In 2020, Disney will be opening up a special Marvel-themed area of its Disney California Adventure park, part of an ongoing effort by the company to expand and revamp its theme parks with its new media holdings in mind. Only, don’t expect them to call these characters Marvel heroes.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, that’s due to an interesting complication that comes via an old deal Marvel Entertainment, way before Disney’s acquisition, made with Universal Studios. The 1994deal, which allowed Universal to use some Marvel heroes in its own theme parks, specified that no theme park other than Universal can use the name “Marvel” “as part of the attraction name or marketing.”
The old deal, whose complicated terms you can read about in detail at the LA Times, largely affects very little at Disney’s California parks, though it does prohibit some characters from being used by any non-Universal parks east of the Mississippi River (the landmark plays an oddly specific role in delineating regional rights here).
While most park-goers probably won’t notice if the addition is called Guardians of the Galaxy’s Mega Groot Extravaganza instead of Marvel Land or whatever, it’s still an interesting piece of trivia, and a fascinating relic of a time when Marvel, far from being the dominant player in popular entertainment, was just trying to put together good enough licensing agreements to get by.