Disney California Adventure’s Marvel land is getting a new gift shop. Construction walls are now up on the side of Avengers Headquarters, which is the future home of the King Thanos Multiverse attraction. However, this construction is not for a new ride, according to Disneyland Resort. (Updated August 14, 2023.)
From my perspective, there are a few plausible explanations for this. Applying Occam’s Razor, the most likely reason why Disneyland Resort is building this gift shop in Avengers Campus is to increase Marvel merchandise sales. The land is small, and the existing retail spaces in Avengers Campus are as well.
That’s precisely why Disneyland Resort opened Super Store featuring Avengers Campus in nearby Hollywood Land in the first place. This was a logical move back when Avengers Campus debuted a couple of years ago, as Stage 17 had already been converted to retail space. The prior year, it served as an “extension” of the Downtown Disney District and was transformed into the Disneyland Resort Backlot Premiere Shop when the state of California was not allowing theme parks to operate.
Prior to that, Stage 17 was used as a flex space for special events. For those who are Walt Disney World-centric, think of it as DCA’s version of World ShowPlace at EPCOT. Stage 17 often hosted private events, but has also served as a space for character meet & greets and more.
It’s also been a space for attractions, such as “Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play It!” More recently, Stage 17 was the home base of “Frozen Fun” in 2015, when it became the venue for Olaf’s Snow Fest, which featured real snow, sledding, and other winter activities. We experienced Olaf’s Snow Fest multiple times, but honestly, it feels kinda like a fever dream (or whatever the cold version is of a fever dream). It’s almost hard to believe that actually happened. But I digress.
August 14, 2023 Update: After radio silence on this project since March, Disney finally offered an update on the new gift shop in Avengers Campus. Beginning in mid-September 2023, Disneyland Resort guests will be able to find Marvel souvenirs at a new retail location opening in Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure.
Avengers Vault will feature Infinity Saga Relics arriving at the Disneyland Resort for the first time. Apparel and other fan-favorite merchandise also available at other locations around the Disneyland Resort, including at The Collector’s Warehouse, WEB Suppliers, and Supply Pod.
Along with this announcement, Disney has confirmed that the Super Store at Stage 17 in Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Park will close on September 14, 2023. So at the very least, this new gift shop is being added to consolidate Marvel merchandise in one location. But is it also being done to free up Stage 17 for future (re)development?!
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Stage 17 is tucked away in the Backlot area of Hollywood Land, right next to Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue. Unless you’re going back there for that ride, live music, or beer, you’re probably not heading to that corner of Hollywood Land. And even if you are, there’s a very good chance you won’t see Super Store featuring Avengers Campus. Or realize it’s a big merchandise shop even if you do see it.
To that point, the last time I had ventured inside Stage 17 (prior to taking photos specifically for this article) was about 2 years ago when Avengers Campus first opened. It’s probably the spot at Disneyland Resort I visit the least, edging out the Disney Junior Dance Party and Alien Pizza Planet–two venues I make every effort to avoid, but both of which I have done (regrettably) more recently.
It’s not just me. When I heading into Stage 17 for the sake of capturing these photos, it was a delightful reprieve from the spring break crowds that had descended upon every other corner of Disneyland Resort. It was also a stark contrast to the congestion and chaos of Avengers Campus mere minutes later.
So it should be pretty obvious that relocating this retail to Avengers Campus proper will boost foot traffic and, by extension, merchandise sales. I don’t think that’s even up for debate. Disneyland Resort will sell more super hero stuff as a result of replacing Stage 17 with a proper shop in Avengers Campus. Even if it’s a fraction of the size, that’ll be true.
The second possibility–and neither of the next two scenarios are mutually exclusive with the first or even one another; “all of the above” is very much on the table as a viable explanation–is that they’re building a gift shop in the Avengers HQ building now because there are no concrete plans in the near-term to build the King Thanos attraction itself.
There’s an important piece of context that’s worth discussing here, and it’s how the news of this Avengers Campus gift shop broke. This wasn’t discovered via permits or by a random vlogger running into a wall while recording themselves in DCA. It was given to select media and revealed before DCA even opened for the day, prior to the walls being “discovered.”
There’s a reason for that. Disneyland Resort did not want fans to find it on their own, reach the erroneous conclusion that its for the E-Ticket attraction, and publish 1,955 YouTube videos titled “YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT MARVELOUS RIDE IS BEING BUILT AT DCA: KING THANOS CONSTRUCTION CONFIRMED” before Disney had the chance to issue a clarification.
Disney getting ahead of that story suggests that the opposite is true: ride construction is not commencing any time soon. If it were slated to start in 2023, there’d be no reason to not let the hype train roll on. Fans would get excited now, and that sentiment would only build as the gift shop opened and proper construction began on the attraction itself. The retail location at the exit could open early as a ‘preview center’ of sorts; a way to build excitement for the upcoming attraction and sell merchandise in the process.
Regardless, many fans are getting excited for exactly this reason. Their logic is that if the exit gift shop is being built, that means the attraction is next up. Obviously, that’s not the conclusion I’m drawing. I don’t think building and opening the shop now makes the ride any more likely. (Remember, this was officially announced last fall. All else being equal, the ride should be “100% likely” as a result.)
If anything, I think building this gift shop makes the ride less likely. That’s in part because you can’t go over 100% in likelihood, and in part because I can’t logistically square how opening a gift shop before the attraction itself makes sense. It requires an assumption that Disney will operate a gift shop inside a building that is otherwise an active construction site, instead of walling off the entire thing, as would normally be the case.
