A Short History of Marvel In Walt Disney World

Disney Parks History 

Avengers Monorail Magic Kingdom Disney World

Marvel and Walt Disney World have a complicated history that started long before Disney ever purchased the company, and it is way more complicated than it initially appears.

Captain America In Marvel Superhero Island Universal Islands of Adventure

Universal had purchased the rights to use Marvel superheroes in their parks when they built their second theme park in Orlando, Islands of Adventure. The deal gave them indefinite use of all characters in theme parks east of the Mississippi River as long as they continued to be used. They also got exclusive use of the name Marvel in theme parks.

When Disney bought Marvel this meant they could only use characters in Walt Disney World that were not used in Marvel Superhero Island.

Disney was able to use characters outside the parks, however, allowing for an Avengers-themed Monorail, as long as it was not used on the Epcot line, and a Marvel store in Disney Springs.

The first major use in the parks of Marvel characters was the appearance of Hiro and Baymax in a meet and greet in Epcot following the release of an animated film based on the characters. This team was not used in Islands of Adventure so Disney could use it.

Next, Starlord and Gamora began appearing infrequently at the parks, first at a one night only Villains event in Disney's Hollywood Studios, with Starlord and Baby Groot even getting an extended meet and greet in the park later on.

Guardians of the Galaxy became the highest-profile group of Marvel characters that Disney could use in Walt Disney World, which led them to get an attraction built in Epcot, which is currently still under construction at the park, replacing Universe of Energy.

They would even get a show in the American Gardens Theater in Epcot's American Adventure Pavilion to give the characters a place in the parks until their ride got built.

Gamora Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Live Epcot Disney World

This show became a yearly feature of Epcot each summer, until the COVID19 Pandemic, with it being uncertain if the show will return in the future.

Only one other significant Marvel character has ever appeared in Walt Disney World, Doctor Strange, who temporarily appeared promoting his stand-alone film for a short time in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The future of Marvel in Walt Disney World may not be very elaborate. Many characters, including most high profile characters like the Avengers, Black Panther, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and more cannot be used, and Disney can't even use the Marvel name in the parks. Despite being one of the hottest properties Disney currently owns, it may never expand beyond one Guardians of the Galaxy Ride at Walt Disney World.

Disneyland is another story, and Disney will hopefully continue bringing more popular Marvel characters to that resort for the foreseeable future.