Disneyland’s latest experiences challenge your senses and mess with your head

At Avengers Campus, you’ll find high-flying superheroes and mind-bending special effects that will have you believing in the impossible

The Avengers Campus at Disneyland in California. | Photo courtesy Disney

Walking through Avengers Campus, the newest addition to California’s Disneyland Resort, you’ll see Black Widow battling bad guys, Dr. Strange demonstrating mystic arts at an Ancient Sanctum, and Spider-Man flipping and flying overhead with no web (or wires) to support him. 

Video by: Amanda Adler

Is this for real? Sort of. The acrobatic Spider-Man stunt double is what Walt Disney Imagineers call a “stuntronic,” a sophisticated, free-flying robot. Soaring more than 65 feet in the air, this flexible animatronic is a unique innovation that makes viewers think they’re seeing their favorite superhero in action. It’s just one of many ways Disney tries to convince visitors that the impossible is possible.

Disney theme parks have a long history of tricking our senses using the subtle art of forced perspective to make things appear larger than they really are. While you might not notice it at first glance, the buildings along the park’s main thoroughfare, Main Street, U.S.A., feature a second story that is five-eights the scale of the first story and a third story that’s one-half scale. This design gives the illusion of a full-size building while intentionally being built shorter to help make the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle appear larger by comparison. 

Optical illusion checkered floor that makes it look like you're sinking
Avengers Campus optical illusion. | Photo: Amanda Adler

Forced perspective is used elsewhere throughout the parks, along with a variety of other illusions that fool your senses of sight, touch, sound, and taste. Even the sweet aroma you smell as you walk past the park’s bakery is being pumped in via scent machines to entice your olfactory glands in hopes you’ll stop to purchase a tasty treat. 

Let’s face it, you’re being duped the moment you enter a Disney park, but it’s that full-scale immersion into the world of fantasy that drives so many people to travel to these magical places of make-believe. When Disney Imagineers set out to build a new Avengers-themed land at Disney California Adventure Park, it’s no surprise they had a few new tricks up their sleeves. 

Imagineering the impossible

With this latest invention of the Spider-Man stuntronic, Imagineers effectively enabled superhuman flight. Using advanced robotics they created dynamic movements that allow the superhero to perform realistic aerial stunts. While the actual stunts are humanly impossible, as you watch Spidey soar through the air you can’t help but challenge your previous notions of reality. It’s an impressive feat that’s seemingly lightyears more advanced than the original Audio-Animatronics seen at the nearby Enchanted Tiki Room. These charming birds designed in the 1960s simply can’t compete with the acrobatics on display at the Avengers Campus.

The Avengers Campus also challenges your tastebuds. At the Pym Test Kitchen, you’re greeted with food and drink items wildly disproportionate in size—like $100 paninis that can feed an entire table, a giant chicken sandwich with a comically thimble-sized bun, and enormous pretzels that outrank any you’d find in Bavaria. Paying homage to the size-altering Pym Particles from the Ant-Man series, the eatery cleverly showcases how this mythical technology is used to create your food. You can watch as regular-sized pretzels grow in size after going through a quantum tunnel.

Next door, visual effects include beers poured from a draft system that fills the glass from the bottom up. Unusual sizing is also prevalent in the drinks at the Lab, where cocktails come in glasses shaped like giant beakers, and a beer flight is served in tiny steins set in an oversized ruler. 

Spider webs, shawarma, and Quinjets

Journey farther into this land and you’ll find more immersive experiences from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Challenge your Spidey senses on the Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure attraction, where you can put your web-slinging skills to the test and see what it’s like to have superpowers. You can also join a heroic rescue mission on Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: Breakout! The park’s merchandise will put your willpower to test with items like the hard-to-resist, customizable Spider-Bots that allow you to battle opponents in the style of your favorite Avenger.

The Avengers Campus is also home to an enormous installation of the signature Quinjet featured in multiple Marvel films, Shawarma carts that harken back to the ending of The Avengers, unique optical illusions, and countless other hidden Easter eggs for Marvel fans to uncover. As you explore, it’s hard not to appreciate the many carefully crafted details and mind-bending special effects found in this inventive new land. Yes, Disney is messing with your head—but in all the best ways.