Unlike Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which canonically folds directly into canonized Star Wars media, the new Avenger’s Campus — and the rest of the Marvel lands soon popping up in Paris and Hong Kong — won’t fall in line exactly with what has happened or is soon to happen on screen. Among the key differences? Iron Man is alive and well, greeting guests out of Avengers Headquarters in a new Mark 80 suit. Captain America is back on his feet as young Steve Rogers. Black Widow, who also died, will stroll through the streets.
Even though the park doesn’t sit comfortably in the current MCU timeline in the wake of Avengers: Endgame, the new land does draw from the existing universe.
Jillian Pagan, a staff writer with Walt Disney Imagineering, says that these parks take place in a different timeline within the multiverse, something that comic books set the precedence for and that the movies have made explicitly clear can happen.
“Clearly, there was a divergence somewhere, because there are some characters who are alive and well in our land who have sadly sacrificed themselves in another timeline,” explains Pagan at a press event ahead of the land’s opening. “But [just like] in Avengers: Endgame, where they go back to 2012 and everything about the universe is the same up until that point, and then they divide start spinning off into multiple timelines, we see ourselves as having that same shared history, with what we’ve seen in the films. And then clearly there was just that point in time where they’ve split off and now have created in one timeline these new campuses for us to assemble alongside them.”
It’s a bit of a cheat, Pagan admits, but not anymore than what comic books typically do in regards to bringing back dead characters and spinning off new universes. This won’t be an obvious story addition to guests handed out on pamphlets; instead, it’ll be folded into the land, in cast member interactions and bits of lore sprinkled throughout.
“It’s a little bit more through context clues. However, the cast members who will be bringing the land to life will potentially know about that if they ask you to incorporate that into their backstory,” says Pagan. “Depending on the character they might not know about the multiverse. The cast member working out of the Sanctum area probably does. He’s hanging out with Dr. Strange. But the scientists over by Pym Test Kitchen, maybe not.”
If guests ask cast members why Iron Man is alive, for instance, they may be prompted to talk to Doctor Strange or asked about their interest in the multiverse. At the front of the land, Pagan explains, will be a welcoming mission plaque that says heroes are assembling from across time and space right here to train you, which will serve as a little bit of a hint for guests about where and when the land takes place.
“If you want to go down that deep dive, be like, I’m gonna be a super nerd and find out all about it, we have touch points there. We have Easter eggs all around the land, you can see like, oh, there’s an old SHIELD logo here and some weird SHIELD blueprints that they dug up over here in the Spider Man building. Maybe there was a connection. Oh, they were checking out the Sanctum back in the day.”
But diving into the lore is not a necessary part of experiencing the land. While guests can certainly pursue the park’s link to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they can also eat giant pretzels, ride the interactive Spider-Man ride, and catch the stunt shows without worrying if their sip of Pingo Doce will have an effect on the MCU.
Avengers Campus opens in Disney’s California Adventure on July 18.