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Walt Disney plans to deploy Marvel superheroes at its theme parks


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As my understanding goes, for now it means nothing.

I'm sure Terp can correct me, but as I understand it, Universal has the right to use the Marvel characters in their Orlando park for as long as they want, period. But, they still have a contract for a given amount of time. So when it comes time to renew that contract for another however many years (could be every ten years, every fifty, etc.) they'll be negotiating with their next door neighbor who has the ability to charge whatever it sees fit. (And, Disney may indeed decide that they can earn better money by "leasing" the characters to Universal than by incorporating them into their own parks). Universal may also see fit to leave the existing contract and retheme that area of the park.

As it is, I can't imagine Disney could come up with a ride better than The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and if they did, the cost to build it might not be worth whatever it is Universal is paying.

Rumors are always swirling that the superheroes are bound to find their way into Paris' Studios park, where the "New Generation" of characters has been the theme for a while..

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As my understanding goes, for now it means nothing. I'm sure Terp can correct me, but as I understand it, Universal has the right to use the Marvel characters in their Orlando park for as long as they want, period. But, they still have a contract for a given amount of time. So when it comes time to renew that contract for another however many years (could be every ten years, every fifty, etc.) they'll be negotiating with their next door neighbor who has the ability to charge whatever it sees fit. (And, Disney may indeed decide that they can earn better money by "leasing" the characters to Universal than by incorporating them into their own parks). Universal may also see fit to leave the existing contract and retheme that area of the park. As it is, I can't imagine Disney could come up with a ride better than The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and if they did, the cost to build it might not be worth whatever it is Universal is paying. Rumors are always swirling that the superheroes are bound to find their way into Paris' Studios park, where the "New Generation" of characters has been the theme for a while..

There is no expiration date for the contract. Universal will never need to renegotiate. At the time the contract was signed, Marvel was in dire need of money. So the contract great favors Universal. Disney would never have agreed to the terms of Marvel's contract. But since it was a done deal by the time Disney came along, Disney's stuck with it. Universal is never going to opt out because they know they won't be able to get a similar franchise so cheap. The only way the deal gets ammended is if Disney decides to pay through the nose to end the contract. And I don't see that happening.

Disney can use Marvel at other parks. Although I have heard they are reluctant to use them in CA due to brand confusion. A Spider-man ride is planned for Shanghai. My undestanding is that this is being used as a testing ground for Marvel properties at overseas parks. If it's popular enough, I could see it making it's way out west. But that's pure speculation.

There is some wiggle room in the contract that may allow some Marvel characters to appear in Orlando. But it would have to be characters who do not appear in any "significant" way at Universal. That's open to interpretation. But you can bet Universal sees every character who appears in their murals as significant. And every character who is even remotely recognizable appears somewhere. Also, the contract stipulates that Universal has exclusive rights according to "families of characters". So if Marvel introduces a new X-Men, Avengers or Spider-man character, Universal still owns the rights based on that family.

Disney could try to fight this interpretation, but why would they bother? It would be expensive and create a lot of bad press. They have plenty of properties they can turn to without using Marvel in FL. And they can use Marvel just about anywhere else in the world they want to (although I believe Tokyo is also off limits).

Long story short, if you want to see Marvel at a Disney park you will likely have to leave the country or wait a very long time. In FL, I'd be very surprised to see it happen in the next decade.

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Can the Marvel characters have an area in Hollywood Studios? Pretty please? If there's a park that needs more attractions, it's definitely DHS.

That's interesting, I find HS to be my favorite Disney Park. Tower of Terror, Rock & Roller Coaster, Star Tours (new version is fantastic!), Toy Story Mania...all are excellent. If they were to put in something new, I am BEGGING for the Crush Coaster to be brought over from Disney Paris. That ride is so, so fun.

