When it comes to theme park rumors and speculation, Disney fans are fluent in reading between the lines. Joanna Robinson’s article in Vanity Fair (November 28th) about the future of Marvel gave us plenty to ponder.
But we can’t dig in without touching on the conundrum of character usage between Universal and Disney. For some light reading, check out the details of that agreement here. Broadly, the contract states that theme parks east of the Mississippi are limited to using characters not currently being used by Universal Orlando. This includes the “families” of these characters, and their respective villains. There are also limits to the use of the word “Marvel” at theme parks on both coasts.
Robinson’s article focuses on the fact that only two Avengers movies remain, and on speculation that it will be the end of the road for some of our beloved heroes. Avengers: Infinity War has a release date of May, 2018, with the fourth Avengers movie being released in 2019. “We thought it would be important to bring the current three-Phase, 22-movie current series to a conclusion.” stated Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios.
Why wouldn’t Disney want to continue making films based on popular characters such as Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America? Perhaps, with the notable exception of Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s because these characters are ALL included in the “families” of characters being used at Universal Orlando.
So how does this tie into Epcot? In an effort to update that park, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek announced the building of a Guardians roller-coaster at the 2017 D23 Expo. Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is slated to be released in 2020 and is rumored to set up the future of Marvel movies. And the article makes it very clear that Disney still has big plans for Marvel.
“We’re looking for completely different realms within Marvel,” said Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger. “One of the great things about Marvel is they’ve got thousands of characters. In fact, when we bought the company, in due diligence, we discovered that we were buying, not only the name Marvel but 7,000 characters.”
7,000 characters means endless possibilities. With the current theme park trend of creating entire lands around a franchise (Avatar, Star Wars, Toy Story, Harry Potter, Cars), a Super-Heroes Land makes sense. The new Guardians roller-coaster is scheduled to open by the 50th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort in 2021. This is the same time frame for the introduction of new characters from the Marvel universe.
Perhaps we could see that whole side of Future World transformed. Test Track, Mission Space, and the newly announced space restaurant could all easily be re-themed for a fantasy realm. This would also present an option for a new Epcot festival that appeals to a fan base that isn’t interested in food kiosks.
Comic Conventions (Comic-Cons) are a booming business. Lucasfilm stepped into the convention arena with their wildly popular Star Wars Celebrations and Disney introduced the D23 Expo. Much like the former Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Marvel fans, who might not otherwise have an interest in Epcot, would be drawn to the super-hero attractions and events.
Given the immense popularity of Marvel super-heroes and the pending purchase of 21st Century Fox, it seems plausible Disney would want to expand on that in the theme parks. Do you think an expanded super-hero presence at Epcot would be a positive change?
Photo courtesy of Disney®