Saturday, December 20, 2014

Get your Marvel Experience on

Karen: Yesterday my husband Tom and I went to the Marvel Experience here in Phoenix. If you've not heard about this show, you can check out their website here. I honestly didn't know what exactly to expect when we got tickets for it, although I did know that it would include some sort of projections and interactive experiences. The husband and I figured, "Hey, it's Marvel, and it's right when we'll be taking a break at Christmas, so let's check it out!"

Karen: For nearly a month I watched as I drove past on the freeway in the morning as the domes went up near the baseball diamonds out at Salt River Fields. What could be inside? Would it really be worth going to? More importantly, would it be worth the money we forked over for the VIP tickets?

Karen: Overall, I am going to say that the Marvel Experience is something any Marvel fan will really enjoy. They've succeeded in making the customer feel like they are in the Marvel Universe -whether you are a fan from the movies, animated shows, or even the comics. A selection of thirteen main heroes drive the story (yes, there is a story) and attractions are built around them. I don't want to give too much away -it is more fun when you are surprised and can experience these things fresh. But I will give my top three reasons you should go see the Marvel Experience, and my take on three areas for improvement.

Top Three Reasons to See the Marvel Experience

Reason Number One: Total Marvel Immersion

Wherever you turn, you are surrounded by some piece of Marvel coolness. There are prop recreations of hero and villain weapons and gear, along with history of said gear. Projected on the domes are  different characters, busy doing stuff. You may hear the loud speakers calling out for 'General Thaddeus Ross' or notice a familiar newspaper publisher on a screen, debating what's going on in the domes. When people stepped into the first dome and saw everything, it was all smiles. 

Reason Number Two: Interactive Games and the Simulator Ride

There are a number of interactive opportunities at the Experience. We just scratched the surface with our visit today. Unfortunately we went on a Saturday and it was very crowded, with long lines for almost everything (take note if you are planning to go -try a week day). However, I got to be the Hulk and destroy robot drones in a Wii-like simulator and it was a blast. There's a similar game for Iron Man, a wall-crawling area, a shooting gallery (we did this as well), and a bunch of other activities. At the very end of the Experience is a large motion ride where you team up with all the heroes to take on the bad guys, and it was a lot of fun! So if you enjoy this kind of stuff, this will be right up your alley.

Reason Number Three: The VIP package

If it is reasonable to you, you may want to get the VIP package, because you get some nice perks. For one thing, you get a return ticket, so it's essentially two admissions. VIP parking gets you a spot up near the entrance, so you don't have to walk far. You get access to the VIP lounge, which is OK, but nothing to get excited about. They have some free food, chips, fruit, popcorn -nice but nothing to write home about. There are also phone chargers in case your battery runs low, and places to sit and watch Marvel movies, but it's a pretty small place. But you get some nice swag for the price: a very nice SHIELD badge and wallet -this thing is metal and heavy! A t-shirt that we were told is not being sold anywhere, is only available to VIPs, and it has the city name on the back; the ability to have a 3D figure of yourself and a hero carved out in the gift store (we skipped this -we'll go back and do it -we saw finished ones and they looked very neat); a souvenir drawstring bag; and a kind of generic-y looking poster -not my kind of artwork but some people dig it. Another thing about VIP, it does get you to the head of some lines, so it may help reduce waiting (more about this in the next section).

So VIP when you add it up might be worth it -I believe it was $179 each for ours -I know, it's a lot but standard tickets are $35, so two admissions are $70 right there. It really depends on whether you want the stuff. 

Three Areas for Improvement at the Marvel Experience

Area Number One: Information Please!

I know this is the first city on the tour, and to be honest, it shows. This was the second day of the event, and it was still rough at times. We got there around 12 noon, and when we drove up, a sign read "Event Parking" and pointed us down a road, but we soon discovered it pointed us the wrong way. We had to drive all the way back and we finally found the lot. There was no clearly marked signs for anything in the lot. The VIP parking was up front but we had no way of seeing where, and there were no signs directing us there. We had to ask event staff, who did manage to tell us where to go. Getting our tickets and VIP stuff went well, but once we walked in there was some confusion about whether we could go to the front of every line with our VIP badges or just some lines. The staff never seemed to have the same answer. Although everyone was helpful, they didn't appear to have their act completely together.

Area Number Two: Keep it moving!