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Crush's Coaster is more like the Seven Dwarves Coaster than Goofy's Sky School. It's an indoor spinning family coaster with a few classic dark ride scenes throughout. It's a really nicely done ride. Another long-running rumor for DHS in Florida is a family suspended coaster (like Flying Ace) themed to Monsters Inc.

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As my understanding goes, for now it means nothing. I'm sure Terp can correct me, but as I understand it, Universal has the right to use the Marvel characters in their Orlando park for as long as they want, period. But, they still have a contract for a given amount of time. So when it comes time to renew that contract for another however many years (could be every ten years, every fifty, etc.) they'll be negotiating with their next door neighbor who has the ability to charge whatever it sees fit. (And, Disney may indeed decide that they can earn better money by "leasing" the characters to Universal than by incorporating them into their own parks). Universal may also see fit to leave the existing contract and retheme that area of the park. As it is, I can't imagine Disney could come up with a ride better than The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and if they did, the cost to build it might not be worth whatever it is Universal is paying. Rumors are always swirling that the superheroes are bound to find their way into Paris' Studios park, where the "New Generation" of characters has been the theme for a while..

There is no expiration date for the contract. Universal will never need to renegotiate. At the time the contract was signed, Marvel was in dire need of money. So the contract great favors Universal. Disney would never have agreed to the terms of Marvel's contract. But since it was a done deal by the time Disney came along, Disney's stuck with it. Universal is never going to opt out because they know they won't be able to get a similar franchise so cheap. The only way the deal gets ammended is if Disney decides to pay through the nose to end the contract. And I don't see that happening.

Disney can use Marvel at other parks. Although I have heard they are reluctant to use them in CA due to brand confusion. A Spider-man ride is planned for Shanghai. My undestanding is that this is being used as a testing ground for Marvel properties at overseas parks. If it's popular enough, I could see it making it's way out west. But that's pure speculation.

There is some wiggle room in the contract that may allow some Marvel characters to appear in Orlando. But it would have to be characters who do not appear in any "significant" way at Universal. That's open to interpretation. But you can bet Universal sees every character who appears in their murals as significant. And every character who is even remotely recognizable appears somewhere. Also, the contract stipulates that Universal has exclusive rights according to "families of characters". So if Marvel introduces a new X-Men, Avengers or Spider-man character, Universal still owns the rights based on that family.

Disney could try to fight this interpretation, but why would they bother? It would be expensive and create a lot of bad press. They have plenty of properties they can turn to without using Marvel in FL. And they can use Marvel just about anywhere else in the world they want to (although I believe Tokyo is also off limits).

Long story short, if you want to see Marvel at a Disney park you will likely have to leave the country or wait a very long time. In FL, I'd be very surprised to see it happen in the next decade.

Where do you read that Universal's contract says that only they can use the characters? This is really confusing me. Disney OWNS the characters and can use whatever they want wherever they want whenever they want. Universal's contract only specify's Universal's ability to use the characters, no one elses.

Also Universal only owns rights to use the animated characters, not the live action characters.

Just you wait mr lebeau... you may be surprised how soon you're able to... oh I dont know... say... meet and greet your favorite avenger? If I had to say when, I'd probably say... sooner than the next decade... oh and you wont need to leave the country...

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Crush's Coaster is more like the Seven Dwarves Coaster than Goofy's Sky School. It's an indoor spinning family coaster with a few classic dark ride scenes throughout. It's a really nicely done ride. Another long-running rumor for DHS in Florida is a family suspended coaster (like Flying Ace) themed to Monsters Inc.

I take it you've ridden it? I found it to be a great, great ride, a nice mix of a dark ride plus a coaster...

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Can the Marvel characters have an area in Hollywood Studios? Pretty please? If there's a park that needs more attractions, it's definitely DHS.

That's interesting, I find HS to be my favorite Disney Park. Tower of Terror, Rock & Roller Coaster, Star Tours (new version is fantastic!), Toy Story Mania...all are excellent. If they were to put in something new, I am BEGGING for the Crush Coaster to be brought over from Disney Paris. That ride is so, so fun.

