if construction began today, we wouldn't expect a proper Avengers ride for at least five years. Speaking of which...
2. TRON Lightcycle Run
The Problem: Too slow
Shanghai Disneyland opened in 2016, introducing a whole new formula for Disney's "Castle Parks" and ushering in a generation of fresh attraction concepts. One of the clear standouts was TRON Lightcycle Power Run – a launched roller coaster positioning guests aboard straddle-seated Lightcycles, blasting into the digital realm of TRON. It was a compelling, colorful, and clever ride, and as usual, fans quickly took to the internet asking Disney to bring it stateside. But this time, they listened.
At the semi-annual D23 Expo, the became official: Magic Kingdom would indeed receive a copy of the Shanghai ride in its own Tomorrowland, with the ride's iconic, glowing, serpentine canopy joining Space Mountain's geometric cone in the land's skyline. Seasonal, regional parks often begin vertical construction of roller coasters in late summer and have them open for riders by the following spring. Obviously, Disney rides are rarely just "bare steel" coaster that could come online so quickly. But in case you missed it, we're not talking about a few extra months here. In fact, 1,875 days passed between the ride's groundbreaking and its public opening – that's about five years.
Granted, the COVID-19 pandemic certainly interrupted Disney's construction timeline while also causing materials shortages across the industry. But it's worth remembering that Universal's VelociCoaster endured the same scenario and went from groundbreaking to opening in 875 days – less than half the time. Back at Walt Disney World, fans looked on in utter disbelief at how long it took for Disney to literally build an exact clone of a ride they'd already built once before. Five years. Even remembering it now, it feels unthinkable.
And apparently, Disney management felt so too... Because the next project on our list allegedly came about when much-detested, penny-pinching CEO Bob Chapek personally tasked Imagineers with getting an IP-based project off the ground as quickly as possible, and with as little cash as possible... Read on...