Theme park fans have been waiting years for this.
After two decades of making apples-to-oranges arguments about Disney versus Universal, now we finally have an opportunity to make a true, head-to-head comparison between the theme park industry's creative leaders. More than 20 years after Universal threw down with its Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Disney has made its own Spider-Man ride. Finally, we now have the opportunity to judge the two on equal terms.
Except... we still can't. Because it turns out that Disney did not build a Spider-Man ride, after all. Disney built a Peter Parker one.
Yes, WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure in Avengers Campus at Disney's California Adventure contains "Spider-Man" in its title. But this is very much Peter Parker's attraction. We are visiting the skunkworks of the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (the "WEB" in the attraction's title), where Peter Parker is helping train young engineers and scientists to outfit the next generation of superheroes.
It's Parker we meet at WEB's open house, where he starts to show off the team's new Spider-Bots - handy little companions for a superhero in battle. (Tom Holland reprises his role from the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the attraction's preshow.) In the MCU, Parker has struggled to master his mentor Tony Stark's technology, so WEB looks like a big win for Parker, as he comes into his own as a tech leader.
Except, much like Mickey Mouse screwing up in Yensid's workshop, out-of-control replication by the Spider-Bots leaves Peter Parker as Disney's latest hapless Sorcerer's Apprentice. Like Mickey, Parker refuses to call for his mentor, but unlike Mickey, he does not refuse to call for help at all.
Instead, Parker turns to us, asking visitors to help him neutralize the runaway tech, using WEB's new SLING//R vehicles. This sets up the interactive ride through the basements of WEB, where we will try to collect or destroy as many Spider-Bots as we can, using our newly bestowed web-slinging powers.
For that, Walt Disney Imagineering has developed some impressive new tech of its own - a motion-sensor system that uses your head, shoulder, upper body, and arm direction and movement to target video "webs" that will appear on the ride's 3D screens. It's brilliant - making for the easiest gameplay I have experienced on a shooter ride. (Granted, I am cross-dominant - right handed with a dominant left eye - so shooting traditional guns is always a bit of a challenge for me.)
You're not just waving your arms at Spider-Bots, either. You can shoot webs at buttons and levers that trigger effects (such as lasers in the final scene) that can wipe out the bots. And if you flick your arm just right, you can catch a Spider-Bot then fling it to knock out others, like a bowling ball striking pins. There is no height limit on the ride, so even the littlest kids can participate.
Spider-Man will be there with you in the battle, too, but frankly, he's an afterthought. With your focus on hitting Spider-Bots, Spider-Man comes into play only in the Tivan scene, where you can win points for freeing him.
The progression of scenes here is a straight-up copy of Toy Story Midway Mania. The SLING//R vehicles sit groups of four back-to-back, moving you from screen to screen for gameplay. The ride offers four scenes: a Stark Industries storage hall, a Pym Labs sub-basement, a Tivan warehouse, and a Quinjet hangar. As on Midway Mania, cooperation will win you extra points as you work to clear groups of Spider-Bots. Working together to take down the big bots in the Pym and Quinjet scenes faster gets the car a higher score, too. Here is a highlight video, with a full POV of the preshow and ride embedded later in this piece.
Teamwork is a recurring theme in WEB Slingers. As you exit, the leaderboards do not display individual scores but only teams'. As I talk about in an interview with Walt Disney Imagineering Senior Concept Designer Casey Ging, the ride reinforces the lesson that advancement - in science, in engineering, and in designing and winning on theme park rides - does not happen alone but only when people work together.
Among the many innovations on WEB Slingers, I am most impressed by this - it's a superhero ride without a villain. Sure, you can play it as a fun game. But if you take a moment to think about it, you might see a lesson in the importance of working together to fix our mistakes. And the importance of asking for help in doing that.
Spider-Man does not save the day on Web Slingers. We do. And we were able to do that only because Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, asked for our help.
And now, we present our full on-ride POV video of the preshow and ride for WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. Note that the ride's gameplay scenes are in 3D, so you will see them as blurry here if you don't have a handy pair of glasses at home.
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