Universal Orlando introduces a new Marvel Character Dinner

December 1, 2017, 9:03 AM · Starting next week, you can dine with superheroes at Universal's Islands of Adventure. The Orlando park is introducing a new Marvel Character Dinner, starting December 7.

The character dinner runs from 5-7pm on Thursdays through Sundays at Cafe 4 in the Marvel Super Hero Island land. Prices are $49.99 per adult and $24.99 for kids, ages 3-9. (You can book online.) Dinner will be served buffet-style and will include Italian entrees, such as penne Bolognese, stuffed shells, and specialty pizzas, as well as shrimp scampi, chicken scallopini, and rosemary lemon chicken.

But, let's face it, food is rarely the featured attraction at a character meal. Universal's Marvel Character Dinner will feature appearances by Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and Rogue, who will visit each table for photos. (As always with these things, food selections and character line-ups are subject to change.)

Character dinners, while considered expensive at first glance by some visitors, can provide good value for families who really want to include character meets in the theme park visit, as they allow you save time in exchange for spending money by taking care of two priorities at once: eating and meeting characters. Character meets are often some of the slowest moving queues in the parks, so opting to meet the characters in a meal experience can save you a lot of time that you can spend instead going on other attractions. Again, YMMV, but they're worth considering if you care about characters. (And probably worth avoiding if you do not.)

The Marvel superheroes might be the hottest characters in entertainment at the moment. This new experience should (but probably won't) lay to rest the ongoing argument by some Disney fans that Universal cannot change or add anything in Marvel Super Hero Island, so they might as well just go ahead and sell or give those theme park rights back to Disney.

Uh, nope. (See our previous coverage of what Universal and Disney can and cannot do with the Disney-owned Marvel characters: Who really owns the theme park rights to the DC and Marvel comic characters? and Disney is bringing Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' to Disney World... wait, can it do that?.) If Universal wants to do a Marvel Character Dinner in Orlando, so long as they don't comprise the integrity of the characters by hiring a bunch of drunks in Party City costumes to portray them, Disney can't stop it.

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Replies (9)

December 1, 2017 at 10:35 AM

The problem is that there are rarely lines for the Marvel characters, mostly because their appearance schedule is random. It appears that UO is trying to match Disney prices, but may be aiming too high. The food better be really good to warrant a $50/adult outlay.

December 1, 2017 at 1:28 PM

They better have shawarma on the menu

December 1, 2017 at 1:40 PM

Obviously, you’ve never seen how much money fans pay for pix and autographed photos of their
favorite characters at any comicon event. $50 is a steal!

December 1, 2017 at 2:41 PM

I would not say rarely lines. The lines were quite long at DCA during their Superheroes event last summer. Spiderman, Captain America, Black Widow, and Groot had huge lines. This is not to say that Universal could have bungled their own meet and greets.

Universal should definitely cash out on their licenses. People care about these things.

December 1, 2017 at 11:33 PM

RE: Anton M

Not Happening unless they acquire Time Warner for the DC comic rights somehow despite Six FLags having them currently.

December 2, 2017 at 7:09 AM

Yeowser: Huh? Where did I suggest Universal should acquire DC licenses when they have Marvel licenses. You’re not making sense.

December 2, 2017 at 4:01 PM

The last time I saw Marvel characters at Universal they DID look like losers wearing Party City costumes. It was a joke and is watering down the brand. This dinner just makes it even worse. What kind of Marvel story is being told when characters walk around a buffet? Universal is tacky for doing this. They should swallow their pride and let Disney do something awesome with the IP in Orlando. If Universal has any company values and a mission related to experiences and storytelling, they need to focus on the IP they own, and let Marvel fans enjoy their characters at Disney. Sure, they will be losing out on a major IP, but there is plenty of money that can be made with the transaction.

December 3, 2017 at 4:09 AM

I know that you've covered this a bit, about who can do what in Orlando but I've been wondering about something. I'm not really familiar with the contract as it stands, but is the rights given by the way that the characters where related, about the comics specifically? The reason that I ask, is that the Guardians of the Galaxy and Dr Strange are in the next Avengers movie, Infinity War. We know Disney is bringing GotG to Epcot very soon. But if MCU brings together everyone as an "Avenger", aren't they technically going to belong to Universal?

December 4, 2017 at 7:10 AM

@Anton - I don't doubt there were lines for the Marvel characters at DCA. However, our most recent visit to DHS, we waited for one group to meet Star Lord/Baby Groot (less than 2 minutes), while all the Star Wars characters at the adjacent Launch Bay were all over 30 minutes.

I don't think the Marvel characters have the same appeal as the standard Disney characters and princesses. I also think the typical Universal audience is not as keen on character meet and greets as the Disney crowd. Those visiting Disney build in character meet and greets as part of their day - In fact, many WDW/DL visitors will spend an entire day/event just visiting characters (many guests attending the MSSHP and MVMCP will only do characters during a 5+ hour hard ticket event), not riding a single ride or attraction. That just doesn't happen at the Universal parks, and visiting with characters is more based on convenience/opportunity than anything else. Having the Marvel characters appear as part of a meal is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things for most Universal guests. Perhaps the park is attempting to build demand for more character interactions, but in my opinion, charging Disney prices for a Marvel character meal when you can meet those same characters with no more than a 5 minute wait on Super Hero Island is not a viable proposition, unless the food is REALLY good. Disney can charge what they do for character meals because it's essentially a 2-for-1, guests get a reserved meal time and can meet characters without having to wait in ridiculous lines, that's the appeal of a Disney character meal (plus the character meal interactions tend to be better and more personal during meals than during typical meet and greets). Universal just doesn't have the demand to warrant such a offering.

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