Over the past couple of years, Disney has made moves to introduce characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe into its parks. The biggest of these is Disney California Adventure's Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride, but there have also been character meet and greets with some of Marvel's finest added, as well as merchandise and more. Now, Disneyland is set to build an entire expansion of the MCU in the California Adventure Park in Anaheim, but there will be one thing missing when the new expansion opens up: the word 'Marvel.'
Although Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment back in 2009, the rights to the characters in theme parks at the time did not transfer to Disney. Instead, if you wanted to see Spider-Man or other characters in the flesh, you had to go to places like Universal Studios to get your fix. Even today, some characters are not able to be used by Disney, but now that the MCU has expanded, other characters are. Just a few weeks ago, we learned that a few of the Disney Parks -- Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland -- will all be getting Marvel-oriented park expansions. The one in Anaheim is expected to open in 2020, but although Disney effectively will be able to use some of its superheroes in the parks, it 100% can't use the word Marvel.
The LA Times recently dredged up the old agreement made about Marvel characters, which effectively states that some Marvel characters cannot be used "east of the Mississippi River." Those characters not in use by Universal, like Star-Lord, can be used at parks including but not limited to Walt Disney World. Although Disney World can use some Marvel characters, Disneyland is still the better location in terms of what characters Disney can use in the parks, thanks to being located West of the Mississippi River. That's presumably why the expansion is happening there. In addition, the word 'Marvel' specifically can't be used in the title to any of the theme parks. So, you won't see signs anywhere toting "Marvel Land" or anything of that ilk.
Contracts and agreements are complicated things, and this one is particularly wild. In Florida, because the Universal Parks in Orlando use Captain America, Hulk and the Avengers in its parks, Disney World can't even consider using the images of the Avengers in its parks without dealing with the east of the Mississippi River part of the agreement. In Anaheim's Disneyland, the major obstacle is the name.
Which brings us to wonder what California Adventure will call the new expansion. The park called the 2017 season "Summer of Heroes" and events have been labeled with names like "Superhero Encounters." We're assuming the superhero trend will continue with the name of the new expansion, and the park will give it a title like "World of Heroes" or whatever. However, a name such as "The Marvel Experience" is definitely out.
The contract has been in place since 1994, and the terms of agreement are pretty much in place in perpetuity, unless the contract is terminated due to, for example, poor upkeep of the Marvel properties on Universal's part. I'd assume the rides and characters Universal is currently using are draws to the theme park and that party would not be interested in poking the bear and forcing Marvel to go to lengthy and expensive means to get its characters back. So, if you want to see Spider-Man and a good chunk of the Avengers East of the Mississippi, go to Universal Orlando. If not, hang tight and see what the marvelous new superhero land comes with when the California Adventure expansion is complete.
Photo courtesy of DisneylandNews.com/Disney.