Hey! Hallie here!
Recently my sister and I were able to go back to Disneyland after several years being away from the parks, and no surprise, we had an amazing time. Disneyland is still at the top of the theme park game when it comes to rides, ambiance, and overall enjoyment. But what stood out to us most on this trip was the newer themed areas in the California Disney parks. In Disneyland that area is Galaxy’s Edge, the big budget Star Wars land that opened pre-pandemic. In California Adventure that area is Avengers Campus, the smaller land that opened post-pandemic. Both are made to be immersive hubs for fans of by far the biggest franchises Disney has their hands on at the moment. But despite the fact that both lands aim to transport fans into the universes that we’ve always wanted to escape into, they both succeed in different ways. And though I do love them, they both also fail in different ways. So I’m putting these two areas head-to-head to decide which is better to visit as a fan. I emphasize better because, honestly, if you’re a fan of Star Wars or Marvel you’ll have an amazing time in the parks regardless of the outcome of this post. With that said, let’s get to comparing these two!
This category is not one of the categories that’ll be a close call. Both areas boast two rides, but Avengers Campus comes with a bit of a caveat. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout’ was created before the rest of Avengers Campus and is now considered part of the area, but when Avengers Campus opened the public was promised two new rides for the land. One, ‘Web Slingers’, was opened along with the rest of Avengers Campus while the other, an unnamed project that has changed multiple times since its original announcement, has been permanently put on hold. Disney has even debated opening the gift shop they had planned to go along with the new ride, but those plans have appeared and disappeared periodically. That let down is definitely points against Avengers Campus, but let’s look at what we do have. ‘Mission Breakout’ is a really fun ride and one of Disney’s more successful overhauls of an already existing attraction. While some are still very upset over the demise of California’s ‘Tower of Terror’, the elaborate exterior, fun storyline, and amazing soundtrack really have won me over. It isn’t the most technologically advanced ride, but it doesn’t have to be. It simply has to be an excellent drop ride, and considering Disney went the extra mile to change footage and songs to make each ride experience different, I’d say it succeeds. ‘Web Slingers’ is a bit of a different story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun. Peter Parker is an amusingly bumbling host and shooting webs at targets like Spider-Man isn’t a bad time at all. But it’s a really simple screen-based ride with little to no immersion in a park that already has a screen-based game attraction.
Galaxy’s Edge, much like Avengers Campus, opened with only one of two rides promised to the public available to ride. But unlike Avengers Campus, this was because they were making the finishing touches on their main ride, ‘Rise of the Resistance’. At the time I wondered if the wait would be worth it. After my last trip to Disneyland I can confirm that this ride would have been worth any wait. This isn’t just an imaginative attraction that relies heavily on excellent animatronics and practical effects in order to completely engage guests. It’s almost an interactive performance. The story recruits all guests to the Resistance, starting them off with a briefing from Rey before they’re taken to a shuttle. This shuttle isn’t the ride by the way. It’s a show area before the ride where you experience flying into space and getting captured by the First Order, all under the care of an amazing animatronic who, once again, isn’t even part of the ride yet. After that, First Order officers escort you to interrogation where you are then saved by members of the Resistance who THEN escort you onto the ride for your great escape. Which includes a droid at the front of your car who interacts with everything that happens on the ride, at least four impressive animatronics, and sets that are so flawless you completely forget you aren’t in the Star Wars universe. Galaxy’s Edge wins with this ride alone, but ‘Smuggler’s Run’ shouldn’t be looked over either. The animatronic Hondo Ohnaka in the line for this ride is another one of Disney’s best animatronics, and though the ride is mostly a video game for riders, it’s certainly a fun video game. Plus, you really can’t beat the detailed interior of the Millennium Falcon you walk into right before the ride starts.
Winner: Galaxy’s Edge by a mile. ‘Rise of the Resistance’ might be the best ride I’ve ever been on.
The Lore and Characters:
Strangely, Galaxy’s Edge and Avenger’s Campus take two extremely different approaches to explaining the presence of the lands and the characters who live there. Avengers Campus takes place in a timeline where “the snap didn’t happen”. But it’s a bit more than that. This is a universe where none of the major tragedies in the MCU happened. Characters like Tony Stark and T’Challa are still alive and well, and everyone is friends with each other regardless of their current status in the MCU. What that means is we get more characters and more character interactions. Characters are constantly either on balconies monitoring the area or on the ground greeting guests. Some characters choose to wander while others stand in designated spots to invite guests to take pictures. Many characters, even when they are in designated spots, will spirit guests away to new adventures, often to poke fun at other characters walking around. So while nothing in Avengers Campus is impactful to the MCU, it does allow for engaging guest experiences.
