When Disney purchased MARVEL in 2009, the first question every theme park fan had was “What does this mean for MARVEL at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and can Disney build MARVEL attractions at Walt Disney World?”
In the 6 years since then, we have come to learn that the contract Universal and MARVEL etched out in the 1990’s was pretty iron clad and has prevented Walt Disney World from even thinking about the possibility anytime soon. In 2012, Universal spent a ton of money to upgrade the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction, even though Disney owns the property. Just to host a movie preview of Guardians of the Galaxy in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney couldn’t use “Marvel” in any marketing materials or at the preview. Hell, they can’t even mention “Marvel” or “the Avengers” to promote a Vinylmation release at Walt Disney World this week…
However, things seem to be changing. Rumors indicate that some of the MARVEL attractions at Islands of Adventure are closing or being re-themed. Before the end of the year, the Incredible Hulk coaster and Dr. Doom’s Fear-Fall are expected to close. Hulk is expected to get a huge renovation that includes a completely new theme, while Dr. Doom’s Fear-Fall is rumored to simply be removed.
What’s interesting about removing the Fantastic 4 themed “Fear-Fall”l is the current war MARVEL is waging on FOX. FOX of course is re-booting the Fantastic Four despite the wishes of MARVEL Studios, and in return, Marvel is killing off the Fantastic Four in comic books in order to not offer any promotion for the film. So, does MARVEL want Fantastic Four gone from Islands of Adventure until FOX decides to work with them? It’s possible. While the Universal deal gives them the theme park rights, it also still includes rights that allow MARVEL some creative control to protect their characters and brands.
It’s no secret that MARVEL theme park attractions are in the works for Disneyland Resort down the road (As early as 2018), but the Iron Man Experience ride is already set to open in Hong Kong Disneyland next year. To avoid any “brand confusion”, one would assume Disney and Universal would like to reach some agreement before then, but Universal’s mindset on the property being in their parks is unclear.
While all speculation at this point, inside sources have told us that something is up over at Universal. Whether or not they will relinquish all rights or be changing themes to incorporate different MARVEL characters is unknown at this point, but one of these two scenarios seems likely. Either way, communication is definitely open between Disney and Universal and the option of reaching an agreement to bring MARVEL to Disney World is seeming more likely that it did several years ago.