Compared to the other 3 parks, DHS seems to be the weakest. DHS and AK have way less to do than MK and EPCOT, but at least AK is better themed. DHS seems to be stuck with empty soundstages (Narnia, the "Hot Set" next to Midway Mania, the infamous Sounds Dangerous...) and the poor, unfortunate backlot tour (although I enjoy the backlot tour just for the queue area, which features old props from Horizons and World of Motion!). It just seems like there's not enough to do to keep you occupied for a whole day.

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Where do you read that Universal's contract says that only they can use the characters? This is really confusing me. Disney OWNS the characters and can use whatever they want wherever they want whenever they want. Universal's contract only specify's Universal's ability to use the characters, no one elses.

Also Universal only owns rights to use the animated characters, not the live action characters.

Just you wait mr lebeau... you may be surprised how soon you're able to... oh I dont know... say... meet and greet your favorite avenger? If I had to say when, I'd probably say... sooner than the next decade... oh and you wont need to leave the country...

I have actually read the contract.

Universal has exclusive rights east of the Mississipi. even though Disney owns the characters, Marvel sold off a lot of rights before Disney bought Marvel. That doesn't mean Disney gets back the rights Marvel sold. Disney has to honor those contracts. Which means they can't make a Spider-man movie until Sony gives up or forfeits the movie rights and they can't put the Avengers in Disney World.

They can use them in CA. But they have indicated they may not do so due to the potential for brand confusion. But maybe they will decide it's worth the risk and put them in Disneyland eventually. I'd never say "never" but the odds of Marvel characters showing up in Disney World are slim to none for the foreseeable future.

I do know there is a Spider-man ride planned for Shanghai. That's going to be Disney's first attempt to bring Marvel to a theme park. They will proceed from there.

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Can the Marvel characters have an area in Hollywood Studios? Pretty please? If there's a park that needs more attractions, it's definitely DHS.

That's interesting, I find HS to be my favorite Disney Park. Tower of Terror, Rock & Roller Coaster, Star Tours (new version is fantastic!), Toy Story Mania...all are excellent. If they were to put in something new, I am BEGGING for the Crush Coaster to be brought over from Disney Paris. That ride is so, so fun.

Compared to the other 3 parks, DHS seems to be the weakest. DHS and AK have way less to do than MK and EPCOT, but at least AK is better themed. DHS seems to be stuck with empty soundstages (Narnia, the "Hot Set" next to Midway Mania, the infamous Sounds Dangerous...) and the poor, unfortunate backlot tour (although I enjoy the backlot tour just for the queue area, which features old props from Horizons and World of Motion!). It just seems like there's not enough to do to keep you occupied for a whole day.

I know many folks seem to feel the same way as you, so I am a bit of an outsider on loving DHS. But love it I do. Love the theming on the main street there, almost more than Main Street USA at MK. :)

I should also note that, not being an animal nut, I find AK to be my least favorite park by far, not only of Disney parks, but of pretty much any amusement/theme park. There are so few thrill rides, with the exception of Everest of course, which is a good ride (although they really need to fix the Yeti if it's still down). Dinosaur is alright, and Khali Rapids is ok, but way, WAY too short.

The biggest issue to me, though (and I know I'm not alone on this), is that you have to walk FOREVER to get from ride to ride. They are spaced very far apart, and it just seems that somehow it is the hottest park on planet earth. Anybody who says EPCOT stands for "Every Person Comes Out Tired" must have never been to AK. It's a killer.

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Where do you read that Universal's contract says that only they can use the characters? This is really confusing me. Disney OWNS the characters and can use whatever they want wherever they want whenever they want. Universal's contract only specify's Universal's ability to use the characters, no one elses.

Also Universal only owns rights to use the animated characters, not the live action characters.

