With the announcement of Star Wars Land last year at the D23 Expo, fans have been wondering… When will Disney start adding new attractions featuring Marvel’s popular characters to their theme parks?
Unlike Disney World, Disneyland is not constrained by Universal’s contract with Marvel regarding their Islands of Adventure rides and exclusive use of certain characters. Disneyland has had a few Marvel character meet-and-greets at Tomorrowland, utilizing the shuttered Carousel of Progress/Innoventions building, along with a temporary Star Wars attraction.
Many, including myself, have speculated on what Disney might plan in Anaheim.
Saturday, Disney announced the first attraction, during the Marvel Studios Hall H presentation:
The new attraction will anchor a broader universe of Super Heroes that will grow over time at Disney California Adventure park. This exciting new presence will transform the structure currently housing The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ (scheduled to close in early 2017) into an epic new adventure, enhancing the breathtaking free fall sensation with all-new visual and audio effects to create a variety of ride experiences. Guests will experience multiple random, unique ride profiles in which the rise and fall of the gantry lift will rock to the beat of music inspired by the film’s popular soundtrack.
Where’s that attraction located? In a forgotten corner of Disney California Adventure. (I rode it once…to get there, you have to either walk along the nondescript Hollywood Boulevard, or wander from Cars Land through A Bug’s Life.) As you can see in the map below, most of that area is either used for support buildings for attractions, or as a cast member parking lot.
This is an easy attraction to redevelop quickly, similar to Maelstrom/Frozen Ever After in Epcot, which took two years to convert. FEA is the …err… hottest ticket in Epcot this summer, and Mission: BREAKOUT! will add lots of excitement next year in Anaheim, as it replicates Star Tours’ excitement and randomness.
It should be noted that:
- Guardians of the Galaxy is not part of Universal’s contract in Florida.
- GotG characters have appeared at Disney World since 2014 (as has Baymax from Big Hero 6).
- Hollywood Studios has its own Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction, which could also be rebuilt once Star Wars and Toy Story construction is finished. (There are similar towers at the Paris and Tokyo parks.)
- The Twilight Zone IP is owned by Viacom, which costs Disney money.
- That northern side of Hollywood Studios has space for development, with only the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and the Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage theater currently active. (Fantasmic is the nighttime pyrotechnics arena event which each park offers, and could be replaced with a Hollywood special effects spectacular.)
But what about other Marvel attractions at Disneyland/California Adventure?
Disney does have Marvel attractions at other parks:
- Shanghai Disney Resort offers an exhibition with character appearances.
- Hong Kong Disneyland will offer a motion-simulator ride based on Iron Man, scheduled to open late this year (similar to Star Tours).
- Tokyo Disneyland will feature a Big Hero 6 ride scheduled for 2020.
Disney could redevelop the northeast corner of DCA, Hollywoodland. What does it currently offer?
Inside the haunted Hollywood Tower Hotel you’ll board an elevator for a journey to a new dimension of fright on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™. Ride the Red Car Trolley down Hollywood Boulevard to Buena Vista Street. Take a scare-raising tour of Monstropolis on Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!.
Inside the Disney Animation building you can learn how to draw a Disney character at the Animation Academy, chat with the righteous reptile surfer dude at Turtle Talk with Crush or explore the Sorcerer’s Workshop where you’ll learn about animated characters’ appearances, voices and personalities through fun interactive exhibits.
It’s easy for visitors to ignore, with few “Weenies” which draw people off of the main trail which leads to Cars Land and Paradise Pier. Just as Disney is reworking Hollywood Studios in Florida by adding Star Wars and Toy Story lands, it’s very likely that less visited areas of DCA will be re-purposed to counter the growing threat of Universal Studios Hollywood. And let’s face facts… Universal Studios is the original studio theme park. They do it better than Disney, and Disney is moving away from “behind the scenes” attractions and concentrating on the magical and wonderful. California is also a work-in-progress, as the park had a dismal opening in 2001, and has been slowly redeveloped to improve attendance.
Myself, I’d rather they gut Tomorrowland, and replace it with a multi-attraction land centered on SHIELD. The PeopleMover could give a quick overview of the attractions, similar to what it does in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom (with maybe a few Easter eggs to keep people interested). Then visitors tour the SHIELD base, similar to the tours of FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. On another ride, visitors are accidentally-on-purpose exposed to Terrigen mists, gain random powers, and are subject to testing (similar to the Stunt Spectacular at Universal Studios)… guests lift 20 tons of metal, gain superspeed, see across the electromagnetic spectrum, magnetism… and even get to design their own costumes! (Epcot’s Test Track ride simulator offers a similar participation element with the design of race cars.)
One other item, not as exciting, but more glamorous: Disney will build a new four-diamond luxury hotel north of Downtown Disney.
The Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa are the only two properties in the city that fit AAA’s strict guidelines for the luxury four-diamond rating. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel is considered a three-diamond property.
Last year, the City Council narrowly adopted a policy allowing developers building hotels to the four-diamond standards to apply to be reimbursed, for 20 years, 70 percent of the Transient Occupancy Tax collected from hotel guests. Guests pay 15 percent of the room rate.
After the 20 years, the city would keep all of the bed tax revenue, which goes to pay off bonds that funded improvements to the resort district in 1996 and pay for general city expenses and community programs.
Mayor Tom Tait said he’s “very disappointed” with Disney for applying for the tax incentive.
The lost parking will be supplemented by a new 5,000-stall parking structure which will replace the Pumbaa parking lot, located north of Anaheim GardenWalk. (Oooh… wouldn’t it be cool if they had PeopleMovers to move people from the garage to the park entrances?) The Toy Story lot to the south offers an additional 5,300 spaces, and the surface lots to the west of Downtown Disney will likely support parking structures in the future, when Disney expands a third gate on the Toy Story lot. (California Adventure was built upon the original Disneyland parking lot.) Or Disney could acquire Edison Field if the Angels move, which they once owned. But any future expansion will take awhile… there’s still a lot of land to develop in California Adventure, and Disney didn’t start planning a second gate until 30 years after Disneyland opened. Developing, as we say…