Disney is building a new Marvel-themed land, but they can't mention "Marvel" anywhere in it. That's due to a past agreement with Universal regarding the naming rights of new theme park attractions. The deal long predates Disney's acquisition of Marvel Entertainment, which gave spurred the then-burgeoning Marvel Cinematic Universe that's only going to get bigger this summer with the release of Avengers: Infinity War.
The iconic Marvel heroes won't be going away any time soon, either. The fourth Avengers movie is still on track for 2019 and Disney plans to unveil a whole new Marvel-themed section at Anaheim's Disney California Adventure park in 2020, to go along with plenty of other new Marvel-based attractions around the world. The California park will heavily feature Spider-Man and The Avengers, among other Marvel heroes - but just don't expect to see or hear the word "Marvel" anywhere.
Los Angeles Times reports that Marvel's original licensing agreement with Universal Studios (formerly MCA Inc.) states that any theme park west of the Mississippi River is not allowed to use the name "Marvel" in any part of its attractions or the promotion of them. Disney is free, however, to license any Marvel characters whether or not they appear at any Universal theme parks. So, Disney will simply have to find ways around mentioning Marvel as part of their rides or in any kind of marketing materials. It already has with the Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout! ride, which re-branded the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and is expected to be the central point for the new land when it opens in full.
The deal is more complicated east of the Mississippi. Disney is only allowed to license superheroes and members of "superhero families" (like The Avengers) that aren't already in use by Universal. So they're out of luck on Spider-Man, The Hulk, and others, thanks to their presence at Universal's Islands of Adventure park in Florida. But the Guardians of the Galaxy are not yet in use back east, which is why they'll be part of a new indoor roller coaster at Disney's Epcot Center, as well as the main Marvel attraction at Disney California Adventure.
But according to Marvel's deal with Universal, no character restrictions exist in California or anywhere west of the Mississippi. There's just the issue of making sure "Marvel" isn't used in any facet. As the L.A. Times noted, it's why Disney made no mention of Marvel in its initial press releases about the new theme park but did mention Spider-Man, The Avengers, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, as part of "a completely immersive Super Hero universe." It'll be a quirk of Disney's new California Adventure attraction that many devotees will notice, but it would be hard for the lack of the word "Marvel" to be that much of a detriment to the park's success.
While all of this may seem strange to the uninitiated, it's actually quite common in the theme park industry. Many movie studios tend to license out their characters and franchises to various theme parks because they don't have - and can't build - their own amusement parks. That's why Marvel licensed Spider-Man, Hulk, and several other Marvel properties to Universal all those years ago. Plus, it's also why Universal Studios has The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, despite Harry Potter being a Warner Bros. property. As long as the park has enjoyable attractions and makes good use of the superheroes themselves, the majority of the crowd may not even notice the absence of the Marvel name. It's a relatively easy work-around for the park that likely won't affect the quality of the attractions.
Source: Los Angeles Times
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019