This is an interesting story from The Motley Fool. Last week, Disney outlined their expansive plan to roll out Marvel characters in their parks worldwide. Disney’s California Adventure as well as parks in Paris and Hong Kong will see Spider-Man, Captain America, and Iron Man become regular staples. However, Walt Disney world was completely excluded from the announcement. The reason being that Comcast, parent company to Universal Studios, signed a contract almost 20 years ago that gave it “territorial rights” to most of Marvel’s characters for use in theme parks east of the Mississippi River. The contract was signed prior to the opening of Universal’s Islands of Adventure where the characters play major roles.
Comcast’s Universal Orlando features X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Avengers attractions, essentially taking those four franchises off the table for Disney in Florida. Disney World’s in-park meet-and-greets have been limited to Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange. It remains to be seen what it can and can’t do with Black Panther, as this year’s biggest box office smash has early comic book ties to Fantastic Four and Avengers.
Disney could attempt to buy the rights back, but would Comcast even consider negotiating since they would have to rebrand an entire park? In the meantime, the Marvel-themed land is set to open in California in 2020.