Just you wait mr lebeau... you may be surprised how soon you're able to... oh I dont know... say... meet and greet your favorite avenger? If I had to say when, I'd probably say... sooner than the next decade... oh and you wont need to leave the country...

I have actually read the contract.

Universal has exclusive rights east of the Mississipi. even though Disney owns the characters, Marvel sold off a lot of rights before Disney bought Marvel. That doesn't mean Disney gets back the rights Marvel sold. Disney has to honor those contracts. Which means they can't make a Spider-man movie until Sony gives up or forfeits the movie rights and they can't put the Avengers in Disney World.

They can use them in CA. But they have indicated they may not do so due to the potential for brand confusion. But maybe they will decide it's worth the risk and put them in Disneyland eventually. I'd never say "never" but the odds of Marvel characters showing up in Disney World are slim to none for the foreseeable future.

I do know there is a Spider-man ride planned for Shanghai. That's going to be Disney's first attempt to bring Marvel to a theme park. They will proceed from there.

Explain this then Lebeau. That picture looks like the Avengers and it looks like it is at WDW.

http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2012/03/marvels-the-avengers-themed-monorail-to-debut-this-spring-at-walt-disney-world-resort/

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I would imagine that the rights to put a themed wrap on a monorail train are a bit different than those to build a ride/attraction based on the characters.

Do you really think so? I mean, legally?

I don't know any better than the most naive-to-law person here, but I don't think the rights are different... Disney owns Marvel. Universal allegedly contracted Marvel at a time when Marvel was desperate for money, and the powers at Universal probably wouldn't have guessed in a million years that the Walt Disney Company would purchase Marvel in a multi-billion dollar transaction. And so, I doubt that in the Marvel-Universal contract, it somewhere stated "in case of purchase by competitor in the amusement park industry, no attractions can be made containing Marvel characters, but Marvel character appliques can be administered to pre-existing attractions."

The thing said in this conversation that I imagine as being the most true is the idea that Disney can use any characters not employed at Universal's park. That being said, the monorail wrap contains Hulk, who is the basis of Universal's Incredible Hulk coaster, so even that may be iffy (unless Universal's is based on the "comic character" Hulk and Disney's is on the "film character" Hulk, who may be seen as two separate legal entities...). I sort of imagine that there's a "gentlemen's agreement" in there, too (which may be 100% off base). It occurs to me that Disney probably could legally build a Spider-Man ride, but why would they? Brand confusion would be off the charts, and Spider-Man at Universal is wildly popular and groundbreaking even thirteen years later.

Even then, Disney certainly didn't buy Marvel with the sole or even main intention of using the characters in parks. They wanted the movie rights, the profits from the millions and millions and millions of action figures, play sets, costumes, etc., the TV shows, the "little boy" demographic that they were having such trouble with. I imagine that the ability to build Marvel attractions was definitely a factor, but if it had been a selling point then we'd already see Marvel attractions announced, and we haven't (compare that to the Avatar announcement made 4 years before expected opening and with no concept art, concrete ride descriptions, etc).

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Remember the Tronorail? Remember how it was on the Epcot line that went through the park? Notice how the Avengorail does not?

Disney specifically put the wrap on a train that is outside of the theme parks. Universal owns theme park rights. This means Marvel stuff can appear on resort property as long as it's not in a theme park.

Universal lawyers have been in touch with Disney over this. End of the day, it's not worth fighting over technicalities. At best, they would spend a fortune to get an injunction. By the time they won their case, Avengers will have come and gone from the theaters and the wrap will have been removed.

Disney does seem to be testing the limits of the agreement though. I was surprised by this move as it's pretty bold. But it doesn't reflect a change in the terms of the original contract.

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Depends on what you call inside park. Magic Kingdom has a unique setup with the parking lot being a mile and a half away. The MK rail goes straight to the front gate, so is security not apart of MK? I know cast members working those front gates are considered MK cast members.

