RUMOR: Is Disney Nearing a Deal with Universal for MARVEL Theme Park Rights?

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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…

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So, what are these? ;)

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.

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Is Fear-Fall coming down? What will replace it?

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.

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

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Ken
Guest
Ken

Great article Tom. I’m a little less optimistic about a deal. The Marvel Universe is much too valuable and—by putting Quicksilver in Age of Ultron—Marvel has shown they aren’t super concerned about fan confusion. That being said, Disney is making small inroads on the Marvel-Universal agreement (i.e. Superhero Headquarters). It will certainly be exciting to see how it plays out.

GrumpyFan
Guest
GrumpyFan

Completely agree with this. Universal would be foolish to let go of these rights at a time when these characters are the hottest thing around. Perhaps in about 5 years or so, after the (Marvel) superhero phase dies down, maybe, but not while the movies are raking in billions.

Paul C
Guest
Paul C

Superhero headquarters is a store, not an attraction. I’m sure Universal hates paying Disney royalties. Something will change soon.

B Edwards (@usuallybedwards)
Guest
B Edwards (@usuallybedwards)

I have to imagine part of Marvel’s deal with Uni doesn’t allow them to shut down the theme park rides all together. I imagine it would more be which characters you can use, how you can use them, what they would look like. As far as park operations (shutting rides down, refurbs, etc.), that control would HAVE to rest with Universal, as Marvel (Disney) wouldn’t have a stake in it (their licensing fee is probably a flat fee), nor would they know the specific ins and outs of Uni’s park necessities, etc. So in no way do I think Marvel… Read more »

Otto Tieleman
Guest
Otto Tieleman

@B Edwards Disney doesn’t get a licency fee from Universal for the use of the ip. They pay Marvel for merchendising that is sold. They only thing Disney now has the right to is to oversee the use of the ip but as long as that is up to what is in the original deal with Marvel they can’t do a lot. In the end Universal portrays the look of the comics, not the movies. I can see Universal allowing Disney to use the movie side of the Marvel universe by paying them an hefty license for that honner and… Read more »

David B Conway
Guest
David B Conway

h,i first on here

Raymond johnson
Guest
Raymond johnson

Disney should just leave it alone I hope Disney World. Dose not get them

brandonahawkins1998
Guest
brandonahawkins1998

This past weekend I was on the Backstage Magic Tour and in the Costume Dept. building they were mass producing Spider Man Costumes! Even our tour guide was like “You weren’t suppose to see that!” Maybe this is a sign of what’s to come? I don’t know!

Kida
Guest
Kida

That’s not even how costuming works.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Actually, it is how it works. I’m not surprised this person saw this. Marvel hero costumes are developed in Florida at Creative Costuming.

Doc
Guest
Doc

I wish people would get the whole Fantastic Four situation right. Marvel isn’t killing any of the FF characters off and the book’s “cancellation” coincides with numerous other book cancellations in time for this summer’s Secret Wars and then restarted post-event.

CJ
Guest
CJ

I feel the thrill rides need to stay at Universal because that is Universal’s niche – thrill rides. Anyone who has been to both Disney parks and Universal – there is a different feel at both and that should stay that way. Disney doesn’t have to actually have Marvel rides at Disney World. Marvel is already all over the Disney Parks and Disney Store with various products / accessories, on its various Disney Cruise Line ships, and movies. TONS of renovations/revamps/new additions have occurred all over Disney World in the last several years and more are coming. I know Hollywood… Read more »

Bradley
Guest
Bradley

5th Park would be the only way I see them doing something for Marvel, but it’s hard to imagine they would invest that much in a single franchise/IP that would be a permanent park. I feel like if they tried to add Marvel into HS it would be a let down because they don’t have the room to really put enough attractions/etc. I also would rather see more Pixar at HS over Marvel or StarWars, but that’s just me.

Robert Reid
Guest
Robert Reid

ADDing Marvel attractions to DW would only look like a sad attempt to be more like Universal.

Foolish Mortal
Guest
Foolish Mortal

My friend, you are well off the mark on this one. Spirit and crew have been clowning you pretty hard….err, harder than usual. Fanbois unite!

renderman7
Guest
renderman7

While I would like to see Marvel go home to Disney, it would suck to loose the Spider-Man ride from Universal, sadly the remaining parts of that land can go, they are off the shelf rides with little theming and what is worse is that the entire section of the park seems out of place when the rest of them are really well themed, well outside of toon lagoon

Kevin38
Guest
Kevin38

I think it will be leaving Universal. I Think they may keep the rights to Spider-man.(for a period of time)But Disney/Marvell got a cut of the increased Harry Potter profits for the last few years .I think Comcast/Universal would like to keep those in the future with the current expansions going on(Kong,Jurassic Park,Volcano Bay,New hotels,3rd Gate, Ect. ) That said even if they don’t Disney should let Universal expand into movie realm for updates it will pull more people to Orlando A rising tide lifts all boats (especially if Disney gets a cut of Gate with no expenditure like the… Read more »

Robert Harlem
Guest
Robert Harlem

No way it leaves Universal. More likely Islands of Adventure will expand and upgrade (away from mid 90s) Marvel Superhero Island with Disney getting something in return, but rights to use them in the parks is probably not one of them.