The third possibility as to why Disneyland Resort is relocating its super hero stuff to a store in Avengers Campus is the space it frees up. Remember that non-sequitur about Olaf’s Snow Fest and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play It!” in Stage 17? You probably didn’t think anything of it since it fit with my normal rambling, but it was actually purposeful.
Point being, Stage 17 is colossal. It’s a huge venue with even more space backstage in a quiet corner of Disney California Adventure. It’s a prime expansion pad at Disneyland Resort, and could also be quickly converted into something else. Equally as important, it’s in an underutilized area, meaning that it could be converted into something else that expands park capacity at DCA.
Enter Avatar. During an earnings call earlier this year, CEO Bob Iger revealed that an Avatar Experience Is Coming to Disneyland. He has since made multiple media appearances and mentioned this, while declining to provide additional details about the substance and nature of this.
At this point, what that “experience” will entail or where it’ll be located is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’ll be a new Meta Quest VR game in Downtown Disney’s former ESPN Zone. It could be as unambitious as an overlay of the Boudin Bakery Tour, walkaround mech suit dude in Pixar Pier, or build-a-banshee shop. Something as bold as an entire Pandora land added as part of a whole new gate is also possible–maybe this is DisneylandForward finally coming to fruition?
Or it could be something more middle of the road, an adaptation of an existing offering, such as an interactive and immersive environmental exploration, like Avatar: The Experience in Singapore. Disney has been exploring experiential exhibits, and looking for the right vehicle for its own way of entering that niche. An adaptation of that would be perfect and certainly fit the bill as an “Avatar experience” (experience is right there in the name!).
There are a bunch of ways to put these pieces together, and how you align them depends upon your level of craziness. The most straightforward interpretation of everything, in totality, is that Disneyland is clearing out Stage 17 for an Avatar experience walkthrough similar to the one in Singapore, and building the gift shop in Avengers Campus with the aim to open it before the attraction. That puts all of the puzzle pieces together in a way where they fit neatly together.
I’m a bit more chaotic and conspiratorial than that. Bob Iger and Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro have held a number of interviews recently, during which both have discussed plans for the future, bullishness on parks, and desire for capacity-expanding additions. We discussed all of this in great length in Bob Iger Wants Big Expansions at Walt Disney World & Disneyland.
I’ve listened to or read all of those, and not once has the King Thanos Marvel Multiverse attraction been mentioned. By contrast, Avatar has come up repeatedly. I don’t think this is merely coincidental, and it certainly would not come as a surprise if the plans (or lack thereof) for phase 2 of Avengers Campus have changed now that Bob Iger is back.
If you recall, Bob Chapek personally teased the King Thanos attraction during his D23 opening remarks, before D’Amaro made the announcement a couple days later. It’s entirely possible this was a Chapek pet project that has been killed by Iger, just like the metaverse and Prime plans.
Personally, I think there’s a reason why no one at Disney has said a word about the King Thanos ride in 2023, whereas this Avatar experience was not even mentioned at the D23 Expo, and now has been teased repeatedly this year.
My more far-fetched prediction is that the Avengers Campus gift shop is being built in part because that King Thanos attraction was cancelled and in part because Disneyland wants to clear out Stage 17. That space will be home to an Avatar offering, but my low-confidence twist here is that it’s not the Avatar experience that Iger has teased.
Instead, the Avatar experience will be a separately-ticketed experience (a la Singapore) opening next year alongside the newly reimagined stretch of Downtown Disney. That will be a temporary addition to bolster the burgeoning shopping, dining, and entertainment district. The experience will offer a stopgap for the next ~5 years while an actual Avatar attraction is built in the space occupied by Stage 17 and other components of the Hollywood Land Backlot.
As to how that’ll fit thematically into the land or park, I have no clue. Thematic shoehorning of attractions and lands into second gates has not been a huge impediment for Disney in recent years. The Avatar franchise is a product of Hollywood (land), California (park)–that’s probably sufficient in the eyes of executives.
Ultimately, as should be clear from all of this speculation, there’s a wide range of outcomes for what’s happening in Disney California Adventure. It could start and stop with a new gift shop in Avengers Campus. That’s certainly the safe bet, and the only one that is officially confirmed or, for that matter, even rumored. (Now seems like a good time of reiterating that all of this is purely speculative and not inside info of any sort whatsoever.)
The most pessimistic prediction would be that it’s a gift shop and nothing else at all, not even the King Thanos attraction. The most optimistic prediction would probably be that it’s a gift shop and King Thanos attraction, plus Pandora – World of Avatar and (somehow) DisneylandForward. I’m skeptical of it being either extreme; DisneylandForward is not a real thing of substance, but there are other concrete expansion plans.
For me, it’s a matter of listening to what Iger and D’Amaro have said recently, plus what they have not mentioned, and letting my imagination run wild from there. That plus the Way of Water’s box office results plus the reality that leadership changes always have consequences for early-stage projects plus the likelihood that any pet projects of Chapek are especially vulnerable leads me to believe Avatar is a top priority for Disneyland Resort, and more Marvel is not. Phew. That was a lot of (over)analysis for a few walls and a gift shop!
What are your thoughts on the gift shop coming to Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure? Have any wild speculation and supposition of your own, or think this is just a #*$&@ gift shop and we’re reading WAAAAY too much into it?! Think this means the King Thanos Marvel Multiverse ride is moving forward or has been shelved? Are you a fan of the Marvel land as it presently exists, or do you agree that this E-Ticket is what’s needed to make the land feel complete and top-tier? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!