The Marvel Theme Park Rides' Weird and Wonderful History

The Marvel Theme Park Rides' Weird and Wonderful History ...

Werewolf by Night and Thunderbolts were among the topics discussed at the D23 Expo. It's not a Marvel movie or TV show, but a Disneyland adventure sometime in the future.

It's something Disneyland's Avengers Campus has been in desperate need of: a third ride. While the details on the King Thanos attraction aren't immediately available, it's a fascinating addition to Marvel theme parks' bizarre past. In fact, there are currently two different Spider-Man rides on two different coasts, managed by competing theme park companies.

What led us to this point?

Pre-Six Flags Great Adventure

The closest you'll get to seeing some people dressed in superhero costumes roaming around and greeting children is in 1977, when three heroes were used: Spider-Man, Captain America, and Ms. Marvel.

Six Flags bought Great Adventure late that year and the deal with Marvel came to an end. Six Flags would continue to manufacture various rollercoasters named after DC heroes, which is rather ironic considering the next chapter.

Universal Islands of Adventure

After the success of the Tim Burton Batman films, Universal wanted to construct a second theme park adjacent to Universal Studios. Starting in the early 1990s, the intention was to have it heavily feature the likes of Superman, Batman, and the rest of the Justice League. Discussions failed, and the DC superheroes ended up locked up with the various Six Flags theme parks.

Universal Islands of Adventure opened in May 1999, and Marvel Superhero Island was one of the company's crown jewels. The place was colorful and adorned with Easter eggs and displays of 90s Marvel art. Everywhere you looked, you would see gigantic images of Captain America, MODOK, Magneto, Iceman, Namor, and others.

Universal could create attractions based on Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four. There were also references here and there to Daredevil and the Inhumans, so they appeared to have a net over all things Marvel.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster was depicted as an attempt to cure Bruce Banner that ended up going wrong riiiiiight as you were shot 60 mph out of a cannon. Years later, General Ross would modify the story to make the riders into gamma soldiers.

Despite the Stan Lee appearances, this 3D dark ride seamlessly combines practical effects with 3D animation in a situation where J. Jonah Jameson sent you off in an experimental transport to cover the story of the Sinister Syndicate (Doc Ock, Hobgoblin, Electro, and Scream of all people) stealing the Statue of Liberty.

The Captain America diner and the art on the walls of very 90s-based Avengers members are all lovely, as are the music. Those poor employees. Thoughtful at the Blondies sandwich shop in the Toon Lagoon area where the 1938 Blondie movie theme is played on repeat.

Nothing significant had happened with Marvel Superhero Island over the decades, although back in 2002, the area was used for Halloween Horror Nights, where the idea was that Carnage and a bunch of supervillains (including a mind-controlled Punisher) slaughtered all of the Marvel heroes and used their remains as decorations in a horror maze, although there is little footage of it, and reportedly Marvel was dissatisfied with it enough to refuse to make a return in the following years.

Wonderland Sydney

When it came to the east coast of the United States, one of the most essential provisions of the Marvel/Universal deal, which would become VERY important in 2009, was that Universal had exclusive theme park rights to their vast Marvel collection. Spider-Man, X-Men, etc., could not be touched if it was on the east coast of the United States.

Marvel was able to avoid losing out on a few more bucks over the years. Wonderland theme park in Australia had just lost the rights to use Hanna Barbera characters in 2002. Fortunately, they were able to reach an agreement with Marvel in the aftermath. Spider-Man, Green Goblin, Hulk, Daredevil, Elektra, Wolverine, Storm, and Captain America were all there for meet-and-greets.

Wonderland closed less than two years later. A massive entry sign that featured large photographs of Spider-Man and the Hulk now decorates a Londonderry junkyard.

Spider-Mans Live Shows

While not nearly as terrible as Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the webslinger did get a couple of live performances at theme parks that didnt quite set the world on fire, both of which were created to capitalize on the popularity of the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film, both of which were based on Spider-Man rescues Mary Jane and combating the Green Goblin.

The Amazing Spider-Man Show was presented at Englands Thorpe Park from 2003 through 2004. It was funny, but had decent stunt work and effects. Like Spider-Man climbing up the walls, it was fun to watch.

Spider-Man Rocks! was a horror film directed by Mary Jane. She was also attacked by muggers while they sang She Bangs. It was a strange time.

Marvel Adventure City

From 2003 through 2008, there was a Marvel Adventure City indoor theme park. There were two bickering animatronics of Spider-Man and the Ultimate Green Goblin. There were also a Daredevil-themed obstacle course, an X-Men bumper car, and a haunted house type attraction that made it appear as the Hulk was following you around. That course was later turned into a Hulk-themed miniature golf course.

