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Disneyland to reopen with new Avengers attraction nearing debut

Christopher Palmeri

With Walt Disney Co. poised to reopen its two California theme parks on April 30, executive Josh D’Amaro wants guests to know it won’t be the same Disneyland Resort.

The way customers buy tickets, order food and line up for rides will be different, said D’Amaro, who runs the company’s parks business. And some old standbys, including the annual-pass program and FastPasses, which allowed guests to reserve a time for a specific ride, have been scrapped.

“This moment in time has created an opportunity for us to look at our business and rewire some things,” D’Amaro said in an interview from Disneyland in Anaheim, California, on Wednesday.

Throughout the day at Avengers Headquarters at Avengers Campus inside Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California, recruits may encounter epic, live-action moments with Avengers heading off the threat of their foes.

Because of Covid-19 limitations, all visitors will need to book a specific date when they buy their tickets. And they better move fast: Disney’s four parks in Orlando, Florida, which are operating at reduced capacity due to the pandemic, were sold out for several days this month during spring break. And not every ride will be open.

Mobile food ordering is now the norm, D’Amaro said. More than 80% of guests pay for their meals that way, up from 9% before the pandemic. And a virtual queuing system, where visitors use their phones to get a specific time to board the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride, may be used at other attractions in the future.

The pandemic has been particularly hard on Disney’s parks business. The company laid off some 32,000 employees, mostly in that division, and slashed spending as result of the coronavirus, which forced the company to close its resorts around the world for months. Capital expenditures at the parks fell 30% to $2.9 billion last year, and Disney has said the number will be lower this year, too.

The company is still looking to wow guests with new attractions, many of which were already well along in construction. An Avengers Campus area is close to opening at the company’s California Adventure park in Anaheim. The complex includes a new Spider-Man ride.

A Ratatouille ride, modeled after one in Disneyland Paris, will open later this year in Orlando, and a Star Wars-themed hotel will debut soon.

Fans will have to wait for other projects in the works, including a Tron roller coaster and a Guardians of the Galaxy ride in Florida, as well as a remodel of the Splash Mountain attractions to incorporate a new theme based on “The Princess and the Frog.”

“We’re really fortunate that we not only had put assets into the ground recently but we still have a lot coming,” D’Amaro said.

Things are looking up in other ways. Disney said it’s resuming cruises in the U.K., short two-to-four day “staycation” trips that don’t call on any other ports.