The Disneyland Resort's upcoming Marvel-themed expansion won't be able to use "Marvel" in its name or marketing, as reported by The Los Angeles Times.
Late last month, The Walt Disney Company officially announced the multi-year expansion coming to the Disneyland Resort in 2020.
The new land, inspired by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will occupy the space next to Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park, located opposite Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The press release neglected to reveal a name for the Marvel area, referring to it only as a "new Super Hero-themed land."
Disney, who has owned Marvel since 2009, is prohibited from calling the expansion "Marvel Land," for example, because of a pre-existing deal made with MCA Inc., now NBCUniversal, in 1994.
That licensing agreement's fine print curtails which Marvel names and characters Disney can put in its theme parks — namely California's Disneyland Resort and Florida's Walt Disney World Resort.
The agreement prevents Disney's use of certain characters east of the Mississippi River and bans the company from using the word "Marvel" in the title of any theme park land elsewhere.
NBCUniversal owns both Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Orlando, Disney's biggest theme park rivals in California and Florida.
The deal was made long before Marvel forged its own path in Hollywood, dominating the movie business with Disney-owned Marvel Studios.
Marvel's last three films — Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — brought in $3 billion at the worldwide box office. Disney purchased Marvel, including Marvel Comics and its library of thousands of characters, for just $4 billion in August 2009.
The original 1994 deal between Marvel and then-MCA gave Universal the rights to use Marvel characters, like Spider-Man and Hulk, in Universal Studios theme parks across the globe — but only if Universal exercised those rights, according to the L.A. Times.
Universal's Islands of Adventure in Florida opened a Marvel attraction in 1998. Because Universal failed to bring a Marvel attraction east of the Mississippi River, other theme parks west of the Mississippi could obtain the rights to Marvel characters.
Characters not used by Universal Studios Orlando could then be sold and used by other theme parks east of the Mississippi River — like Walt Disney World — but the waters are muddied when it comes to "superhero families."
As L.A. BIZ puts it:
[The agreement] stipulates that if Universal Studios Orlando uses a character that is a member of a superhero family, such as the Fantastic Four or the Avengers, no other park can buy the rights to other members of that same superhero family. Even villains of a superhero featured at Universal Studios Orlando can't be used by other parks east of the Mississippi.
For example, because Universal Studios Orlando has an indoor simulator ride featuring Spider-Man, Walt Disney World in Florida is prohibited from featuring Spider-Man’s enemies, such as the Sandman or Dr. Otto Octavius.
That ride, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, also sees guests squaring off against Spidey villains Electro, Hydro-Man, Scream, and Hobgoblin, none of whom could then be used at any Walt Disney World theme park.
Since the Guardians of the Galaxy characters weren't popularized until the 2014 Marvel Studios movie, the Marvel Comics characters weren't used in Universal's Florida theme park.
Disney is capitalizing on their right to use the Guardians in Florida: Epcot will debut a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed coaster in 2021. Disney already has a Guardians-themed attraction in its Disney California Adventure Park, Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!, which launched summer 2017.
An Iron Man ride already exists at Hong Kong Disneyland, which is set to open another Marvel attraction, starring Ant-Man and the Wasp, in 2019. Disneyland Paris will open its own Iron Man attraction in 2020.7comments
Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Captain America, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy have a presence at California Adventure: guests can meet and interact with the superheroes on the regular.
Disney California Adventure's immersive superhero-themed land opens summer 2020.