Walt Disney Co. is just now opening Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a $1 billion project with rides, restaurants, and shopping. But it’s already looking ahead to future attractions, including doing more with its blockbuster Marvel superheroes.
Disney plans to create lands based on the characters at its California Adventure Park and the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. It’s also expanding Marvel’s presence at Hong Kong Disneyland, building on an Iron Man experience that opened two years ago.
“We love Marvel,” Bob Chapek, who oversees the company’s parks, said on the grounds of Disneyland this week. “Around the world, we’re doing more and more with Marvel.”
The new Star Wars land is the biggest-ever addition to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The space underscores a trend in theme parks: creating totally immersive environments for film fans to shop, eat, and go on rides. A second Galaxy’s Edge is scheduled to open in August at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park in Orlando, Florida.
Attendance across the Disney park portfolio rose 4.9 percent to 157.3 million visitors last year, according to the Themed Entertainment Association trade group. New lands, in particular ones tied to successful movie franchises such as Cars and Avatar, helped drive those results.
In some cases, Marvel attractions don’t need to be full-scale “lands,” which are typically big undertakings, Chapek said. The Star Wars land at Disneyland is 14 acres (5.7 hectares).
“Not everything has to necessarily be a land, right?” he said. “We love lands, and in some cases a land is the correct venue to tell that story. Sometimes, it could be a simple attraction. But, yeah. I think Marvel has got very ripe for deeper storytelling.”
There are some countries, notably China, where Marvel movies are more popular than the Star Wars films.
There are complications, however. Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios controls the theme-park rights to many of the Marvel characters east of the Mississippi and already operates a Marvel area at its Islands of Adventure park in Orlando.
Disney spent $3.88 billion last year on its parks, a 22 percent increase from 2017. Chapek said that upswing will continue.
“No plans to slow down anytime soon,” Chapek said. “We’ve got many, many stories to tell and many great franchises.”
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.