Recently, Disney Parks chairman Josh D’Amaro mentioned the “blue sky” idea of Marvel’s Wakanda coming to a Disney theme park. Could this happen at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort?
The official statements from Disney mentioning Wakanda prompted those who enjoy Marvel, especially Black Panther, to wonder if the land could come to Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World. What would Wakanda look like in a theme park with the power of Disney Imagineers behind it?
Disney announces increased investment
Disney recently announced the company was making a significantly expanded Disney parks and experiences investment, which would involve plans to “accelerate and expand” investment in its Parks, Experiences, and Products segment and double it to roughly $60 billion over approximately 10 years.
D’Amaro also stated the Marvel intellectual property (IP) has yet to be utilized fully in the Disney theme parks.
“Imagine bringing Wakanda to life,” D’Amaro said. “In terms of bringing the latest Disney-Marvel-Pixar intellectual property to the parks, we haven’t come close to scratching the surface. And we have learned that incorporating Disney IP increases the return on investment significantly.”
Some Disney theme park purists might balk at the idea of adding more IP-based attractions at Disney theme parks. This pattern works for theme parks in the present day, and while the Marvel brand may lack its former massive superiority over other IPs, it still remains very popular.
This is particularly true for the “Black Panther” superhero story. Many old-school Marvel comic book fans adore Black Panther, and the land of Wakanda from the Black Panther comics (and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe) presents endless possibilities for theme park excitement.
With Disney executives talking about investing billions of dollars in the theme parks, Marvel’s Wakanda sounds like a great fit for the U.S. Disney parks. Of course, with all the “blue sky” ideas being batted around by Disney these days, it is hard to determine a direction. Still, D’Amaro’s comments added Wakanda into the mix with “Encanto,” “Coco,” and “Zootopia,” all IPs that have been mentioned previously as potential new options for new lands and attractions.
So, what do we make of D’Amaro’s comments? As Disney Parks chairman, he should know the plan, right? Some would suggest Disney lacks a plan, but that sounds unrealistic with such a powerful company. Still, the idea of a Wakanda-themed land at a domestic Disney theme park makes many people smile. The merchandise and ticket sales would surely skyrocket with this IP at a Disney park. But will it happen? Sadly, most evidence points to this being unlikely. Still, Black Panther fans should not give up all hope.
Wakanda at Disneyland Resort
If Wakanda comes to a domestic Disney theme park, California seems the more likely option. The biggest obstacle for Wakanda coming to the Disneyland Resort involves a lack of actual space since, unlike its Florida counterpart, Disneyland Resort lacks that luxury.
However, Disneyland Resort already has an Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park and Black Panther fans already experience a show with General Oyoke and the Dora Milaje, the powerful female warriors who protect the honor and position of the kingdom of Wakanda.
The Black Panther, T’Challa, also makes appearances at Disney California Adventure Park, as does his sister Shuri, the newest Black Panther. Nevertheless, no land dedicated to Wakanda currently exists at Disneyland Resort.
Based on the lack of space and limitations of the city of Anaheim, Disney created a project called “Disneyland Forward,” a plan that would allow Disneyland to expand the area utilized by the theme park resort. This project faces many obstacles, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
“Disneyland Forward” suggested that some new IPs could appear at Disneyland. It also implies a new third theme park could be created if Disneyland Resort expands. Though this concept is still very “blue sky,” some initial speculation from viewing concept art has led people to believe Wakanda could be part of the proposed expansion.
Nevertheless, Disney theme park fans know projects have been mentioned by Disney leadership, with many never happening. A Wakanda-themed land could fit into Disneyland Resort plans, but Marvel fans should not expect to see it for a long time.
Wakanda at Walt Disney World Resort?
Assuming Walt Disney World does not announce a new fifth theme park anytime soon, a Wakanda-themed land would need to fit into one of the existing parks. Based on Disney’s current theme park layout, some options look better than others for a land inspired by the “Black Panther” movies.
Discussions of Wakanda appearing at Walt Disney World have appeared in speculation numerous times. As a significant Black Panther fan, I have heard connected sources mention Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios as possible locations for Wakanda. All these options make sense to some extent. However, any chance of Wakanda coming to the Florida Disney theme parks faces some substantial complications.
Though arguments can be made to create Marvel’s advanced technological fictional country of Wakanda in any of the three previously mentioned theme parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom continues to be cited most often in speculation.
Why does Wakanda belong in Disney’s Animal Kingdom?
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the country of Wakanda is portrayed with a strong African heritage alongside its technological superiority due to Vibranium, the most potent substance on Earth in the Marvel comics.
Based on those factors, Wakanda could fit into the African area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney could re-theme the section between Africa and Pandora – The World of Avatar to reflect fictional life in Wakanda. Nevertheless, the current DinoLand, U.S.A. area presents a more open playground to create the tremendous land of Wakanda in a Disney theme park.
With the closure of the former attraction, Primeval Whirl, DinoLand is primed for a new theme. If the Marvel property took over DinoLand, Imagineers would have space for at least two new state-of-the-art attractions. Of course, this remains part of speculation involving numerous IPs suggested for this part of the park.
A strong argument for creating Wakanda in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is that Wakanda fits the park’s theme as a place of inspiration.