Galaxy’s Edge takes place during a specific time period, the time period that occurs around the sequel trilogy but before its ending. You won’t find characters from the prequels or even the original trilogy walking around. You’ll only find characters like Rey or Kylo Ren, or characters who could have feasibly been active during this time like Boba Fett or Din Djarin. What’s the purpose of being so strict about the time period in Galaxy’s Edge? Because Galaxy’s Edge is canon. The planet Batuu, which is the planet we are visiting when we step into Galaxy’s Edge, is an actual planet mentioned often in the canonical Star Wars books. Characters here are also more sparse and don’t interact with each other as often. After all, the Resistance can’t risk getting into an altercation with the First Order, and Disney can’t risk characters interacting who perhaps shouldn’t be interacting yet in canon. So while Galaxy’s Edge lends more importance to what happens in the land, less interaction meant I had less fun observing the characters as a guest.
Winner: Avengers Campus. Avengers Campus puts most of its focus on the characters and it definitely pays off.
I’ve talked a lot about immersion in this post and it’s for good reason. Immersion is what both of these areas are aiming for, which means its the main thing I want to critique as a guest. First off, neither Avengers Campus or Galaxy’s Edge chose to replicate an actual location from either the Marvel or Star Wars franchises. In my opinion, this was a bit of a mistake. Fans like to escape into the worlds they fell in love with on the screen, not a location that seems like it could vaguely be a part of that world. Which is why people rave about stepping into Hogsmeade at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter more than they rave about stepping into Batuu. Regardless, both are still well crafted areas that try to insert themselves into their movie universes in their own way. Avengers Campus does so as essentially a military base that houses hubs for Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Ant-Man. The details, like the Quinjet sitting on the roof of one of the buildings or the graffiti on the walls signed by Miles Morales, really pull it together. But the area also doesn’t have much space, so even separate areas like the ancient sanctum that houses Stephen Strange’s show sits right in the middle of everything else. It really doesn’t feel like you’re stepping into the world of the MCU until you see the characters. Before then it feels more like you’re looking at an amalgamation of “greatest hits” from the MCU, which isn’t much helped by the ‘Mission Breakout’ area that sits at the end of Avengers Campus and very clearly looks as though it existed before the rest of the campus. I will say though, the MCU soundtrack music does help get you in the Avengers mindset when you’re visiting.
Galaxy’s Edge has a much larger area, and once again, relies on details to immerse you. Aurebesh, or the Star Wars alphabet, is either used or imitated on every sign. Cast members will greet you with “bright suns” or “rising moons” and they all have some kind of story explaining how they came to Batuu. Familiar ships are docked all over the land, including the beloved Millenium Falcon. Instead of soundtrack music, DJ Rex, the droid who can be seen in Oga’s Cantina, plays cantina music over every speaker. There are even parts of the land that are designated for the First Order or the Resistance, clueing you into their warring presence on the planet. The main issue with Batuu is perhaps that it focuses too much on immersion. Shops, in order to seem like humble establishments run by locals, are far too small for Disneyland crowds. There’s also the fact that the land looks a bit bland at parts in order to create the cohesive look of a rundown haven for those on the run. But that goes back to my criticism of Disney deciding to create their own planet rather than recreating a place fans have wanted to visit for a long time.
Winner: Galaxy’s Edge although this is closer to a tie than I was expecting. In some ways, I do like the way Avengers Campus attempts to surround you with familiar things from the movies. But I always prefer commitment to an immersive environment over an amalgamation of random locations.
That makes the winner Galaxy’s Edge! I can’t say this was a surprising conclusion. Galaxy’s Edge had a far larger budget and focused much more on immersion. To the point that they decided to make Batuu canon to the Star Wars universe in order to make the guests who visit it a genuine part of the Star Wars universe as well. But Avengers Campus is enjoyable in its own right, and I wouldn’t recommend missing it. After seeing what both of these places have to offer, I really do want to see Disney step fully into immersion and bring a location from the screen to life. I think they could blow away the competition if they made a genuine effort to transport fans to a place they’ve always dreamed of going. I personally would have loved if Galaxy’s Edge had taken the form of Naboo or even Tatooine. But for now, I’m more satisfied with what they’ve created than I thought I would be, and I highly recommend visiting both Galaxy’s Edge and Avengers Campus if you have the chance!
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!