Marvel, Star Wars and the next steps for Disney's Tomorrowlands
Written by Robert Niles
Remember "The Marvel Experience"?Tweet
That was the traveling Marvel-themed attraction announced in August, which promoters said would feature exhibits, meet-and-greets, and a 3D motion-simulator ride starring Marvel superheroes.
Makes last night's news from Hong Kong Disneyland seem a bit like déjà vu, doesn't it? Yesterday, Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs announced that Disney would build "The Iron Man Experience" at the park, with Stark Expo exhibits including the Hall of Armor, an Iron Man meet-and-greet, and what sure sounds like a 3D motion-simulator ride.
No inside information here about a formal design or development connection between the projects, but they sure sound similar, don't they?
Is there any chance Disney and Marvel fans might see a "[Insert Marvel character here] Experience" at another Disney theme park? Staggs announced that the Hong Kong Iron Man ride will take place in that city, which initially might suggest that the ride will be a one-off for that park only. But Disney brought Soarin' Over California to Florida's Epcot, so a Hong Kong setting shouldn't by itself rule out a deployment to another park. So, which one? Look first to Paris' underdeveloped Walt Disney Studios, though by 2016 Shanghai Disneyland should be open, and no one would be surprised to see a Marvel attraction there, perhaps as a way to boost attendance a couple years after the Grand Opening, when attention begins to fade. Remember, Marvel's barred from Walt Disney World and the Tokyo Disney Resort, so the only other option at the moment is California's Disneyland.
Would Disney bring Marvel to Disneyland? Legally, there's nothing stopping it. But space constraints might. For now, the industry buzz has Disney focusing on Star Wars as the next big project in Anaheim, not Marvel.
MiceAge posted a report today detailing leaks from a Disneyland management meeting that previewed plans for a Star Wars overlay in the park's Tomorrowland. [Scroll down past the DAS stuff.] The plans are said to include moving the Astro Orbiter from the hub to the upper plaza in front of Space Mountain. The Millennium Falcon would be parked on the Astro Orbiter's old home atop the former PeopleMover loading station. Tomorrowland Terrace would become the Mos Eisley cantina. And the Innoventions building would become the loading station for a speeder bike ride that would consume the current Autopia track.
The future home of Disneyland's Astro Orbiter?
Will it happen? Until blueprints are distributed and contractors hired, all theme park plans are blue sky and subject to change. And Imagineers have been known to float ideas into the online fan community to gauge reaction. In addition to ride development, these plans would require rebuilding the current Captain EO theater building to support the Astro Orbiter ride above, gutting and rebuilding Innoventions, and creating a show building around Tomorrowland Terrace, in addition to possibly rerouting the monorail track. That's a lot of coin, even for Disney.
And here's another thought worth considering: Star Wars and Marvel each take Tomorrowland another step away from its original, idealistic vision of a community in the future, replacing it with yet another conflict-driven narrative. At their hearts, both Star Wars and Marvel are dystopian, portraying worlds in which "ordinary" people have no hope, save for the efforts of superheroes (or super-human Jedi) who might come to their rescue. Perhaps there's a dissertation in there, for a student of Disney and popular culture. In the 1950s, Disney's Tomorrowland reflected a society that felt empowered and hopeful about its ability to shape a better future. In the 2010s, the plans for Tomorrowland seem instead to suggest we're living in a time when we're not thinking optimistically about our future as much as we're simply hoping that someone will ride down from space or the sky to save us.
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