Disneyland will assemble its new Avengers Campus on June 4 in California, nearly a year after originally planned.
But a long-standing court case has kept the majority of classic Marvel characters, and even the Marvel name, away from any Disney theme park east of the Mississippi River. So Florida will have to look on with envy.
The new section of the Anaheim theme park that merges Marvel heroes into the Magic Kingdom had been set to open last July, but was upended by the long pandemic closure. California has only recently approved the idea of letting theme parks reopen.
The park itself is scheduled to reopen in California on April 30, with coronavirus restrictions in place, after a shutdown of more than a year.
The Avengers Campus includes a Spider-Man attraction that allows riders to sling webs with their bare hands, and gives guests a chance to team up with Marvel heroes like Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man and The Wasp.
In 2009, Disney bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in cash and stock. But it did not obtain all the licensing rights that Marvel had signed away before then. That’s why X-Men remained a Fox movie property, and Spider-Man was still the property of Sony. And that’s also why Disney does not have the rights to use the Marvel name and characters at Walt Disney World.
Universal Studios had already secured the rights to Marvel for its Orlando theme parks, and Disney CEO Bob Iger at the time acknowledged that Universal retained those rights as long as they continued to pay royalty checks to Marvel. And there’s no sign of Universal giving up that golden ticket.
The movie deals are complicated, and there has been progress in recent years to bring X-Men back into Marvel’s cinematic universe. Spider-Man is now one of the Avengers. And Epcot will soon be opening a huge roller coaster themed for the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. That ride, which will be one of the largest enclosed coasters in the world, is slated to open in 2023.
Neither company has confirmed it publicly, but speculation has been that Disney and Universal came to a legal understanding that allows Disney to use characters not currently referenced inside Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure.
The Universal Studios contract with Marvel pre-dates Disney’s purchase of the brand. At Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, Marvel Super Hero Island is one of its most popular lands, with the Incredible Hulk Coaster and its stellar 3D ride, the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.
The Disney California Adventure park location will be the first of three Avengers Campus lands planned for Disney theme parks around the world, with Walt Disney Studios Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland to follow. The California location has been built to look like the former site of one of Howard Stark’s Stark Industries complexes.
— Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.