For $4 billion, Disney bought Marvel in 2009. The companies had been working together already, since they launched the “Iron Man” trilogy the year before and started the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.
Just three years after that acquisition, Disney acquired Lucasfilms and they cashed in.”Star Wars Land” is now underway in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Before the construction started, they’d already begun “Star Wars Weekends” where guests could actually meet the stars of the movies, as well as have special character themed meals and do meet and greets with characters from the originals and prequels. In the four years since Disney bought Lucasfilms, “Stars Wars” has gone from just being one ride in Walt Disney World to being one of the biggest parts of Hollywood Studios. But it’s been seven years since Disney bought Marvel and the company is still absent from the parks. You aren’t likely to see that change anytime soon.
In terms of who gets the rights to which movies, you’re going to need a map. For one thing, 20th Century Fox still gets to make their X-Men movies. Disney can’t touch that, although they kind of tried. They added Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (sort of) to the Avengers line-up. They couldn’t have any ties to the X-Men in their “Avengers” films so they had to come up with a new story line for the twins that had nothing to do with being Magneto’s supposed children. For the most part, Disney has been good with going X-Men-less.
Spider-Man has a more complicated background. Sony was producing films for the web-slinger up until 2015 when Marvel fought back for the rights to the character. The new deal makes it so that Sony reaps the benefits of the solo Spider-Man movies while Marvel gets the benefits from “Avengers” movies or any other movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe the character appears in.
However, none of this means that Disney solely owns the rights to all the other Marvel characters to do with them whatever they want. If you’ve been to Disneyland since the Marvel Cinematic Universe started, you might have met Captain America or Thor or you got to test drive the Iron Man suit. If you go to Hong Kong Disneyland after January 11, 2017, you get to go even further in the flight suit by going on the “Iron Man Experience” which allows you to join Iron Man in a battle over the streets of Hong Kong.
If you have hopes for these meet and greets or rides coming to Walt Disney World, I have some bad news. Before Disney bought Marvel, one of Disney’s biggest rivals had a deal with the company. Thanks to a 1994 contract between Marvel and Universal, Islands of Adventure was able to include Marvel Superhero Island and they own it “in perpetuity.” So as long as they don’t break the contract, Marvel can’t get rid of it.
Marvel Superhero Island is still in Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. On that “island” you can go on “The Incredible Hulk” roller coaster or you can fight with Spidey through New York on “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.” Throughout the day, there are meet and greets with Captain America and other good guys or Green Goblin and other baddies.
The thing is all the characters I just listed are technically Disney’s now. However, Universal owns the rights to use these characters in the parks east of the Mississippi River, which is why Disneyland can have them but Walt Disney World cannot. This is only the case for the “four families” that Universal has already represented in their park: The Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four. So the “family” that Disney has cashed in on the most, the Avengers, can actually never be in Walt Disney World. Ironically enough, a rumor has been spreading that Universal is working on a 3-D Avengers ride where guests ride in S.H.I.E.L.D. cars. So Universal will actually be able to cash in on Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Disney can still put in other characters in Walt Disney World, as long as they are not fully affiliated with the four families, which is where is gets more complicated. Dr. Strange is making brief appearances in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but he might have to be taken out if he becomes a part of the Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy is it’s own family so that group can be in the Walt Disney World, which is why there’s rumors going on that “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” in EPCOT might get a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay.
Wish Disney could do more with Marvel or are you pretty sick of the superheros? Let us know in the comments!