In 2009, Disney purchased the Marvel Universe for $4 Billion. Disney has made many new movies and TV shows related to Marvel heroes and villains. And, with the opening of the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride in Epcot and Avengers Campus in Disneyland, guests can expect to see an expansion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in other Walt Disney World parks also, correct? Well, not quite, you won’t be able to see much Marvel at Disney World.
From comic books to TV shows and movies, everyone has their favorite superhero. My son’s favorite is Hulk and he actually dressed as the Hulk for two Halloween’s in a row. So imagine his disappointment when he realized we would not be able to meet Hulk at Walt Disney World when we visited.
Even after Disney purchased Marvel, the company didn’t get all of Marvel’s licensing rights. Fox still owned X-Men characters, but now Disney owns Fox and Spider-Man remains with Sony. Through another contract, it was agreed that the character of Spider-Man could appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Universal also owns a large part of the Marvel Universe.
Universal Studios has a long-standing contract with rights to the Marvel Comic Universe that actually prevents Disney from building certain rides and attractions anywhere east of the Mississippi River. Because of this contract, Disney is limited in what they can and can’t do related to Marvel at Disney World.
Marvel Universal Studios Contract
Before Disney bought Marvel in 2009, Universal already had an agreement in place with Marvel itself.
The contract states that it will remain in place indefinitely unless Universal decides to close Marvel Super Hero Island, stops making payments for property usage, or Marvel opts out of the contract feeling their brand is suffering through Universal’s usage of the property. None of these scenarios is likely to happen though.
Universal also has the ability to change and/or update Marvel Super Hero Island as long as it is “reasonable.” This means that Marvel, which is now Disney, has to comply with these reasonable changes, upgrades, or additions. Universal cannot, however, create a notably inferior product or misrepresent the characters’ story, powers, appearance, and other basics.
So while Disney controls what happens to Marvel, it cannot prevent Universal from updating Marvel Super Hero Island to have Universal break the contract and take control of those intellectual property rights. This also goes against the contract.
In the agreement between Marvel and Universal, the contract stipulates that certain characters, like Spider-Man, Avengers, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four and their “families”, can only be found at non-Universal theme parks as long as it is West of the Mississippi River. This is why Disneyland and other global Disney Parks are able to use these characters.
What Can Disney Do with Marvel at Walt Disney World?
- Meet and Greets with some of the “unofficial” Avengers (Dr. Strange)
- Use Theme Park Characters at Disney Springs since it is technically not a theme park
- Advertise upcoming films per the contract regardless of what family Universal owns
What Can’t Disney Do with Marvel at Walt Disney World
- Use the name Marvel in any ride or attraction (or advertisements for such) in a theme park
- Include the Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, or any of their “families” in the park rides or attractions
Universal’s Maintenance of Marvel Attractions
For Universal to continue to use the Marvel Intellectual Property at its theme park, it must pay Disney for the rights to do so.
As mentioned above, Universal must continue to maintain the integrity of the characters. There have been rumors that Universal may update the Marvel area since its original construction in the ’90s, but Universal does not own the Marvel Cinematic Universe Rights, Disney does, so it would still have to base all updates on the comic book characters.
No matter what, Marvel is still a big money maker for Universal and it is unlikely that they would give this to Disney, at least at this moment.
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Marvel at Walt Disney World
Since Universal gets to have the Avengers, what characters can Disney use? Aren’t most of the characters that are popular today part of The Avengers? This is where the situation gets incredibly sticky for Marvel at Disney World.
Disney is able to use unofficial Avengers, like the Guardians, at their theme parks, which leads us to Disney’s only ride or attraction at Walt Disney World.
First announced in 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the first attraction located at Walt Disney World that is themed towards the Marvel Universe. We are not sure if this is the start of new rides coming to Disney or not.
This is also the first roller coaster located in the EPCOT park, so the ride is pulling its weight in terms of guest satisfaction at EPCOT, especially for Marvel at Disney World.
The ride officially opened in May of 2022 and still utilizes a virtual queue or purchase of an individual lightning lane to ride. Stop reading now if you don’t want spoilers!
Guests first start out in a “planetarium-like exhibition” called the “Galaxarium” where you’ll learn all about the similarities and differences between how the Milky Way galaxy and the fictional MCU planet of Xandar were formed. Then guests continue to queue through the Xandar Gallery. The Xandar Gallery contains more about the people, culture, and history of Xandar.
Then you will enter a room and get transported from EPCOT to a Nova Corps Starcharter Cruiser flying above the Earth. Guests watch a short immersive presentation featuring some characters from the movies when all of a sudden, characters from Guardians of the Galaxy swoop in and bring the presentation crashing to a halt.
Guests watch a scene where the Guardians need your help to solve a HUGE problem! Guests will then finish the queue to walk to the ride vehicles.
Once aboard your ride vehicle, the launch is unlike anything Disney has done before. Your 360-degree moving vehicle will “rocket back to the Big Bang” with the rest of the Guardians in a reverse launch coaster and the movement never stops. The “omni-coaster” style attraction has the ride vehicle turn guests towards the desired images while they ride. This movement tends to make many guests motion sick, so be aware before embarking on your journey.
