Spider-Man Coming To Disneyland Paris And Why Marvel At Disney Works...

Photo: DLRP Express
This morning, I woke up to some great news.  According to DLRP Express, Disneyland Paris will be adding a "photolocation" for Spider-Man to Walt Disney Studios in the place that served as the Annual Pass center next to the Disney Blockbuster Café.  Disneyland Paris has already changed the theme of the restaurant to an Iron Man theme.  And, given Disney's desire to bring Marvel into the park, it sounds like this rumor could be a sound one!

Twitter then lit up a bit with the standard discussion of whether Marvel belongs at at Disney Park.  I think we all know what side of the line I fall on, but I did want to give some thoughts as to why I think it works.

So, first, let's clear up some confusion about who owns what in terms of Marvel.  It is important to note that Disney owns ALL of it.  They own the entire library and cast of characters that come with Marvel.  Where the confusion comes in is in regards to the films and presence in the theme parks.  Before Disney bought Marvel, Marvel was actually not doing well financially.  Remember, it was on the cusp of its current Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Iron Man came out in May 2008 and the Disney acquisition was just a little over a year later.  But, negotiations started well before then.  Anyway, in order for the company to stay afloat, it needed to sell off the licensing to some of its most popular characters.  By now, most people have seen this excellent visual guide produced by The Geek Twins:

Photo: The Geek Twins

As you can see, the library of X-Men and Fantastic Four characters went to 20th Century Fox while Spider-Man characters went to Sony Pictures.  There's also a strange arrangement with Universal Studios on the film rights to Namor the Submariner and with Lionsgate Entertainment for the Man-Thing.

But, regardless of the film rights, Disney can still feature Marvel at its theme parks, resorts and properties...with the following exceptions - Japan and the United State east of the Mississippi (for all intents and purposes, this means Florida, unless Disney decides to open up another theme park or resort east of the Mississippi).  Marvel entered different contracts with Universal Studios Theme Parks in both countries.  In Japan, the contract with Universal is through the 2020s.  In the United States, however, the contract is a little more tricky.  There is no end date.  So, in order for Disney to gain the rights back to the Marvel characters east of the Mississippi, it would have to buy Universal out of its contract.  And, given the fact that Universal is making every attempt to be the number one destination in Orlando, I doubt they'll make it easy for Disney to reacquire the rights.  Thankfully, Universal decided not to renew the contract for west of the Mississippi in 2007 leaving it open for Disney to feature the characters at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.  The other resorts in which Disney can feature Marvel are Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.

Photo: Loren R. Javier
As you know, last year, Disney brought the first Marvel presence into its theme parks with the Iron Man Tech presented by Stark Industries exhibit to Innoventions in Tomorrowland at Disneyland.  While there is no character meet-and-greet opportunity, guests can view the Hall of Armor, featuring Mark I through Mark VII as well as Mark 42 armor featured in Iron Man 3.  Honestly, I don't think Disney knew what the response would be.  When Disney first bought Marvel, there was a very loud contingent of Disney fans that felt Marvel had no place at Disney Parks, especially the original Magic Kingdom.  But, it turned out to be extremely popular and the exhibit that was only supposed to be for a limited time still stands.

Photos: Loren R. Javier
Later that year, Disney featured the first Marvel characters at a Disney event - the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA.  Spider-Man and Iron Man met at the Marvel Universe autograph session at the Disney Channel Pavilion and Captain America met at the Walt Disney Imagineering Pavilion to highlight the Avengers Academy, the first Marvel attraction at a Disney property - The Disney Magic on the Disney Cruise Line.

Photo: Loren R. Javier
Shortly after the Avengers Academy opened on the Disney Magic, Thor: Treasures of Asgard  opened at Disneyland and features the first Marvel character meet-and-greet at a Disney Park.  After looking at a series of props from Thor: The Dark World, guests are magically transported through the Bifrost bridge to Odin's throne room in Asgard where Thor is waiting with open arms.  It is the most elaborate meet-and-greet area I've ever seen Disney create.  And, as I've mentioned before, when I first met Thor, I got very emotional meeting him.  For me, Marvel was just as big a part of my childhood as Disney was.  So, I almost felt like I was four years old again meeting Mickey Mouse.

This is why I think Marvel works at Disney.  Naysayers are looking at Marvel characters as something completely different from the fairy tale and classic story properties Disney is known for instead of looking at its similar richness of history in storytelling.  So many of us have grown up on Marvel stories as well.  And, being able to experience these characters in the same kind of tactile way that you can experience Snow White, Alice or Peter Pan is quite wonderful.  Disney fans should try to look for the similarities rather than the differences.

Photo: Disney
Starting next week, Captain America will also be meeting at Disneyland and I'm very excited about this.  And, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight for the Iron Man and Thor exhibits either.  And, I just don't see an end in sight to Marvel at Disney Parks and properties in general.  Hong Kong Disneyland is already working on the first attraction at a Disney theme park in the form of the Iron Man Experience, a simulator style ride in which guests will be able to adventure with Iron Man.  I'm going to imagine that they'll add a meet-and-greet opportunity for him as well there.    And, now, Disneyland Paris will be joining the fray with an Spider-Man meet-and-greet opportunity.  And, while there are not a lot of details, I think it should be a welcome part.

And, I know this is still not the end.  We've all heard rumors of Disney looking into the expansion of Marvel into the Disney Parks from a third gate at the Disneyland Resort to a Marvel Land at Disneyland Paris.  Whatever the plans might be, I look forward to seeing the stories I've loved since a boy come to life in the places I love the best.

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