The Wakandans live harmoniously with nature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while possessing super-advanced technology. The message of care for our planet merges with the overall theme of Animal Kingdom, and (similar to the story line for Pandora), Disney could transport visitors to a place where advancement does not damage the ecosystem. Combined with this message and Wakanda’s limitless comic book technology, the ability to tell the story of Disney’s Animal Kingdom knows no bounds.
What keeps Wakanda from appearing in Animal Kingdom?
Despite all the good reasons Wakanda could come to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, some obstacles hinder this from actually happening, including commitment, expense, and legal contracts.
Recently, The Walt Disney Company has made very few commitments to big projects in domestic theme parks, and even with the recent statements about spending more money, logic dictates caution for getting too excited about a brand-new groundbreaking theme park land.
In addition to the commitment issue, building a Wakanda theme park area at Animal Kingdom would be costly. Would Disney be willing to spend millions to recreate an accurate representation of Wakanda? This project cannot be done halfway, or Marvel fans would revolt.
Those two issues share common problems for all theme park projects. Still, the use of Black Panther and similar Marvel IPs at Walt Disney World face a universal problem: Universal Orlando Resort owns the rights to use Black Panther in Florida and anywhere east of the Mississippi River in the United States.
Marvel Theme Park Intellectual Property Contract
Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe changed pop culture, the Marvel Company faced challenging financial times. As hard as this is to believe now, Marvel failed to generate adequate revenue with movies or television. The comic book revenue was also decreasing.
Due to desperate financial times, Marvel sought to sell the usage rights for many of its properties to recover. As Marvel movie fans know, this explains why Sony makes Spider-Man movies. Also, during the downtime for Marvel, Fox bought the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four for television and movies. As a result, Marvel has no control over many of its biggest names.
Around this time, the former parent company for what is now Universal Orlando Resort also bought the theme park rights for all Marvel properties east of the Mississippi River. However, what makes this contract a significant obstacle to Wakanda appearing at Walt Disney World is the length of the contract. If Universal Orlando Resort follows the original agreement (and pays the rights fees) they can use certain Marvel characters until the end of time as the contract has no end date.
Remember, Marvel was desperate. Apparently, Marvel sold the theme park rights when negotiations between Universal and Warner Bros./DC Comics fell apart in preparation for building Universal Islands of Adventure. In other words, Universal Orlando Resort has a sweetheart deal regarding Marvel IP (and obviously have no reason to sell Marvel theme park rights to Disney).
The Disney Company owns Marvel now. In fact, Disney paid billions to buy Marvel. Despite Disney owning Marvel, Universal’s theme park rights contract could last forever, since contracts are contracts.
What does this mean for Wakanda at Walt Disney World?
So, what does this mean for bringing Wakanda to the Walt Disney World Resort? We know Walt Disney World cannot use the word “Marvel” to refer to an attraction or character inside the Walt Disney World theme parks, but that obstacle could be side-stepped as Disney has done with other attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
In addition, based on the contract from before Disney bought Marvel, Walt Disney World cannot use any Marvel characters used by Universal Orlando Resort, including The Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four, as the agreement specifically stated no one except Universal could use any aspect of those superhero families or groups.
Black Panther, an Avenger
This is where the Wakanda problem starts. Black Panther was an Avenger in the comics, so based on that alone, Universal Orlando Resort owns the rights to Black Panther in Florida theme parks.
Initially, when MCA, the former parent company of Universal, purchased Marvel theme park rights, it covered the entire world. However, a clause in the contract stipulated that Universal had to build and maintain Marvel attractions within specific time frames. This failed to happen in the United States except for Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal Islands of Adventure, which explains why Avengers Campus exists at the Disneyland Resort.
As long as Universal Orlando operates Marvel Super Hero Island in Orlando and pays the yearly rights fees (ironically to Disney as the current owner of Marvel), Walt Disney World cannot use most of the Marvel character lineup. Technically, based on current circumstances, the contract also stipulates Disney cannot open a Marvel theme park attraction with characters forbidden in the theme park rights contract east of the Mississippi River.
Walt Disney World has found clever ways to use Marvel though. For example, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind uses Marvel characters not in use at Universal Orlando Resort, since in the comics, most of the Guardians from the movies were not officially part of The Avengers team. In addition, the Guardians of the Galaxy was not a superhero family or group listed in the original Marvel theme park intellectual property contract signed before Disney bought Marvel. So, since Universal does not use them, Walt Disney World can.
What about Wakanda at Universal Orlando Resort?
Disney must allow Universal to continue to use the Marvel characters and attractions at Marvel Super Hero Island. However, Disney can contractually keep Universal from adding new Marvel characters and attractions. This leads to an awkward relationship.
As you might imagine, having a Black Panther-based attraction or land looks impossible at Walt Disney World without some significant negotiations with Universal. Still, it is possible that the land of Wakanda could be created, in theory, but this theme park land would need to be devoid of references to the Black Panther, which sounds untenable for Walt Disney World.
With so many powerful Disney-owned intellectual properties to choose from, only being able to give fans a limited Wakanda in Florida looks unlikely; however, things could change. Until then, those who adore the Black Panther franchise must wait and wonder if the land of Wakanda will ever be seen in a Disney theme park.
Could we eventually see a Wakanda theme park land? Yes, we could. However, even with Disney’s official statement about the possibility, it looks unlikely to happen any time soon.