So Marvel just got swallowed up by Disney for $4 billion. Hey, Captain America, what are you? Some kind of super hero? That's the sort of huge payday that we used to see three or four years ago.
But what about Universal Studios? It's Walt Disney World's biggest rival for the cutthroat Orlando tourism market, and Marvel Super Hero Island, at its Islands of Adventure theme park, is one of the most popular areas in its two parks. Its The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is voted, year after year, one of the best rides in the world, and nearby, three other rides are based on the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four.
So what's going to happen to Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal Orlando, now that Mickey owns Wolverine? I asked the people behind Universal to give us the answer, and here's what they told me:
"Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal's Islands of Adventure and the Marvel characters are an important part of the Universal Orlando experience. They will remain so. Our agreement with Marvel stands for as long as we follow the terms of our existing contract and for as long as we want there to be a Marvel Super Hero Island."
So rest assured: Although a piece of its park is now based on Disney properties, Spider-Man isn't going to be converted to a Goofy ride anytime soon. For now, Universal will keep its Marvel characters (even though they're frozen in their cheesy early-'90s costumes). Unfortunately, by celebrating the classic comic book stories, Universal will be helping the Mouse make even more money.
It's not the first time that Disney has swallowed up a beloved character brand, much to the dread of fans. It took over the Muppets in 1989, and it didn't destroy that brand, either. If anything, it let it languish.
Other beloved family-friendly properties have resided simultaneously at both parks. Each year, Ellen DeGeneres brings her syndicated chat show for plug-heavy tapings at Universal Orlando, despite the fact that just a few miles away, a (much younger) Audio-Animatronic version of her presides over Ellen's Energy Adventure at Epcot in Disney World.
So you get to keep your Marvel superheroes, Universal. The news could be much worse. Disney could have bought Harry Potter, and that would have thrown your massive 2010 expansion for a bigger loop than any Hulk roller coaster could have.
Superheroes team with the Mouse: What will happen to our heroes at Universal Studios now?