Disney is bringing Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' to Disney World... wait, can it do that?
Disney announced today that it will promote the upcoming Marvel "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios. A 3D preview short, cut from the film, will play in the Captain EO theater in Disneyland's Tomorrowland and at the ABC Sound Studio in Disney's Hollywood Studios, starting July 4.
"Wait a minute," you say as a sharp-eyed Theme Park Insider. "I thought Disney didn't have the rights to use Marvel characters inside its Florida parks, since Universal Orlando owns the east-coast theme park rights to Marvel characters."
You are correct, but as with all things legal, the story lies in the details of the contract. So let's take a look at the Marvel/Universal deal, conveniently filed for all to read on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's website. Keep in mind that at the time of the deal, Universal's owner was MCA, Inc., so that's why it is listed as the other party in the contract.
Let's take a look at Section IV.B.1.a.1:
exclusivity shall be limited as follows:
i. East of The Mississippi - any other theme park is limited to using characters not currently being used by MCA at the time such other license is granted. [For purpose of this subsection and subsection iv, a character is “being used by MCA” if (x) it or another character of the same “family” (e.g., any member of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, THE AVENGERS or villains associated with a hero being used) is more than an incidental element of an attraction, is presented as a costumed character, or is more than an incidental element of the theming of a retail store or food facility; and, (y) in addition, if such character or another character from the same “family” is an element in any MCA marketing during the previous year. Any character who is only used as a costume character will not be considered to be “being used by MCA” unless it appears as more than an incidental element in MCA’s marketing.]
The TL;DR? As long as "Guardians of the Galaxy" and all of its characters do not include any character used at Universal Orlando, or any character in the same Marvel character family as any character used at Universal Orlando, Disney's okay to use them at Walt Disney World. But that doesn't mean Disney's completely clear. Skip to (iii), a few lines down:
permitted uses shall be limited to the use of specific Marvel characters and Marvel may not permit a licensee to use the name “Marvel” as part of the attraction name or marketing.
You'll notice that Disney's blog post announcing the preview never uses the word "Marvel." (It says, "From the studio that brought you “The Avengers”...") There's why.
Finally, the blog post mentioned that the preview will include special in-theater 4D effects at Disneyland, but there's no mention of such effects in the theater at DHS in Florida. Skip to IV.B.4.a.iii:
Within the ADI market of the city containing a Universal Theme Park (even to the extent such ADI exceeds a 60 mile radius) there shall not be a Marvel themed simulator ride.
That means no moving seats in the Orlando metro area.
Now, what's potentially interesting here is that the previous lines mentioned a Universal theme park with a Marvel land, but this section does not, mentioning only a "Universal theme park." Since there is a "Universal theme park" in the Los Angeles market (even though it doesn't have Marvel characters), might this section be eligible to be invoked to prohibit a Marvel "simulator" ride at Disneyland? I am not a lawyer, so, of course, I will defer to others' judgment here.
Anyway, theme park geeks are invited to read the whole contract and enjoy a better understanding of the Marvel/Universal theme park deal.
So Disney World can't have anybody from the Avengers. I get it, but what about Iron Man and Thor? If I am not mistaken, they are not at IOA and I seriously doubt that Marvel Superhero Island is going to get anything new.
Iron Man and Thor are definitely used in the artwork of the area in Marvel Superhero Island, therefore negating them from usage in any Disney theme park as per the terms of the contract. They are on the facade of Captain America Diner facing the Toon Lagoon entrance. Sad, but true. :(
The use of Hulk at IOA precludes the use of any members of the Avengers character family at any theme park east of the Mississippi, including Iron Man and Thor. Storm takes everyone in X-Men off the table. Fantastic Four are out, too, thanks to the restaurant and character parade. Basically, that leaves Guardians of the Galaxy as the *only* Marvel characters not restricted by IOA's current use of characters.
Sorry for my ignorance about this but until when is the contract for the rights in the east coast of Marvel to Universal?
The contract remains in perpetuity, unless Universal ceases making its payments to Marvel or closes Marvel Super Hero Island.
I wouldn't say the Guardians of the Galaxy are the only Marvel characters not covered, Marvel has a huge list of characters. Punisher, Daredevil, Ghost Rider and Doctor Strange would all (probably) be fair game for Disney, and they have the cinematic rights to those characters as well. Admittedly these characters are not high profile, but I wouldn't have said Iron Man or Thor were either until their big screen debuts. There are many other characters, and probably some teams that would be possible.
Will this play before captain eo? I really hope so.
Big Hero 6 characters should be at WDW in the fall. Though they originated as characters in a Marvel comic book, posters and teaser trailers have had a curious lack of Marvel branding. I'm wondering if that is to allow for a clean move into Disney's East of the Mississippi resort.
A lot of those characters posters are discussing were Avengers at one time or another. The Avengers line up has changed often & drastically since their inception in the 60's.
@Rob, there have been a LOT of members of the Avengers over the years. However, I think there is a specific list of characters that fall under each family. For instance, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman and the Thing have all been Avengers but would most likely NOT be listed as such under any sort of contract like this. They would be part of the Fantastic Four family.
Brian: To expand, basically, my point was that most of the major, and many minor, characters in the Marvel Universe were members of one of those teams at one time or another and therefore cannot be used by Disney east of the Miss. since all three team's have a member represented somewhere on Marvel Island. I think we're really thinking the same on this subject.
Matt Murdoch's name may be posted on an office door or window at Islands of Adventure. Would such a simple mention preclude Daredevil from being used?
@Rob, but if there was no Fantastic Four presence at IOA, would the 3 characters I mentioned still be off limits? Some people seem to think "yes" because they were Avengers at one point. I think they would NOT be off limits because they are not categorizes as part of the Avengers family.
What I wonder is whether Universal can install additional Marvel characters, thus take them out of Disney's reach. Could it take Guardians of the Galaxy and turn into an attraction?
Disclaimer: I have an eight year old son who watches the Avengers on Disney XD
That is a *great* question.
Up until recently, Iron Man was a member of the Guardians in the comic series. If that doesn't make the Guardians off limits, I don't think a guest appearance on the cartoon will.
On the mention of individual characters, the way I read the contract, Universal has to already be using the character, otherwise Marvel can license the use of that character to someone else, at which point nothing Universal does can revoke that contract (ie if Marvel/Disney licenses itself to use Guardians of the Galaxy in a Disney theme park, assuming not already restricted by the Universal agreement, then as long as that license is valid nothing Universal does would effect that). If Universal did add it at some point, it would prevent future new licensing of those character, but wouldn't effect the existing license.
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