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Do you really think so? I mean, legally? I don't know any better than the most naive-to-law person here, but I don't think the rights are different... Disney owns Marvel. Universal allegedly contracted Marvel at a time when Marvel was desperate for money, and the powers at Universal probably wouldn't have guessed in a million years that the Walt Disney Company would purchase Marvel in a multi-billion dollar transaction. And so, I doubt that in the Marvel-Universal contract, it somewhere stated "in case of purchase by competitor in the amusement park industry, no attractions can be made containing Marvel characters, but Marvel character appliques can be administered to pre-existing attractions."

You're right. At the time, no one anticipated Disney buying Marvel. It put everyone in a very uncomfortable position. Both companies are still feeling their way out.

The thing said in this conversation that I imagine as being the most true is the idea that Disney can use any characters not employed at Universal's park.

This is a common misconception. I don't have the contract in front of me at the moment, so I am paraphrasing. But it indicates that Universal has the rights to any character which is used "in a significant way" in Islands of Adventure. Universal is going to argue that any character included in a banner is used "in a significant way". And they have almost every Marvel character ever created on those banners. They have the Inhumans for example.

What's more, the contract also gives them the rights to all characters in the "families" of those characters. So, if a new Spider-man or Avengers character is introduced, Universal has the theme park rights to them too even if they did not exist at the time of the agreement.

As you stated, Marvel was desperate for cash when they signed the agreement. It favors Universal in pretty much every regard. It never expires. And all Universal is required to do is keep up the property which you can bet they will.

That being said, the monorail wrap contains Hulk, who is the basis of Universal's Incredible Hulk coaster, so even that may be iffy (unless Universal's is based on the "comic character" Hulk and Disney's is on the "film character" Hulk, who may be seen as two separate legal entities...).

They are not separate. The Hulk is the Hulk. Movie or no, Disney can't use him in the theme parks.

I sort of imagine that there's a "gentlemen's agreement" in there, too (which may be 100% off base).

Nope. Nothing gentlemanly about the agreement. The monorail wrap shows that Disney will take advantage of any loophole they can find.

It occurs to me that Disney probably could legally build a Spider-Man ride, but why would they?

Universal would sue the pants off of them. They absolutely can't do this in WDW.

They can and will build one in Shanghai.

Brand confusion would be off the charts, and Spider-Man at Universal is wildly popular and groundbreaking even thirteen years later.

I have heard that Disney was at one time worried about brand confusion. Not sure if they still are.

Even then, Disney certainly didn't buy Marvel with the sole or even main intention of using the characters in parks. They wanted the movie rights, the profits from the millions and millions and millions of action figures, play sets, costumes, etc., the TV shows, the "little boy" demographic that they were having such trouble with. I imagine that the ability to build Marvel attractions was definitely a factor, but if it had been a selling point then we'd already see Marvel attractions announced, and we haven't (compare that to the Avatar announcement made 4 years before expected opening and with no concept art, concrete ride descriptions, etc).

Exactly. At the time of the purchase, theme park attractions were icing in the cake. The cake was cartoons like Disney XD's Ultimate Spider-man, merchandise and video games. Even the movies were kind of secondary since most of the prime properties were already spoken for. Disney had to shell out big bucks to Paramount to get the Avengers back in house. Sony still owns Spider-man and Fox owns X-Men, Daredevil, Fantastic Four and bunches of other smaller characters.

Disney has looked into possibilities including walk-around characters. This stuff has been discussed and plans exist. But Disney has plans for everything. Until you hear about Disney shelling out big money to Universal to buy the rights back, you won't see much more than the monorail wrap in Florida. CA is possible but unlikely in the near future. Overseas will happen eventually. That's a done deal.

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Depends on what you call inside park. Magic Kingdom has a unique setup with the parking lot being a mile and a half away. The MK rail goes straight to the front gate, so is security not apart of MK? I know cast members working those front gates are considered MK cast members. I do not believe any of what you say. Disney owns Marvel period.