While on the ride, in true Peter Quill style, guests will randomly get one of 6 songs as the soundtrack for their ride.
- “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
- “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps
- “Conga” by Gloria Estefan
- “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears
- “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls
- “One Way or Another” by Blondie
Each time that you ride Guardian’s you can get a different song. Many guests have it on their Disney bucket lists to ride enough times to get each song once.
During the holiday season of 2022, Guardians received a holiday song that every guest listened to when they went on the ride. There has been no word if this will be continued for the holiday season in 2023.
How Can Disney Use The Guardians?
Even though many of The Guardian characters appear in The Avengers movies, there are two kinds of loopholes or clever use of contracts by Disney that allow the Guardians to be able to have a ride in EPCOT.
Technically while The Guardians help the Avengers, they are not technically part of The Avengers, especially in the Comic Universe.
Because Universal never built an attraction themed around the Guardians, the intellectual property does not belong to Universal, it belongs to Walt Disney World.
Marvel Merchandise at Walt Disney World
While there are no dedicated Marvel shops located in any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, there are a few stores that carry Marvel merchandise – as long as it is not labeled Marvel.
At the exit of Guardians of the Galaxy, there is a gift shop called The Treasures of Xandar. This shop contains mostly Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise, not just Marvel items.
At the Creations shop in EPCOT, there is a section dedicated to Marvel merchandise that features some loungefly bags, clothing items, stuffed animals, and a few other Marvel-related items.
When recently visiting EPCOT, Disney Traders located before the entrance had Loungefly bags and wallets, clothing and accessories, stuffed animals, and other Marvel-related items.
Disney Springs has a much larger Marvel merchandise presence. At the World of Disney store, there is an entire section dedicated to Marvel, including the infinity stone gauntlet to try on!
There is a section in the Marketplace Co-Op that now carries Marvel items as well.
Finally, there is an entire store dedicated to Superheroes on the West Side of Disney Springs. The store is called Super Hero Headquarters and carries pins, vinylmation, apparel and accessories, art and collectibles, gifts and housewares, toys, and stuffed animals.
How Can I Visit Avengers in Florida?
To be able to visit more than just the Guardians of the Galaxy, you will need to visit Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Marvel Super Hero Island.
Be aware, that even though Universal has rights to Marvel that keep Disney from building, the rights are only to the Comic Universe, so the characters and settings will look quite different than you are used to.
At Marvel Super Hero Island, guests can ride the following
The Incredible Hulk Coaster
In an accurately colored Green and Purple coaster, guests are launched up to 67 miles per hour. This powers you upside down into a zero-gravity roll, racing faster and faster as you go loop for loop. Guests are required to be at least 54” tall to ride.
The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (3D)
For guests 40” and above (and 48” without an adult), guests join Spider-Man on an adventure to save the Statue of Liberty from Villains. This immersive 3D ride will have you following Spidey all over the city trying to defeat the villains.
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
This thrill ride is for fans at least 52” tall! Doctor Doom’s henchmen lock you into your seat, hurl you to the sky, and then blast you back down without a chance to catch your breath.
Storm Force Accelatron
The Storm Force Accelatron is a kid-friendly ride located at Marvel Super Hero Island. Guests must board Professor Xavier’s power generator and spin as fast as they can to help Storm harness enough thunder and lightning to defeat Magneto.
Guests can also meet characters like:
- Captain America
- The Green Goblin
- Dr. Doom
What Specifically Does Disneyland Have Access To?
The Avenger’s Campus at Disneyland does not have to follow all of the same rules that Walt Disney World in Florida has to follow due to the clause in Universal’s contract that states theme parks to the east of the Mississippi River are unable to use the intellectual property of Marvel that is present at the Universal Parks.
This means that Disneyland is able to have characters like the Avengers at their theme parks because they never built a Marvel Land in California, so the contract was amended to east of the Mississippi River.
Disneyland can still not call the area Marvel land or world, etc. because it cannot use the Marvel intellectual property. This is why the superhero-themed area at Disneyland is called Avenger’s campus and uses many of the characters that are not present in Walt Disney World.
Avengers Campus at Disneyland
Avenger’s Campus opened at Disney California Adventure Park on June 4, 2021.
The goal of Avengers Campus is to provide guests a way to interact with some of the most beloved characters in not only a traditional way but a spontaneous personal way. The themed area is supposed to be a “training center where Avengers prepare the next generation of superheroes.” The campus is designed to keep up with the lore from the TV shows and movie releases and create a truly immersive experience for guests who are visiting.
The idea is to continue to expand the Avengers Campus and make training and interacting with the characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe every kid (or adult)’s dream come true.
Rides at Avengers Campus
There are currently two main attractions located at Avenger’s Campus in Disneyland, Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure and Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout.
Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure
In Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, up-and-coming recruits (even the smaller ones since there is no height restriction) are tasked with helping Peter Parker catch the Spider-Bots that have escaped from the WEB Workshop.
