Disney’s Marvel Park Invasion Begins, First Step Hits in September

in Disney Parks, Marvel

Avengers stand around Hong Kong Disneyland's Tomorrowland

Credit: Disney

One Disney theme park is about to get its first taste of Marvel.

It’s been 15 years since The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment, but superheroes didn’t start creeping into Disney’s theme parks until 2017.

Guests ride Avengers Assemble: Flight Force next as Captain Marvel flies alongside their ride vehicle
Credit: Disney

Related: New Developments – Tom Holland’s ‘Spider-Man’ Now Featured in Universal Ride

The first Marvel Cinematic Universe-inspired attraction arrived at Hong Kong Disneyland in the form of the Iron Man Experience. This attraction employs similar technology to Star Tours – The Adventures Continue and takes guests on a whirlwind adventure through Stark Expo (a section of the park’s Tomorrowland) and the rest of Hong Kong as they try to evade an attack from Hydra.

Of course, that was just the beginning. In the years since, Disney has added more and more Marvel attractions to its theme parks. Just a few months after Hong Kong debuted its Iron Man Experience, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! opened at California Adventure.

A building at Avengers Campus at California Adventure
Credit: Jeremy Thompson, Flickr

Next came Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! at Hong Kong Disneyland, then Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, which opened with the rest of California Adventure’s Avengers Campus in 2021. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind debuted at EPCOT in 2022, the same year that Walt Disney Studios Park debuted its own version of Avengers Campus.

As of 2024, two resorts remain anomalies in Disney’s Marvel takeover. Both Shanghai Disney Resort and Tokyo Disney Resort are yet to receive Marvel rides.

Tokyo Disneyland nighttime show featuring Disney, Pixar and Marvel characters
Credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

However, Tokyo is not just free of Marvel rides but free of Marvel in general. It currently boasts zero traces of Marvel IP in either of its two theme parks (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea), while Shanghai Disneyland does at least have a superhero meet and greets in its walkthrough experience Marvel Universe.

But that’s all about to change. As confirmed earlier this year, Tokyo Disneyland will soon welcome its first reference to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the debut of its new nighttime spectacular, about which the resort has finally shared more details.

💡 News 💡

The title of the new nighttime castle projection show that will start at Tokyo Disneyland on September 20, 2024 has been decided as “Reach for the Stars” ✨

Yesterday, Tokyo Disney Resort confirmed that the projection show will be called “Reach for the Stars.” This will feature the typical mix of Disney and Pixar characters (including Woody, Buzz, Baymax, Hercules, and Tinker Bell), as well as heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with both Iron Man and Captain Marvel spotlighted in the show’s promotional artwork.

This new show will debut on September 20, with each nightly show lasting for 20 minutes. It reportedly “brings beloved characters to life as they reach for the stars in pursuit of their dreams, unveiling the limitless possibilities that await them,” as per the press release issued by Tokyo Disney Resort.

Cartoon versions of Marvel characters, including Baby Groot, in a poster for a new version of "it's a small world."
Credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

Small though this step may be, there’s more Marvel to come from Tokyo Disney Resort. In March, the resort controversially announced that it will transform its version of “it’s a small world” to “it’s a small world with Groot” in the winter of 2025, integrating Mary Blair-style dolls inspired by Marvel superheroes into the iconic attraction.

Marvel is famously less popular in Japan than in the U.S. and Europe, with its films rarely cracking the top 10 highest domestic-grossing releases each year. However, that’s not the only reason it’s taken so long to get superheroes into Tokyo Disney Resort.

Exterior of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Studios Japan
Credit: Baijee, Flickr

Related: New Disney World Attraction Goes Under, May Face Permanent Shut Down

Until January 2024, Universal Studios Japan owned the theme park rights to Marvel characters in Japan. While the park boasted a clone of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man like Universal Orlando Resort, its deal lasted just 20 years, as opposed to Universal Orlando Resort’s perpetual rights to select characters.

It seems the Osaka theme park either made no moves to renew this license or failed to come to an agreement with Disney, as the ride closed after 20 years on the dot on January 22, 2024. While fans mourned its loss, that did ultimately open the door for Tokyo Disney Resort to start dabbling in the Marvel sandbox – and it’s wasted no time in getting started.

What Marvel attractions would you like to see from Disney in the next few years? Let us know in the comments!

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