Last month, we gave some well-deserved attention to Star Wars’ upcoming presence in the Disney Parks. 1 But let’s not forget that Walt Disney Imagineering has another long term, synergistic project in the works. It’s one that’s still being discussed, just… not as much.
I’m talkin’ Marvel, baby!
Disney Parks is slowly but surely building up its Marvel presence in the form of several Marvel-themed lands in its parks all over the world. The concept of each of these lands will be a series of international Avengers campuses, where heroes can hang out, show off their skills and technology, and train new recruits (read: take us on rides). The project kicked off in January of 2017 at Hong Kong Disneyland with the “Iron Man Experience,” a pretty run-of-the-mill sounding 3D simulator. A few months after that, our favorite group of intergalactic a-holes came to the US with “Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!” a genuinely fantastic drop-tower ride that replaced California’s version of the Tower of Terror.
Two weeks ago saw the opening of the third ride in the Marvel Theme Park Universe: “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle!”, also located in Hong Kong. Early press releases for this ride hyped it up as a state-of-the-art, unbelievably immersive experience that utilized some of the most advanced technology at WDI’s disposal. Naturally, I was excited. But as more details emerged, it became clear that this ride…
…was a shooting gallery.
More specifically, it’s a very superficial reworking of the ride system first used in “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin,” an attraction that opened in Walt Disney World in November of 1998. This probably has something to do with the fact that it literally replaced Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of that very ride. In both cases, guests are carried through a series of rooms by an Omnimover vehicle, while using the car’s attached laser guns to shoot at targets and rack up points. Because if there’s one thing Ant-Man and the Wasp are known for… it’s shooting at things.
Seriously, at least Buzz has a wrist laser.
The ride itself looks more than a little disappointing. While the environments are impressively built and detailed, the swarm of HYDRA robots guests are meant to shoot at — and indeed, all the targets — are completely stationary. You supposedly shrink down to ant size partway through, but there are no effects to convey this and no significant change in the scenery afterward. Any semblance of life in this ride experience comes from a series of screens integrated into the walls, across which Ant-Man and Wasp (played by Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly; credit where it’s due there) frequently dart back and forth. When the ride comes to an end, you’re congratulated for saving the day. But… did you? And could you even tell if you did? Because, again, nothing you shot at even moved.
The next Marvel ride coming to Disney Parks is a Spider-Man ride currently being built next door to “Mission: Breakout!” in California. And the more I hear about this ride, the more it sounds, much to my dismay, like it will be another shooting gallery akin this one.
Now, I would consider these two rides to be missed opportunities regardless, and there’s always the chance that the Spider-Man one will turn out to be something else.2 But my feelings about them are undoubtedly made stronger by the fact that I don’t even like shooting gallery rides in the first place. “Space Ranger Spin” is a nice enough diversion if the line is short, but its sister ride, “Toy Story Mania,” which frequently boasts 90-minute waits in both U.S. parks? I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more effective way to waste my precious time on a Disney trip. I’m just not competitive enough to want to rack up a high score, and not skilled enough to do so even if I did. My stance is basically that if I wanted to play a shovelware Wii game, I can easily do so in the comfort of my own home.
On a more positive note, the Marvel attraction that will follow up the Spidey ride is a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster in Florida’s EPCOT (which… what?), and it will feature genuinely groundbreaking technology. Per reports and test footage, the individual cars of the coaster will be able to swivel around while the coaster is in motion, allowing Imagineers to direct guests’ attention to one side or even behind them, without stopping or even slowing the ride’s overall progress along the track. How cool is that!? And why didn’t I just write a whole header about that in the first place?
Ah, well. Talk away!
Optional Discussion Topic: What sort of theme park ride is your least favorite?