In the ongoing saga of Marvel Land coming to Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort, a new rumor is making the rounds that instead of replacing the Backlot in Hollywood Land, Marvel Land will replace ‘a bug’s land.’ Micechat is reporting this, and as the primary source of the Marvel Land rumors for the last several years, I think they have credibility.
July 15, 2017 Update: Parks & Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek announced Marvel Land at the Walt Disney P&R panel at today’s D23 Expo. During his announcement, he indicated that Spider-Man and the Avengers would be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy at Disney California Adventure in a new Super Hero Universe.
Otherwise, details were non-existent. No info about what the attractions would entail or where they would be located. There are two possible explanations for this, one of which we cover below. The other possibility is that Disney wanted something to save for the Comic-Con panel on Marvel. Given how many announcements were made during the Parks & Resorts panel, we would not be surprised if this is the case. Now, with the rest of our commentary on Marvel Land…
Actually, not Marvel Land. While we do not know what the land will be called, we know it will not have “Marvel” in the name, because contractually, it cannot. For the sake of simplicity/clarity, we’ll continue to call it Marvel Land here, even though the real name is likely to be Super Hero Land or something of that sort. Perhaps as tribute to DCA 1.0, it’ll be called “Disney’s Marvelous California Avengers” or some equally nonsensical pun.
Beyond the fact that it’s happening sooner rather than later, all other details about Marvel Land remain rumor. The one persistent rumor is that the land will contain an indoor Vekoma bike coaster (apparently Disney got a sweet BOGO deal on TRON Lightcycle Power Run for Walt Disney World 😂) themed to Captain America, which is plausible because it seems like a perfect fit, but even that is far from certain.
The other rumored detail about Marvel Land that also fell under ‘seems plausible’ was that it’d replace the Backlot in Hollywood Land. Ever since Award Wieners was declared a National Historic Landmark, Imagineering has had to rethink those plans, and the rumor now suggests Marvel Land will be replacing ‘a bug’s land.’
In all seriousness, it is a bit surprising since every rumor in the past has pointed to Hollywood Land. While I won’t shed any tears over the loss of ‘a bug’s land’ if that’s the direction Disney ends up going with this, I’m surprised other Disney fans are on board with the idea given the inexplicable excitement for Toy Story Land.
Moreover, Toy Story Land keeps being built around the world (two incarnations are currently under construction), and I’d argue that a bug’s land is objectively superior to Toy Story Land. I say objectively because, in my opinion, neither Toy Story Land nor a bug’s land is all that good.
However, a bug’s land features 6 attractions, whereas Toy Story Land only has 2-3 attractions (depending upon the park). If the idea of these lands is to increase the attraction count for their respective parks, a bug’s land is more effective at fulfilling this goal than Toy Story Land. By that measure–and that’s the measure I’d use–a bug’s land is “better.”
Even though a bug’s land does nothing for me personally, I think it’s fair to say that a bug’s land is cute for what it is and satisfies its role as offering families a low-key land with attractions that are approachable for small children. In a park like Disney California Adventure, it very effectively fills a need. It’s not the pinnacle of themed design, but it’s not awful.
I do not think the same can be said for the Backlot of Hollywood Land, which is awful. This area is something many Disney fans, myself included, were willing to give a pass when housing a dance party (like the late, great elecTRONica) in DCA 1.0, but now it’s clearly the weakest part of the park. It needs to go.
Above you can see my estimation of the potential sizes for each Marvel Land plot. The Backlot is in blue and a bug’s land is red. These are approximations, but the Backlot plot is clearly larger. It could be larger still if MuppetVision is removed…or smaller if they didn’t build into the Esplanade shuttle area. I suspect Marvel Land would not engulf all of Hollywood Land, if only because it’d be difficult to transition from Buena Vista Street directly to Marvel Land. Using the offset of the current Backlot would help establish a much-needed buffer.