Guests first see a presentation by Peter Parker showing you some new technology including his Spider-Bot, but things go haywire. It is your job to shoot webs to catch them. This fully immersive, 3D attraction, guests try to catch as many bots as possible. Each colored Spider-Bot is worth a different amount of points.
When the rider sees a Spider-Bot, they simply need to flick their wrist and fling webs. The technology on the ride reads the arm movement and sends the webs where you want them to go. The faster you are to sling your webs, the more points you will earn.
For this ride, guests may also purchase the WEB Power Band that will allow you to shoot more webs as you play and give you upgrades. The band cost $35.
This immersive ride really makes guests feel as though they are truly on a mission with Spider-Man himself and a great ride for all ages.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout
What was formerly known as Disneyland’s Tower of Terror has been transformed into the Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: Breakout.
Guests should be at least 40” tall to ride on this elevator, drop-style ride.
Disney explains the ride concept best:
Taneleer Tivan, a.k.a. the Collector, has brought his unique collection of fantastical fauna, relics and species from across the cosmos to earth for the very first time. He offers to show you his newest acquisition… the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Drax and Groot are held captive in electrified glass cases that dangle perilously over an abyss.
Join a Rockin’ Rescue Mission
When Rocket escapes, he commandeers a gantry lift and enlists your help on a harrowing mission to rescue his fellow Guardians. Prepare to unleash intergalactic mayhem from the top of the fortress to the bottom, as one of Star-Lord’s awesome mixtapes blasts a classic tune!
With incredible special effects, appearances by popular characters, music inspired by the soundtracks from the movies, thrilling free-fall drop sequences and 6 different storylines to experience, this adventure breaks out all the big thrills!
This ride can be scary for some younger kids or anyone who doesn’t like big drops, but it is a great retheming of the Tower of Terror ride.
Entertainment at Avenger’s Campus
In addition to the two rides, there are also two interactive experiences for guests to fully immerse themselves in the Marvel Universe.
All guests are invited to explore the ruins of a mysterious ancient sanctum and learn secrets about the mystic arts from Dr. Strange himself. He will reveal to you the ground and allow you to discover what has been hidden, specifically the Orb of Cagliostro.
At the Avengers Headquarters, The Avengers are ready to meet recruits and defend the building. With the Quinjet posed on top of the building it is up to the Avengers to be ready for action at any time. When they are not busy saving the day, guests are able to meet them at the headquarters.
Guests can meet characters such as:
- Iron Man
- Black Panther
- Captain Marvel
- Black Widow
- Doctor Strange
- The Wasp
- The Guardians of the Galaxy
- Captain America
Since there is a multiverse, there is no particular timeline at Avengers Campus and you never know who may drop by. Loki changes outfits. Black Widow shows up in her white and black outfit. Hulk was in his Quantum Suit at one point. Different Captain Americas appeared on the same day.
In addition to just meeting your favorite characters, recruits can train with Black Panther’s loyal bodyguards and learn special wisdom straight from the elite royal guard of Wakanda.
Near Web Slingers, guests can see Spider-Man in action testing his enhancements to his Spidey suite.
Shopping at Avengers Campus
There are three shops located at Avengers Campus that supply guests with plenty of Marvel apparel.
- WEB Suppliers – superhero gear from the Worldwide Engineering Brigade
- Campus Supply Pod – hoodies, t-shirts, headwear, drinkware, and other Super Hero Supplies
- The Collector’s Warehouse – toys, apparel, comics, and keepsakes
What Does the Future Hold?
We know in Disneyland, there is going to be another phase or expansion of Avengers Campus, but what about Walt Disney World?
With the release and popularity of the Guardians of the Galaxy Ride in EPCOT, many Marvel fans are questioning whether or not Disney may find a workaround to have more of a Marvel presence at the theme parks.
When Bob Iger was interviewed earlier this year he said, “We certainly would love to be able to do more with Marvel in our parks, but I’ll leave it at that.” This certainly leaves uncertainty as to what Disney may be planning for the future of the Marvel universe.
We would love for Disney to find more loopholes in the contract like they did for the Guardian’s ride in EPCOT so that we don’t have to travel to other places to see our favorite characters or experience their attractions.
For now, if guests want to visit our favorite superheroes, they will have to either go to Islands of Adventure at Universal or fly to California to visit Avenger’s Campus.
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Marvel Super Heroes Island at Universal Orlando is the only place in Orlando where you will be able to see a completely themed area with the Marvel Universe. Be aware these characters are not the Disney interpretation seen in movies and T.V. shows, but are based on the comics.
While you cannot visit a Marvel-themed land in Walt Disney World, there is a dedicated Marvel-themed store at Disney Springs. The store is called Super Hero Headquarters and carries many Avengers and other Marvel-themed merchandise.
Disney has a Marvel area located in Disneyland. The newly opened and expanding Avengers Campus features rides, attractions, and characters from the beloved Marvel movies and shows.
Disney is not allowed to have Marvel in its theme parks due to a contract that Universal had with Marvel Studios before Disney purchased rights to Marvel. The contract is still being honored and says that no theme park east of the Mississippi River is allowed to have Marvel at a theme park.
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