Is Thor going to Disney World? (*Updated)
We've heard that Disney has posted an audition notice for a theme park entertainment role playing the character Thor.
Thor at Disneyland in California. Photo courtesy Disney
At Disney's Hollywood Studios. That's right. In Florida.
[*Update: Now others are saying that while the audition was posted for DHS, the actual location of the character would be on the cruise line, where Disney does have the rights to use Marvel characters. Potentially interesting discussion and analysis follows, regardless.]
If you've been following Theme Park Insider for awhile, you might remember that Universal Orlando holds a perpetual license to the Florida theme park rights for the Marvel characters it features at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Universal made this deal with Marvel years before Disney bought the comic book company, and Disney's coveted those theme park rights ever since making that deal.
The Universal Orlando deal is why Disney's "Avengerail" monorail skin promoting the Avengers movie could not run on the Epcot line at the Walt Disney World Resort. That graphic included characters for which Universal holds the exclusive regional theme park rights, so it couldn't be shown inside any non-Universal theme park in the area. Since the Epcot line of the Disney monorail goes into that park, the Avengers graphic had to stay on the Seven Seas Lagoon monorail lines, instead.
So why would Disney be posting an audition notice to bring Thor to Disney's Hollywood Studios?
Disney's already featured Thor in a meet-and-greet in the Innoventions pavilion at Disneyland (see photo above), where Disney's also been promoting other Marvel characters. Universal let its deal for the Southern California theme park rights to Marvel characters expire before Disney bought the company, so Disney's clear to use the Marvel characters in its parks in Anaheim.
Maybe the Florida notice is just a mistake. Or, if not, here's a theory. It's been well-established that Universal retains the theme park rights to the Marvel characters it has been featuring in Islands of Adventure. However, Universal cannot add additional Marvel characters to that land without permission from Marvel — which means permission from Disney, which, one can reasonably presume, is not forthcoming.
That leaves the Marvel characters not featured in Islands of Adventure, including Thor, in a bit of limbo. Does Universal's contract prohibit their inclusion in any other area theme park? Or can Disney go ahead and use those characters at Walt Disney World without infringing Universal's deal? We haven't heard a straight answer from sources inside both Disney and Universal about that.
Perhaps that question remains in dispute. If Disney wanted to push that issue, a character meet-and-greet would be the least costly way to do that. Let's play game theory and look at the possible outcomes.
If Disney brings Thor to Hollywood Studios and Universal does not object, Disney's presumably free to bring other non-Universal Marvel characters to Disney World. If Universal does object, and the matter ends up in court, Disney could be liable for a financial judgment in Universal's favor, but that would be the only expense. Disney wouldn't also lose the expenses of developing and building a theme park attraction. The cost of duping a Disneyland Thor costume and paying a few cast members in entertainment to portray him are next to nothing on Disney's bottom line. But if a judge or jury rules in Disney's favor, again, it's free and clear to start bringing those non-Universal Marvel characters to Disney World.
Maybe Disney's decided to take that risk. Maybe Disney and Universal have an understanding on which company owns which theme park rights. Or maybe the whole thing's a mistake that soon will disappear. But we've heard that the audition notice was posted. And that would suggest that things are about to become quite interesting regarding the Marvel characters in Florida theme parks.
perhaps a marvel/Thor meet and greet in a resort/ downtown disney area. Is that possible?
They could technically have a meet & greet just outside the gates of the park, couldn't they? As big as Walt Disney World is, they would still probably get mostly paying guests in line for it, and it wouldn't technically be *inside* the park. Maybe they could have an AvengerBus instead of an Avengerail with a meet & greet on board.
I think Disney just gave up on Disney Hollywood Studios. It only had 2 worthwhile rides (ToT and Rn'R) so that part will get a booth and will be a mini park for 25 bucks. The rest will have "theatres" with separate admission tickets (like Cirque at DWS) and restaurants and shops so technically it won't be a park anymore.
Thor is, in fact, present in IOA. Albeit in a limited way. There is a life size statue of Thor, the Chris Hemsworth version, in one of the stores there. While this obviously isn't an attraction, it makes me wonder how use for merchandising and use for attractions is divided up under the license agreement.