Disney owns Marvel. But Marvel sold a lot of rights which do not automatically revert back to Disney. Disney bought what Marvel owned. But they didn't own the theme park rights to their characters or most of the movie rights. That's why Sony is releasing amazing Spider-man and Universal still has Marvel characters at Islands of Adventure.

Believe what you want, but that's the truth.

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From what I have read Disney has more say in it than you think.

I’m told that this is because the Universal-Marvel licensing contract is extremely narrow: Universal has to follow it to the letter, or they risk losing the characters altogether.

http://www.deadline.com/2009/09/universal-vs-disney-over-marvel-characters/

That just does not sound to me like Universal has much say.

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From what I have read Disney has more say in it than you think.
I’m told that this is because the Universal-Marvel licensing contract is extremely narrow: Universal has to follow it to the letter, or they risk losing the characters altogether.
http://www.deadline.com/2009/09/universal-vs-disney-over-marvel-characters/ That just does not sound to me like Universal has much say.

I posted a link to the contract. Read it for yourself.

Yes, Universal has some obligations. And there are some grey areas that could result in lawsuits if either side decided to pursue them. But Disney isn't interested in spending a lot of money to aquire the domestic theme park rights to Marvel either by purchasing them outright or taking legal action. If they wanted to invest money in WDW, there are any number of properties they already own without having to fight or pay Universal to do so.

It's easier to deal with Lucas and build more Star Wars. It's easier to deal with Cameron (although that is apparenlty a relationship on the rocks as well. Avland may not happen.) It's easier to clone Carsland from DCA and not pay anybody.

Marvel at WDW isn't impossible. But there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. And Disney has cheaper alternatives. For the time being, it's not worth it to them.

Disagree all you want. But be prepared for a long wait.

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Several have stated Diney can't do this or that and Universal can't do this or that. The truth is either CAN do any darn thing it wants to. There may be risk, or even certainty, of consequences but that doesn't necessarily mean one or the other won't try to do something an existing contract may not permit. A contract is only enforceable to the extent the parties thereto are serious about seeking/requiring enforcement.

Even then, how a provision will be interpreted is not always predictable with 100 percent precision.

Terpy, teaching just such things today...in Texas, no less...

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A fair point. But I think it's implied that when people say "Disney can't" <fill in the blank> what they mean is that doing so would violate the terms of their agreement. And yes, there is wiggle room in any contract. But most would agree that if Disney put someone in a Spider-man costume for meet and greets, they would face a law suit from Universal. One they would almost certainly lose.

Having read the contract and knowing people who are connected in Orlando and Annaheim, I am fairly confident in my sources when I say 1. Disney isn't seriously considering building any Marvel-themed attractions in Orlando and 2. Universal is very serious about keeping the rights to Marvel at their park.

I could always be wrong. Maybe Disney is itching for a lawsuit. But that doesn't pass the common sense test. Disney is so reluctant to spend any money in Orlando that TDO was essentially forced by higher ups to approve the Fantasyland expansion. They are cutting maintenance to the point where Splash Mountain (the most popular attraction at their most popular park) was running for weeks at a time with all of the AAs in the final show scene broken.

Given the reluctance to spend money to maintain their existing rides, I don't see them spending what it would cost to buy Universal out or fight them in court (which would come with loads of bad press - which Disney hates!) just to get the rights to spend more money to build new attractions. If they wanted to build new attractions, they don't need to spend money to acquire the Marvel rights to do so. There's a laundry list of projects that are ready to be built should they ever loosen the purse strings.

Sure, all things are possible. Disney has even investigated selling parks and resorts (foreign investors toured WDW last year along with Disney's BoD). So, yeah, they could do something crazy and unexpected. But the smart money says Disney will let Universal keep the Marvel rights in Orlando for the foreseeable future.

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