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Marvel Studios changed the game, quite possibly forever, when it took the comic book idea of on-going continuity across multiple titles from the page and adapted it for the big screen. Today, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest thing at the movies. Now, it appears Disney and Marvel are going to try to do it all again, by creating interconnected storylines across theme park attractions.
Today, Disney Parks officially announced what it is calling the Global Avengers Initiative. Disney theme parks already have a couple of Marvel-themed attractions up and running, and we knew that there were several more on the way, but the post on the Disney Parks Blog from Scott Drake, the Creative Executive in charge of Marvel for Walt Disney Imagineering, states that the various attractions and other theme park experiences are actually part of an "interconnected" story.
The first Marvel-themed attraction was the Iron Man Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland. It follows a story that sees Hydra attack Stark Expo in Hong King. Next March, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle will open, which will see the titular characters battling Armin Zola and an army of Hydra swarm-bots. Since this new attraction also involves Marvel heroes battling Hydra, it sounds like these two rides will be part of a connected story.
While the blog post is vague on specifics, and is, itself, in true Disney Parks fashion, heavily themed, it presents the idea of each Disney Park around the world being a headquarters and technology sharing exchange so that the Avengers might recruit people to step up and join them. In this case, those people are, of course, the guests at the theme parks, you and me.
It's unclear if the idea behind these interconnected stories is that all the different Avengers attractions within a theme park will have some sort of connection, or if, and this would be huge, all the different rides around the world were connected in some way. That last idea seems a bit overwhelming, if only because most people won't visit every Disney theme park in their lives, which would leave parts of the story impossible to experience.
Having said that, in the same way that you don't actually need to read every Marvel comic or see every MCU movie in order to get the important parts of a story, we could see references to a Marvel attraction on one continent inside another. Doctor Strange, who we know will be of an attraction at Disney's California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort could make a reference to the battle that Ant-Man and the Wasp had (or are having) in Hong Kong. The various rides could technically be part of the same "theme park universe" without needing the story to be directly related.
The idea that, say, the new Marel land currently under construction at the Disneyland Resort could see all the different attractions come together to tell a single cohesive story, is far from a crazy idea. It's been implied that Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will do something somewhat similar when it opens next year. The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run ride is supposed to have multiple different endings depending on how you and your crew perform, and your experience is supposed to carry over to other elements of the land, so it's entirely possible that something similar could be planned for the new Avengers land.
The only issue with that is that one major attraction, an Avengers-themed ride, is not expected to be open when the Marvel land first goes public in 2020, so if all the rides were connected, part of the story might be missing for the first guests. Though, maybe that's intentional. In the same way Marvel likes to tease you to pick up the next issue or see the next movie, maybe they'll convince people to come back for another visit to Disneyland by teasing the next adventure at the theme park.
One noticeable omission from the blog post is any reference to the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster that is currently being built at Epcot. This may be due to the fact that Disney's hands are somewhat tied as far as how much Marvel they can bring into Walt Disney World due to previous commitments made to Universal Studios. There will certainly be "some" Marvel there, but it's possible that whatever large-scale ideas the theme parks may be putting together, Walt Disney World won't actually be part of it, at least for now.
Although, the idea of these rides being connected in some way does then raise the question of continuity. Just when will the events of the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster take place in relation to the events of Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout? Could these two rides be part of a single story for the characters?
James Gunn had previously said that Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout was not canon within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that the events of the ride don't happen within the universe the films create, but there's no reason that Marvel can't create its own theme park universe. Marvel already subscribes to the theory of parallel realities, and the events of both the comic book world and the MCU both take place within two of these realities. Perhaps we're on the way to seeing yet another Marvel universe created, made up of attractions at Disney parks all over the world, which tell their own stories. The one benefit of this universe being, we can all be part of it in some way.
There's a lot that we still don't know about many of the Marvel attractions that are planned at the various theme parks over the next few years. Having said that, Marvel is absolutely going to become a huge part of the global theme park business for Disney. Disneyland Paris will be getting an Iron Man attraction in addition to all of the other things that have been planned, putting new Marvel experiences on three continents.
While we may still have a lot of questions about what's next in the MCU, the theme park universe looks ready to get going.
Image Courtesy Disneylandnews.com/Disney