A themed resting area serving as a sort of central plaza surrounded by yellow pylons is closed off by construction walls on Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
According to the lore of Marvel Super Hero Island, the entire space was created by a meteor impact, and these pylons represent the spot in which contact was made — igniting a massive explosion that released various Marvel superheroes and supervillains. A smoke cloud can be seen emanating from the pylons on the ground, as pictured below.
The pylons themselves depict comic book art from various Marvel teams — notably the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four. It’s somewhat of a reminder of the characters unavailable to Disney for use or depiction in the Florida theme park arena.
The affected area stands across from The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, beside a newly constructed snack cart we spotted in March — replacing Chomp Hot Dogs.
Signs reading “Set Enhancement in Progress” encircle the work area.
It’s unclear what is being done to the area precisely, though it may merely be aesthetic enhancements and basic renovation. In recent months, multiple touch-ups or returns of long-lost set pieces have occurred throughout the Island.
Earlier this month, a statue of legendary and melodramatic journalist J. Jonah Jameson returned to the outdoor portion of the Spider-Man queue after a multi-year absence. While Spider-Man is the star of the ride, Jameson and the Daily Bugle newspaper headquarters are stars of the queue, prompting guests to ride in experimental SCOOP vehicles for some newsworthy footage as the Sinister Six (Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, Vulture, Sandman, Electro, and Kraven) attack New York City.
A new sign for the Island’s fruit stand was also installed at the end of March, replacing its more tired and sun-faded predecessor.
The Complicated Marvel Entanglement Between Universal and Disney
In a 1994 agreement, Universal secured the theme park rights to the Marvel brand east of the Mississippi River, and eventually opened Marvel Super Hero Island along with Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 1999. All of this happened before the Hollywood superhero box office boom we know today. Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” released in 2000 with great success, soon followed by Sam Raimi’s revolutionary 2002 iteration of “Spider-Man.” The latter became the highest-grossing film based on a comic book of all time upon release, and prompted major investment in a vast array of DC and Marvel film forays.
In 2008, Marvel Studios produced “Iron Man,” initially distributed by Paramount Pictures and foundational in the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel the following year, and this is where the theme park complications arise.
Since the MCU has ballooned to unparalleled notoriety, some guests may be abundantly confused to see Captain America or Wolverine at a Universal park, while nearby Walt Disney World seems to be missing them. Don’t these characters belong to Disney and in Disney Parks?
Yes, Disney owns Marvel, and yes, Disney is now involved with all of Marvel’s films; however, the 1994 agreement stands in full legality and respect, and Universal is under no obligation to forfeit their rights to the various characters and franchises. That being said, the interwoven nature of Marvel’s various partnerships from the past (Sony being a notable one) causes issues for both parties.
Universal is essentially trapped in the past — unable to create attractions that directly connect to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or its specific depictions. Disney is extremely limited, and forced to seek workarounds in order to have at least some Marvel presence in its American parks. At Walt Disney World, the Guardians of the Galaxy have made their debut at EPCOT with the recent Cosmic Rewind indoor coaster, but the use of “Marvel” itself is forbidden. At the Disneyland Resort, more characters are available for use, allowing Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure to exist.
At a recent Disney shareholders’ meeting, CEO Bob Iger was asked about these restrictions, and he responded:
We certainly would love to be able to do more with Marvel in our parks, but I’ll leave it at that.
Only time will tell how both companies wish to proceed, and if Marvel will have one specific home, or continue to be spread out in a creative diaspora.