I don't see how they could hold a meet and greet in the parks. It's been said time and again that Universal holds the rights to all featured characters and their character families. Hulk and Thor are both part of the Avengers. Since Universal has a Hulk ride, it would make all Avengers characters off limits.
All Disney has to do is have the Meet and greet with the name spelled differently. Just have Thore not Thor – Just like McDowell’s and McDonalds. (Coming to America Movie). “They have the golden arches, we have the golden arks…”
Perhaps this is a chess game like you said. Maybe they wanted Universal to sue. Universal risked getting their license restricted to only the characters featured in the rides. Or if they do nothing, Disney will be allowed greater latitude to add Marvel into their parks. Rights can only be asserted when the parties are willing to fight for it. Universal and Disney have big pockets, but they don't have unlimited budgets and time. At some point, they will just settle. Universal should counter with a Meet and Greet of the Thor character just to see if Disney will react. A good offense is a good defense.
The understanding I got from the contract was that every character Universal uses
The following is from the contract between Universal and Marvel.
This is a VERY provocative move by Disney.
Has anyone considered that Thor is a mythological character? Thus if the meet and greet has no theming or images that directly associate him with the Marvel version of Thor then the character would be considered public domain?
If this is a legal gambit by Disney, then it might be a stupid one. If the contract is what everyone believes (aka, Universal owns the theme park rights to every character they use
First off. The argument that says "Hulk is a member of the Avengers, so therefore the Avengers are off limits" is SERIOUSLY flawed. The Avengers line up has varied WIDELY over the years. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Avengers_members
Um, hello? ... Thor ... Norse God from like a jillion years ago ... Public domain ... Anyone? ... Anyone? ... Bueller?
TH raises a very, very good point. Disney very well could use that fact as a justifiable answer to the "who has the rights to what" question.
I do have a point!
Someone on Disboards just posted that they saw a listing for Thor auditions taking place at DHS, but the actual job is for the cruise line.
Bauer kills it!
TH brings up a VERY good point, though, one that also illustrates why Universal, etc. on occasion does films based on Snow White and other characters that are typically associated with Disney but remain in public domain.
What about Daredevil? I don't recall him being part of any family of characters. They could do Daredevil/Elektra/Kingpin to start.
This would explain why it takes so long for WDW to build/fix things. They're not allowed to have hammers in the park...[crickets chirping]
Bauer doesn't kill it.
I don't know why Iron Man and Thor can't be at Disney World. They are never going to be at Universal.
Sorry, TH, I've got nothing. I like the idea of Universal giving free advertising to Disney. It's like Burger King selling McDonald's fries. The current situation is so rich it should be a dessert.
There may be another hint... I have seen photos of DC comic's items at the Men in Black gift shop. Strange as Men in Black was published by Marvel and others, but not DC as far as I know. Is Universal getting ready to re-theme with Batman, Justice League and Superman? Not scientific, but curious.
No one has brought this up yet... I remember reading when this deal forest went through that marvel had the right in their contract to review admission records, and financial data, amd planning, that the general public wouldn't be able to see as part of the license. This was brought up when Disney bought marvel, and disney said that even though that exists they wouldn't exercise it. Then came Harry Potter...to my knowledge disney has never envoked that access because of the promise, but think about it. Comcast declares war on Disney, Disney made a promise and doesn't want to be the bad guy, so instead they sneak in Thor. Comcast/Universal says hold on mouse, we're going to court. Disney says bring it, Universal wins a small settlement. Disney then says oh by the way, we want to know what we're really up against...show us the books and plans...Universal says hell no! Disney says then the Avengers come home, and Universal is forces to put plans on hold while they scramble to retheme IOA...at the same time Disney announces what ever it is they have in store for The Studios. What better way to trip up the competition then to force them to slow down whole you catch up!
About the Thor is a norse god idea: Of course he is, but Marvel's version of Thor is, well, specific. DC Comics has a version of Thor (along with Odin and Loki), so of
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