Why Does Universal Own The Theme Park Rights to Simpsons and Marvel

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Welcome To Springfield Sign The Simpsons Universal Studios Hollywood

Disney may own The Simpsons and the Marvel catalog, but they do not have the unlimited ability to use them in their parks. This is mainly due to deals made before Disney purchased each of the entertainment properties that continue to this day, limiting what Disney can do with them.

We are going to discuss the deals for both of the properties, the background behind the deal, and what they limit Disney from doing with each set of characters.


Captain America In Front Of Cafe 4 Marvel Superhero Island Universal Islands of Adventure

When Universal planned on building their second park in Orlando they wanted to build a land based on comic superheroes. While their first choice was actually a DC Comics-themed land they ended up getting the rights to Marvel.

This deal initially encompassed attractions at Universal Studios Japan, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, although the deal has somewhat narrowed since then as a result of some of the specifics of the deal.

Captain America Enters Marvel Superhero Island Universal Islands of Adventure

The deal allows extended indefinite usage of Marvel characters, on condition that the parks continue to use them. When Universal Studios Hollywood removed their Marvel show they lost the rights to the characters. This now allows the characters to be used by Disney west of the Mississippi River, and it's why Disney California Adventure is getting Avengers Campus and the Walt Disney World Resort isn't.

One stipulation in this contract is it only involves characters that appear inside the land, and their associated characters. For example, if Iron Man appears (which he does) this would also include characters like Pepper Pots and War Machine. Black Panther is kept from being used in Walt Disney World due to one appearance in a poster.

Storm Character Marvel Superhero Island Universal Islands of Adventure

But this does allow Disney to use select Marvel characters in Walt Disney World. The Guardians of the Galaxy were nowhere near as prominent characters when the land was created and were not included, allowing Disney to create a Guardians ride in Walt Disney World. Doctor Strange has also made rate appearances, and is the only other significant character that currently is known the be allowed to be used in Walt Disney World.

This deal continues as long as Universal wants it to, so Disney has no way of getting the characters even if they want them.


Krustyland The Simpsons Ride Universal Studios Florida

The Simpsons has attractions currently located in both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood as part of a deal made with Fox before Disney purchased the company, and The Simpsons with it.

The details of this deal were never made public, but it is believed this deal is much more limited than the Marvel deal. For instance, it only includes the US parks.

Springfield Moe's The Simpsons Universal Studios Hollywood At Night

One major rumored element of this deal is that it may have a set end date, as opposed to the open-ended nature of the Marvel deal. If this is, in fact, the case, it could give Disney access to the characters at the end of the contract if they want them, and force Universal to remove them. Due to the nonpublic nature of the contract, there is a lot of uncertainty with this character set.