The first part of the Experience is the interactive area, which guests can peruse at their leisure. The second and third parts however, are timed to come one right after the other. Unfortunately, the staff doesn't seem very adept yet at getting folks from one part to the next very quickly. One part concludes and then you are left standing around for several minutes waiting to do the next part. You are ushered into another area, see a short film, then again, waiting for several minutes to get on to the next part of the adventure. Now sometimes I believe this was due to the ride or film going down -we know that right after we arrived, the main theater had a 'glitch' and they didn't let anyone in for almost a half-hour. But it seemed like at other times they simply weren't very good at timing things and moving groups from one point to the next. I'm sure this will improve as time goes on. (Also important to know: once you get to the second stage, there's no opportunity for a bathroom break until it is over (30-40 minutes), so be sure to go ahead of time!)

Area Number Three: Form a Line Please!

Like I said earlier, we went on a Saturday, so we knew it would be crowded. But many of the lines were extremely long, and in some cases, they overlapped with the lines for other attractions, or were crossing the exit paths for attractions. It became somewhat chaotic at times. I hope the staff invests a little more in crowd management. A few rope lines put up here and there would do wonders. Also, if at all possible, a few places to sit, maybe in the main courtyard area, would be helpful. It was a long day of mostly standing and the ability to sit down for even a couple of minutes would have been welcome.

All in all, we had a good time and I'm not only glad we went, I look forward to going back when it is less crowded and the staff has had a week or so to get their routines down. One small thing I noticed that gave me a smile: next to the cafe they had a collection of classic comic covers -yes, they actually acknowledged the source material! I saw a lot of kids looking at them. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.


Martinex1 said...

That looks really cool. I had read about this and my wife and I had talked about going when more local to us but I had no idea how it would be set up, that it had domed areas and interactive games. In the photos you show of the classic covers I like that it's not all modern stuff, instead they actually had classic avengers, Black Panther etc. That's pretty cool.

Edo Bosnar said...

Hmm, at first glance I thought that was a picture of Falcon, the Widow and Cap, and then I said to myself, "Wait a mintute..." ;)

Thanks for the write-up, Karen. I'd never even heard of this - seems like it would be fun, but I think I would be hesitant to even shell out the normal $35 admission price, given the crowds you mention. Also, I'm thinking it's pretty unlikely that this show will ever come to my neighborhood.

Rip Jagger said...

Thanks for the vicarious tour, now I don't have to go. I hate stuff like this, not because it's bad or anything, but crowds get seriously on my nerves.

Looks like a lot of fun, but I will have to say the ubiquity of Marvel and superheroes is starting to wear me down a bit. Once upon a time finding a mention in the mainstream world was like finding a lost gem, but these days it's all over the place.

I see some of my students wearing t-shirts with vintage Marvel art on them these days that I'd have loved to have had back in the day. Great stuff and I have to fight to urge to walk up to them and say what a nice Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, or John Buscema image they are sporting. It would just scare the bejeezus out of them.

Still I'm very glad you guys had a dandy time.

Rip Off

Humanbelly said...

And even source material aside, I'm giving major innovation points to the creators for having the courage to try out a new form of traveling/touring entertainment, and really committing to it (although the crowd-wrangling glitches should have been totally forseeable). It does look like a wild amalgam of theme park, theater, comicon, and a high-tech version of the carnival that comes along w/ the county fair.

Ah-- I'd forgotten that the Disney engine would have been funding and driving this. Of course-- and that's not a bad thing at all-!


Anonymous said...

Looks pretty cool! I have a feeling the tour won't make it up to Canada though :(

Mike W.

William Preston said...

So cool! Thanks for posting!

Dr. Oyola said...

Interesting. Based on the ads I imagined this being a cheesy stage show or like Disney on Ice.

Anonymous said...

Oh, if I ever get down to Phoenix, I'm goin' to this place! That's just all there is to it!
Thanks, Karen! mp

The Prowler said...

Fruit!?! Whatdahell am I gonna do with fruit!?!

When I started to read you post, I thought this was the traveling motor cycle show with a Marvel theme pasted on. Now that I see that it's something completely different, I am intrigued. Fortunately for me, VIP or no VIP has already been made for me. I will always be a cog. Just a cog. Cog on!

(Silver bells, hear them ring. It's Christmas time in city).

david_b said...

Sounds great, Karen..!!

I'd like the 'marvel attention', but like Rip and a few others, I shy from crowds and would only go for the vintage stuff.

Love seeing cool vintage shirt-love at Target (Marvel, DC, SW, Hendrix, etc..), but most of those t-shirts are cotton and polyester or something, really cheap and itchy on my skin. Give me 100% cotton any day.

Thanks for the post.

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