Re: that Universal Orlando & Disney World deal for Marvel rights rumor


There is a new rumor spreading about Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort coming to some agreement about who gets to use Marvel Characters in themeparks. Universal is reportedly preparing to change the theme of the Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure and possibly the Doctor Doom drop tower too. Could it be there’s some sort of agreement in the works to give Disney themepark rights to Marvel characters in Orlando.

Right now Disney is prohibited from building anything Marvel related for theme park and other fixed attractions in a 250 mile radius from Universal Orlando Resort. They’ve even had to go so far as to drop the Marvel name when it did a Guardians of the Galaxy preview at DHS last year.

It’s a pretty ironclad contract. Unless Universal decides to close its Marvel themed stores (they have to buy and sell a certain amount of Marvel merchandise a year) and let the attractions lapse into mis-management (there is a quality clause), there isn’t much Disney can do to terminate it.


What Disney can do is make it slightly less profitable for Universal to sell that Marvel merchandise inside the park and refuse to make movies, comic books, or TV with the characters Universal is using. But since those characters are primarily The X-Men (where Fox owns the movie rights) and The Avengers, which is expected to break box office records this year, I don’t see that happening. The only other option is to write a check for whatever amount Universal wants (probably enough money to cover re-theming that part of the park, plus a penalty for contract termination).

My guess is we’re talking somewhere between $250M and $500M to buy off Universal. That seems like a lot, but when the current Avengers movie is expected to earn more than $1.2 Billion at the global box office and sell billions in additional toys and merchandise, you can see why giving their rival that sort of money starts to make sense. When you consider the whole Avengers/Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, $250-$500 million starts to look like a rounding error.

There is another option that fits the rumored changes coming to Marvel Superhero Island. Disney could buy just the rights for characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This would let Universal keep the X-men characters and maybe a few new characters (Fantastic Four) and let Disney focus on the characters it owns the movie rights too. Every body wins.

Here’s my dream. Disney pays off Universal for either option above and announces the long rumored Heroes and Villains thrill park as a fifth gate.

That’s just a dream, and the rumor that’s going around is just a rumor with no real sources to back it up. So take it all with a very large grain of salt. Disney has a lot to chew on in Orlando already with Pixar, Avatar, and Star Wars expansions lined up or soon to be announced.

If Disney did manage to secure the rights to Marvel characters in Orlando, what should they do with them?

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12 thoughts on “Re: that Universal Orlando & Disney World deal for Marvel rights rumor

  1. Bailers

    8 years ago I made the trip to Disney, but took a day to go over to Universal. I don’t remember the two park names, but the one part was meh, the other park (that I didn’t go to) looked fantastic.

    Disney is missing a park with nothing but thrill rides. And they need a place where speed junkies can go and get their their upside down, corkscrew high speed thrills on. If that’s what Heroes and Villains would be, bring it on.

  2. Michelle

    The question is if this happens, what happens to Spidey? Universal has both the ride and the character roaming and doing photo ops. Now that Spidey is now a joint movie project between Marvel and Sony, were those rights discussed when both studios signed the contract allowing Spiderman to appear in MCU movies?

    With all the bucks the movies are bringing in, including merchandise at other Disney parks, I’m sure Disney would be willing to pay to get the rights back. But will Universal refuse just to be a thorn in their rival’s side?

    I hope it happens – Marvel attractions would fit in well at DHS.

  3. Jez

    I’m happy this stays at Universal for the time being. Disney already has enough assets it’s under using. I think Star Wars and Avatar (not forgetting core titles like Frozen) will keep them busy for the next 5-6 years.

    Even if Disney bought the rights back they’d just sit on them for years before they did anything with them. They already have too many things to do but are unwilling to spend the money

    1. Nancy

      But they could incorporate the MCU characters pretty quickly. There’s potential for special events like for instance, Star Wars Weekends but Marvel-related and the MCU merchandise in the parks would be huge for them!

  4. Victoria

    I honestly would not want any of those situations to occur. I think Universal made a strong deal back then and that they should keep it that way, because it would cause so many complications within Marvel Superhero Island that it wouldn’t be worth all of the hassle.
    Also, Disney has so much on it’s plate already with their new themed lands (which take FOREVER to come together by the way), that they would just end up sitting around with the rights and not doing anything with them for about a decade.
    I have noticed that Disney is managing to creep Marvel back into Orlando, with the new store in DD, the new bus wraps, and the heavier presence of Marvel in Walt Disney World.

  5. David

    Why does everyone keep clamoring for a fifth gate when Hollywood Studios and Epcot both need massive investments to just catch up and Animal Kingdom might finally become a full day park when Avatar Land opens and the other improvements open.

    1. Mark

      I agree with David. Any money that would be potentially spent on a 5th gate would be better spent expanding and updating the current parks. I see anything Marvel fitting into Hollywood Studios and perhaps even a “Stark Tech” exhibit in EPCOT.

      To me a Hero and Villains park is too generic. I can go to Six Flags and get that.

  6. Vic

    I think people forget the size and varied interests of Disney and Comcast. Disney could use ESPN or Disney Channel as a bargaining chip to encourage Comcast to sell the theme park rights. I beleive there was such a creative deal made to reclaim Oswald the Rabbit from Universal. The Spiderman ride could be rethemed without too much fuss to another IP, such as Ghostbusters, James Bond or Mission Impossible, if they license from outside the studio. Or maybe they just sell Disney the actual ride, given it’s duplicated in Transformers already. A thorough rework of the land to a horror, action or thriller theme would balance out that side of the park which pales in comparison to the Potter anchored other side.

    1. John Frost Post author

      The reason I left ESPN off the bargaining table was because investors have become used to seeing massive profits from that division every year. If that was to diminish, it might hurt stock value.

  7. Pingback: Super Hero Headquarters opens at Downtown Disney | The Disney Blog

  8. Nancy

    A Disney Hero and Villains Theme Park is my biggest dream! I wouldn’t want just thrill rides though. I would love to see something other than those kind of rides. Maybe something more interactive and unique. I”m sure Disney imaginEARS could come up with something amazing and have a field day with MCU! There’s a lot of theming potential here.

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