While it’s true that Disney purchased the red brand back in 2009, fans visiting Orlando, Florida have surely noticed a Marvel land at Universal Orlando but not at Walt Disney World.
The reason? A decades-old perpetual contract granting the Universal exclusive theme park rights to most Marvel characters “East of the Mississippi” and still stands today.
But even so, there are still a handful of MCU heroes, both old and new, that Disney may be able to recruit for its Florida vacation kingdom.
Marvel Characters Legally Allowed at Disney World
It’s important to note that the 1994 agreement between MCA Inc. (now Universal) and Marvel Entertainment predates the MCU and is both one-sided and complex.
For instance, Universal not only controls the theme park license to the name “Marvel,” but also to the characters Universal Orlando is currently using and any character or villain considered part of the Avengers, X-Men, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Spider-Man “families.”
And, since Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal’s Islands of Adventure park features more characters than Avengers: Endgame, Walt Disney World’s options have been few.
The following is a list of characters that either are legally allowed – or could potentially be allowed – at Walt Disney World.
Guardians of the Galaxy
To date, Disney World’s only Marvel attraction thus far is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, a described “story coaster” where fans accompany the Guardians through time in a battle against a Celestial.
Since the Guardians of the Galaxy are absent from Universal Orlando, and because they never formally joined the Avengers, Disney World was able to utilize the rag-tag crew.
Cosmic Rewind actually boasts 75 minutes of new original Guardians content both in the queue and on the ride, all of which was filmed on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and directed by James Gunn.
In fact, Disney Imagineering went to great lengths to capture the director’s visual style and his signature “swagger.”
Due to Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men’s presence at Universal Orlando, they’re off the table for the East Coast Disney Parks. However, since Deadpool never formally joined the X-Men, he may be a possibility.
Still, Deadpool’s biggest obstacle for a park ride or appearance may not be contractual but rather his films’ R-rated content.
Back in 2016, the Sorcerer Supreme appeared at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for an interactive meet and greet; and while he hasn’t been seen there since, he still makes the cut for never having joined one of Universal’s described “families.”
While Wong hasn’t been seen at Walt Disney World, his comic book history – which is akin to Doctor Strange – makes him a prime candidate.
Due to Wong’s record of cameos and his connection to the Multiverse, his presence at the parks would be a smart way to connect to the greater MCU without angering any lawyers.
As the Eternals are a “family” of their own with no Universal presence, Disney may be legally allowed to use them as well.
In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind already featured the Celestial Eson with a design inspired by Eternals‘ Arishem.
Still, not all of the Eternals are likely to be permissible as a few have been Avengers in the past.
While it’s true that America Chavez is affiliated with the West Coast Avengers and Young Avengers, this doesn’t appear to be a legal problem since Doctor Strange was connected to the New Avengers and was still allowed at Walt Disney World.
Why Disney didn’t utilize Doctor Strange, Wong, and America Chavez at the parks ahead of Multiverse of Madness is unknown; but that doesn’t mean a Sanctum Santorum or Kamar-Taj couldn’t find its way to Orlando in the future.
Werewolf by Night/Jack Russell
Horror isn’t something most would associate with a family-friendly vacation destination, but Werewolf by Night is one of the most contained comic book characters the MCU has adapted thus far meaning fewer legal hurdles for Disney to clear.
Interestingly enough, Disney World’s Hollywood Studios is home to a Twilight Zone-themed attraction with some serious Bloodstone Temple vibes. If Disney wanted, it could be the perfect spot for a character meet or a Halloween overlay.
Making her What If…? Season 2, Kahhori isn’t just the MCU’s newest hero but the first original superhero created by Marvel Studios and without any ties to the comics.
According to Marvel Studios, Kahhori is a young Mohawk woman who encounters the Tesseract in pre-colonial America and takes on her quest for her own power.
Since Kahhori is both a new character and with no comic book history, there shouldn’t be any legal issues hindering her from being used at Walt Disney World.
And, if Disney does have plans for Kahhori in the parks, original characters could be the resort’s road forward to bringing more of the MCU to the East Coast.
Other Original MCU Characters
While Kahhori is the MCU’s first original leading character, that’s not to say Marvel Studios hasn’t created characters before, such as Trevor Slattery, Ralph Bohner, Luis, Phil Coulson, Miss Minutes, and so many more.
In the years since these personalities were introduced, several have been brought into the comics, such as Luis and Darcy, making their Disney World presence less likely.
However, if Disney ever builds additional MCU-themed attractions or lands in the future, an original side character could be a great way for Disney to reference a Marvel film or franchise that’s legally barred from the parks.
It’s hard to deny that Luis or Miss Minutes would be perfect for a pre-show or a ride’s obligatory safety spiel, or that Phil Coulson would be perfect as an on-ride narrator.
Why More Marvel at the Parks May Be on the Way
Even though Disney has announced a King Thanos Multiverse ride, a Spider-Man spin for Disney Cruise Line’s next Worlds of Marvel, and even teased a Wakanda-themed land for Disneyland, the House of Mouse has yet to announce further MCU experiences for Florida.
But in the wake of Disney’s pledge to invest $60 billion into its parks, experiences, and products division, including a confirmed $17 billion for Walt Disney World alone, the question of what Marvel characters or properties are legally allowed is sure to be raised once more.
With 2024 just around the corner, fans should expect further details on Disney’s plans for its “East of the Mississippi” parks, as well as new announcements at the 2024 D23 Expo.