Disney’s Hollywood Studios Makeover – Following the Breadcrumbs

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I’ll admit I’m letting my heart lead my mind in this story, but I’m putting a couple rumors together and seeing something potentially huge on the horizon. So, keep in mind this is speculation of the basest sort and that it’s just for fun. Who knows, I could be on to something, but if not, this is just a bit of harmless speculation.

We all know of the big rumor that the Board of Directors at the Mouse House has agreed to drop $3+ billion to fix Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If true, and I hope it is, $3 billion is a lot of dough, considering it only took $1.2 billion (give or take) to fix Disney’s California Adventure (although I think that number goes up another couple hundred million if you include simultaneous entertainment enhancements that weren’t in the budget).

So what is Disney planning to spend that extra cash on? Some have speculated that they’ll extend the monorail from EPCOT to DHS and use the money to pay for some much needed upgrades to the monorail fleet. As much as I’d like to see the monorails get the love and attention they deserve, I don’t think that would be a good use of money, as it wouldn’t have the sort of excitement level that would make families drop everything and book a WDW vacation.

Then, yesterday evening James Gunn, who directed Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and is currently in pre-production on its sequel, held a periscope chat where he didn’t talk too much about the sequel, but I’m told he did mention how excited he was about an upcoming Disneyworld ride based on Guardians of the Galaxy. Wait? Could that even happen? Gunn has since deleted the periscope, so perhaps he leaked something he wasn’t supposed to?

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Disney did get away with hosting a preview of Guardians of the Galaxy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by removing any mention of the word “Marvel” from the marketing of the film in the park, but could they do that with a whole attraction? I don’t think that would play well with Disney’s rival down the street. We all know that Universal Orlando Resort owns the rights to use of Marvel properties in Orlando area theme parks and attractions. I think they’d have their lawyers on the phone with Disney’s lawyers faster than you could say Star Lord.

The rights to Marvel characters in Orlando is a pretty ironclad contract that was signed long before Disney even dreamed of buying Marvel. Really, the only way Disney could get Universal Orlando to give up the rights to use Marvel characters in the parks would be to buy them out of it. Speculations are Disney could be forced to give Universal somewhere between $500 million and $800 million to buy back the rights. Universal certainly could use the money to help with its capital expansion plans. Plus, I’m sure they’re less attached to Spider-Man now that they have Transformers with the same ride technology.

If a deal was worked out, Disney would have no problem building a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction with the Marvel brand or any number of other Marvel attractions anywhere they wanted at Walt Disney World. If James Gunn really did slip up and spill the beans early, this D23 Expo could be very exciting indeed for Disney theme park fans.

This is the part of the dream where we wake up. I don’t see a company like Disney giving their nearest competitor the type of cash it would take to buy out this contract. Some bean counter somewhere would scream bloody murder about funding your own competitor coming around to bite you.

But daydreaming again, there really is no other way for Disney to get the rights to use Marvel characters in Orlando other than pay Universal for them. If they were going to really capitalize on the popularity of the Avengers and greater Marvel Cinematic Universe movies (which have made the company multi-billions in box office and merchandise revenue), wouldn’t it make wise financial sense to spend a little now to make make even more money at the theme parks forever? The opportunity cost of not having Marvel at the Walt Disney World theme parks is a lot more than it would cost to buy back the rights.

What do you think fellow Disney dreamers? Am I on the right path here?