Themed Fan
Guest
Themed Fan

Any full change in the Marvel theme park rights would require a massive payment to Universal to the tune of about a billion dollars. Disney also wants the distribution rights to a Hulk film. Universal also holds that in perpetuity. That was part of a deal that Marvel cut before Disney bought them so they could make The Incredible Hulk as the second film in their MCU as they built towards Avengers. Universal made the first Hulk movie and was displeased with the box office, but they had ten years to make another. Marvel wanted to use the character and… Read more »

Robert Reid
Guest
Robert Reid

marvel does not belong anywhere in DW except MAYBE at the hollywood studios!! DW is going in a direction that many people are not happy with. the “guest experience” is gone for the most part. the latest free dining debacle is a clear sign they only care about the bottom line now. adding Marvel attractions at DW would look like a sad attempt to be more like UNiversal. KEEP MARVEL OUT OF DW, IT DOES NOT BELONG.

Kevin McCarthy (@kmccarthy27)
Guest
Kevin McCarthy (@kmccarthy27)

Hollywood Studios is the plan because they are going to rebrand it to Hollywood Adventure

Kevin McCarthy (@kmccarthy27)
Guest
Kevin McCarthy (@kmccarthy27)

I still think the end result is that Universal is going to be allowed to use what they have, with Disney just being allowed to develop things based off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m sure thats all Disney really wants.

Themed Fan
Guest
Themed Fan

Not likely unless Disney gives Universal a lot of money. Universal holds complete theme park rights for all Marvel characters. Disney got in trouble when Avengers came out for advertizing on the monorails and got contacted by Universal’s legal. Universal eventually gave them permission to advertize on monorails that never physically entered a park – so you never saw Marvel ads on an Epcot monorail. Disney had to pay a couple of million to Universal just for the right to advertize their own film on their own property. Universal takes their Marvel rights very seriously and are ready to sue… Read more »

tydyend1
Guest
tydyend1

I don’t see Disney paying. While yes Universal/Comcast does have theme park rights they still have to pay up to Marvel “Disney”. It’s sorta like free advertisement, and with all the changes they are doing they don’t need another project. Also I believe Universal can’t do much without Marvels approval like new rides and such so while not they are very popular there more than likely wont be anything new. On top of that Universal doesn’t have EVERY Marvel universe. Disney could technically do Guardians of the Galaxy since there isn’t any character from that universe in Universal. Disney has… Read more »

KB
Guest
KB

NOT GONNA HAPPEN. For soooooooo many reasons. Universal isn’t going to use THEIR money to retheme a land that is making money for them. If they lose the rights, they will force Disney to pay for EVERYTHING, and Disney isn’t going to shell out $100M + for rights they have no immediate plans on even using. Where would they even put the Marvel characters right now? Star Wars is going into DHS and Avatar is going into Animal Kingdom. And NOTHING ever goes into Epcot. They could retheme Tomorrowland in MK, but what’s the point? They could close half the… Read more »

uhh,,, I'm KB
Guest
uhh,,, I'm KB

No Mark Ruffalo and the current design team, you don’t have “our Hulk”. Universal knows they couldn’t trick all of America into a highly grossing Hulk movie today. The last two failed, he movie going audience now follows the MARVEL name.

Your first paragraph is rather correct, other than acting like the “iron man simulator” isn’t a unopened attraction. You made it feel like it was aging without grace, unlike Epcot.

KevyB
Guest
KevyB

No, I was acting like the Iron Man simulator is just yet another simulator and will not excite people like a REAL ride. Just look how quickly people got over Star Tours II: Electric Boogaloo. And the other exciting Marvel ride on the drawing board? A DCA retheming of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Marvel is better off being in a Universal park.

Tom Smith
Guest
Tom Smith

Hulk will go down at end of year for track replacement. Nothing else.

Don
Guest
Don

In the end Disney will get the Marvel theme park rides. They bought Oswald the Lucky Rabbit from Universal back and hardly used is anywhere in a significant way (except for a videogame) so it’s a question of time that they do the math and come up with a figure about how much they can squize out of their theme parks guests having the ip in WDW. Universal on the other hand is not in a hurry to sell the ip that hardly (or close to nothing) costs them and is widely popular and also houses the best dark ride… Read more »

craig
Guest
craig

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was actually a trade for Al Michaels. NBC Wanted him for Sunday Night Football so Disney got the rights back from Universal.

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