I’d hazard a guess that both plots are sufficiently large for Marvel Land. While there’s certainly upside to the Backlot plot, there’s downside, too. This downside is two-fold. First, can work on this even begin until Disneyland Resort has approval on the Eastern Gateway project from the Anaheim City Council? What was once thought to be a rubber-stamping of a proposal has proven to be inordinately difficult, as many on the council must desperately want Disney to fund their opponent in the next election.
Second, where does that leave the Hyperion Theater? It’s a true asset to Disney California Adventure, but I cannot envision a scenario that places Marvel Land on the Hollywood Land Backlot and seamlessly connects it to Mission: Breakout that works without losing Hyperion Theater.
I know it’s theoretically possible to work-around the Hyperion, but I don’t like that idea. Marvel Land already has to shoe-horn in one attraction, it should have a completely clean slate for the rest of the land. The only way I can envision this working is if Mission: Breakout is going to be re-themed to something non-Marvel once Marvel Land opens (nostalgia sells at Disneyland, so bringing Tower of Terror back in 5 years seems savvy), effectively allowing Marvel Land to be built from the ground up.
For me, this is the best case scenario. It means getting rid of the Backlot and using the Hollywood Land plot plus part of the Esplanade, getting to keep a bug’s land for the kids, and Marvel Land not having to be tied down to the Mission: Breakout overlay. Given the potential size of the Backlot plot, I think this is a workable scenario. It’d also be my strong preference, even if that means waiting an extra year or two for Marvel Land while the Eastern Gateway project is sorted out.
Even better of a scenario (bestest case?) would be using the a bug’s land plot, but reskinning and relocating some of the flat rides to the back corner of Paradise Pier. Since these are basic rides, playing Rollercoaster Tycoon with them should be no issue. Then, Marvel Land could be located where a bug’s land is currently while simultaneously doing placemaking to the main Hollywood Land facades and adding the Great Mickey Ride to the Backlot. This sounds like a win-win-win, but it also sounds like a $$$-$$$-$$$ scenario, so I’m guessing it’s not even on the table.
What might be on the table is competing locations for Marvel Land, potentially caused by the delay in the Eastern Gateway project. If this is the case, I would not be surprised if Marvel Land is not announced at the D23 Expo. Or, if it is announced, only a vague “it’s coming” is offered, rather than concrete details, such as its location (beyond Disney California Adventure).
These potential options are a lot to digest. With that said, I know the one thing on everyone’s mind is “what about Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train?!” Yes, I’m as worried about this as you. This is a once-in-a-generation attraction, and the tears that would be shed over this would make the Horizons’ tears look like a drop in the ocean.
To the brilliant minds at Imagineering and Marvel, I humbly suggest the following as a way to address this giant elephant (or caterpillar, as it were) in the room. Make Heimlich the main hero in Avengers: Infinity War. I realize shooting has already begun (is nearly finished?), and it might cost money to do reshoots, but it would be totally worth it to kill two birds with one stone.
First, it would ensure that Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train can be forever enshrined in Marvel Land (it’s what Walt would want). Second, it guarantees Infinity War will make at least eleventy-billion dollars at the box office. You’re welcome, Disney.
Ultimately, I don’t really have a dog in this race. A bug’s land is not my cup of tea and I won’t even remotely miss it; I just think it brings actual value to the table at Disney California Adventure, whereas the Backlot does not. Then again, the “real” plan for the Backlot (not the hypothetical best-case scenario I made up) might entail razing the Hyperion, which I would consider a loss. One way or another, the addition of Marvel Land is likely to involve some degree of loss and compromise. Whatever loss and compromise that might entail, it almost certainly also entails far, far more in terms of gains. It has been 5 years since Disney California Adventure was ‘reborn’ and really came into its own. I think the park is now ready for the next phase in its development. I say bring it on–whatever that means.
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What do you think about the prospect of Marvel Land coming to Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort? What is your ‘best case scenario’ for Marvel Land in terms of location and substance? Would you prefer for Mission: Breakout to change to a non-Marvel concept once Marvel Land opens? What about the prospect of The Great Mickey Ride in Disney California Adventure? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!