The Marvel Cinematic Universe is rapidly expanding with new feature films, streaming series on Disney+, and even contemporary video games. However, nearly every fan misses out on one thing: Avengers Campus at Walt Disney World.
Fans almost universally agree that adding new lands to the Florida vacation destination is a fantastic idea, but not many may know the legal ramifications if The Walt Disney Company were to introduce an Avengers Campus East.
Marvel fans can already explore the wildest adventures of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and even the X-Men at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. The area is called Universal’s Marvel Super Hero Island, and it is the only superhero land that can touch Florida. Universal is the sole legal owner of any Marvel-themed entertainment east coast, meaning the Mouse House can’t expand one of their four theme parks to usher in Wolverine, Iron Man, and more.
Given that EPCOT at Walt Disney World just opened its intergalactic gates to the jaw-dropping Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction earlier this summer, fans are wondering when a whole superhero land can finally make its way under the Disney World banner.
Much like Star Tours – The Adventure Continues ushering in Galaxy’s Edge at the Disneyland Resort, could Cosmic Rewind be the first mark of an East Coast Avengers Campus?
Let’s look into why and how Walt Disney World could one day welcome the Avengers and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to the vacation destination of the world.
No Legal Way Home
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe and countless of its beloved characters fall under the legal ownership of The Walt Disney Company (other than the production rights to Spider-Man and Hulk), Universal Studios is the sole proprietor of any Marvel entertainment in a theme Park east of the Mississippi River.
It may sound like a class cowboy agreement, but Disney can’t bring the full force of the MCU into one of its four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort until the RCA/Marvel agreement is resolved.
In 1994, Marvel Entertainment entered into an exclusive agreement with Universal’s then-owner MCA, Inc. to allow the vacation giant to construct a “Marvel Universe” of themed entertainment. With Universal Studios Orlando only being opened for three years, the company was looking for any way possible to increase attendance and boost profits.
As a result, their second gate Park, Islands of Adventure, would feature Marvel Super Hero Island as an opening day “island” for the Resort’s 1999 expansion.
Ten years later, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment for a reported $4 billion, making way for the now-overarching Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s found its way into Disney California Adventure, the Disneyland Paris Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland (opening as “Stark Expo) in 2023).
Flashforward another decade, and the MCU is the most profitable film franchise in history, with Disney owning the likes of Lucasfilm, Pixar Animation, and 20th Century Studios. As a result, Disney Parks is expanding at an unprecedented rate to incorporate new intellectual property and more.
Having a Marvel-themed anything at a Disney Park is a no-brainer when Imagineering is looking to “plus” an outdated attraction or land or to incorporate a new level of thrill into the Park.
Most recently, EPCOT at Walt Disney World welcomed James Gunn’s rag-tag team of galactic saviors with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmis Rewind. Marking the second Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) themed attraction since 2017 (the first being Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at the Disneyland Resort), Cosmic Rewind is the first Marvel attraction to hit the Florida parks in history.
How does Cosmic Rewind slip out of the Univeral agreement? One could argue that the Nova Corps section of EPCOT that houses the new attraction could be a miniature land, especially as Imagineering looks to implement new experiences around the show building that help further the superhero theme.
Given that no other corporation can produce a themed land around Marvel until Universal closes Super Hero Island or terminates the contract by stopping payments to use the likeliness of characters, Disney’s introduction of Cosmic Rewind is stepping on a fine line until the day comes when Guardians is the opening sector of a whole land at EPCOT.
An official excerpt of the Marvel/MCA contract reads:
Once THE MARVEL UNIVERSE opens within the above time period, the term of this agreement shall continue for so long as a THE MARVEL UNIVERSE shall remain open (and operated consistent with the standards of the next paragraph below) at any Universal Theme Park (allowing for temporary closures for force majeure events or refurbishment/maintenance provided they are being diligently pursued), except for termination for material breach (with written notice and a reasonable opportunity to cure).
Each THE MARVEL UNIVERSE shall be operated and maintained in a first class manner consistent with the highest standards of the theme park industry and shall be deemed “open” only when operated in such manner (subject to temporary closures for force majeure events as described in the prior paragraph).
At such time as any THE MARVEL UNIVERSE is no longer open at a particular Universal Theme Park, all exclusivity and marketing rights acquired by MCA as a result of the opening of such THE MARVEL UNIVERSE at such Universal Theme Park, as set forth in Section IV below, shall terminate and this Agreement shall thereafter be construed as if the notice of intent to open THE MARVEL UNIVERSE had not been given by MCA.
Once Universal decides to scrap Super Hero Island and introduce a new land — such as a Lord of the Rings Middle Earth area or more — Walt Disney World can then look towards what an Avengers Campus East Coast might materialize.
Nonetheless, it’s a waiting game for fans until the Marvel collection, and more can call Florida another home.
The Marvel Universe is becoming much more than iconic characters/Earth’s Mightiest Heroes like Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Thanos (Josh Brolin).