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.

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  • The idea that Nintendo and Universal are talking about making a Nintendo land is pretty awesome! But Rumor has it that there could be a possibility that Marvel could be replaced for Nintendo. I feel Disney World blands there entertainment. Disneyland seems to be more fun though. But I personally feel that Universal would be indestructable with having both Marvel and Nintendo.

  • They just announced that Universal bought Nintendo and plans 2 open Nintendo based rides in their parks. I say if Super Hero Island does get replaced in the future, it will b replaced by Nintendo based rides and characters. I think this would b the only way, Universal would benefit by giving up Marvel.

  • just imagine a disney theme park including some areas like asgard, helicarrier, universe, X-island, etc… with the unparalelled hi tech on asows, animatronics and imagineering… will be TONS of fun and look tah universal can´t beat and the fans diserved

    • If you think that Disney’s high tech beats Universal’s, you obviously haven’t been to Universal Orlando. Disney’s stuff is dated and boring.

  • I think this may be a matter of time anyway. I don’t agree that Universal is benefiting from their Marvel rides. Universal is cashing in on WWOHP not Marvel. I for one, would like to see Marvel attractions that weren’t just roller coasters or simulator rides. It’s the same old ride with a different character. I would love to see something different as not everyone likes or can do those type of rides. Something more creative would be welcome. Still dreaming of a Disney Heroes and Villains Theme Park or even a huge addition to Disney Hollywood Studios (soon to be renamed). The MCU would fit in nicely there and Disney has plenty of land for it.

  • People seem to forget, or completely are clueless that Universal only has the theme park rights east of the Mississippi. Disney can do anything they want in Disneyland, or any other one of their parks world wide. This would definitely be a blow to Universal’s branding. Personally I hope Disney gets the rights back for Disney World too since they obviously would do a better job at creating an experience and not just rides slapped with marvel images, (spider man excluded from that last group)