Spider-Man: The Ultimate Ride was the greatest attraction at Marvel Adventure City, featuring you shooting at targets in order to defeat Spider-Man's likes of Scorpion, Lizard, Electro, Ultimate Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and others. Each depicted as a screen of CGI animation, an animatronic, or a cut-out would appear once more.

The Marvel license was unfortunately too expensive and it was phased out by 2008. The Spider-Man ride was then reimagined as a generic superhero experience.

IMG Worlds of Adventure

You would think that Disney would resign from selling the rights to other theme parks when the deal was bought. In 2015, Dubai's IMG Worlds of Adventure indoor park purchased the license and dedicated much of its land to Marvel. While the park benefited from the Marvel Cinematic Universe's successes, the designs were explicitly based on the classic comic book versions.

Five Marvel rides were included in Worlds of Adventure, mostly bangers.Thor Thunder Spin is a top spin ride that keeps your head suspended in the air and rotating a lot of times. It's a short rollercoaster that features both a spinning seat and massive skyscraper cutouts, complete with scenes of Spider-Man and Doc Ock duking it out.

With a different story, Avengers: Battle of Ultron is like a slightly weaker version of Universals The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. This time, you're a SHIELD trainee caught in the middle of a battle between the Avengers and Ultron in New York City. Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Nick Fury stick to their initial screenplays. It's easier to complete the ride when you only have to animate five characters!

Hulk: Epsilon Base 3D is a very innovative game that takes place in a round room surrounded by a dome screen. Next thing you know, the Hulk and Iron Man are coming in and dumping waste to all of the military mechs and the Leader's robotic avatar. Action is going in all directions, so you have to have your head on a swivel.

Avengers: Age of Disney

When Disney bought Marvel in 2009, many people were wondering how Islands of Adventure would be resurrected after the incident. But no one was willing to give up all of the money Marvel Superhero Island was able to bring about because to the fact that both sides have been playing nice.

Disney could use Marvel properties at any theme park, as long as they did not use the term Marvel in a promotional sense. With Universals World, they were barred from using any of the Universal characters who were part of the Marvel contract. At first glance, that appeared to be 99% of what Marvel had to offer and seemed to discard any popular names.

Guardians of the Galaxy became a smash hit in 2014. Despite the comic's origin in 1969, the Star-Lord incarnation of the Guardians did not exist until the mid-2000s, long after the Universal deal. While Captain America and Spider-Man could not walk around Disney World to sign autographs, Star-Lord and Gamora certainly could.

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When it came to the Guardians, Disney made some big plans. In 2017, they took the famous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride in Disney California Adventure and remade it as Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout! Tower of Terror was a serious shoot at the king, and it was worth the effort.

The collector has captured the Guardians, though Rocket escaped. Rocket would then work with the theme park visitors (a tour group for the Collectors museum) to rescue his friends, leading to the malfunctioning ride vehicle bouncing up and down, accompanied by randomized vintage music and random clips of the Guardians fighting their way out of the complex.

This one has a slew of Easter eggs. An Ultron sentry, a Beta Ray Bills hammer, and for some reason, Figment the Dragon from Epcot. There is a painting that shows the Grandmaster (of Thor: Ragnarok) angry at the Collector. This is the only time anything MCU-related has mentioned their familial connection.

Mission: Breakout! would include a horror sequel during the Halloween season. Rocket would have to look for him in the abandoned museum while running from a Surturs dragon from Thor: Ragnarok. It appears that it was a part of the collection as well.

Disney would follow that trend by putting the Guardians of the Galaxy at Disney World, specifically Epcot, in the future. Xandar had originally planned a pavilion to educate people on Earth's culture, leading to a ride where the Guardians and the Nova Corps face off against the cosmic colossus, all accompanied by a random vintage soundtrack.

Rocket and Groot were recast, while Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista reprised their roles (including Drax wearing a shirt now for whatever reason), and Terry Crews was cast as a Nova Centurion in its own way.

Avengers Campus

Disney opened its first Marvel-themed area in Hong Kong Disneyland in 2016. The first Avengers Campus featured two rides that aren't available in the United States.

The first isIron Man Experience, a 3D motion simulation adventure similar to Star Tours, where you are greeted by JARVIS AI and discover that the Stark Expo is under siege by robots controlled by Arnim Zola. Iron Man comes to constantly save you as you help him remove all the various robots, including Zola's Death Star-like final form.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! was a take on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. Again, Zola is on the attack, this time in miniature form, and you must join Ant-Man and the Wasp in a dark ride target shooting game. It's not the most action-packed Marvel ride, but it does contain plenty of charming Paul Rudd footage.

The Avengers Campus is located at Walt Disney Studios Park, which is also known as Disneyland Paris or Euro Disney. One of the rides is an Aerosmith Rock n Rollercoaster themed ride called Avengers Assemble: Flight Force. The Aerosmith ride has screens that depict the two heroes flying around, shooting lasers, and being snarky to each other.

The funny part of this is the pre-show, where an Iron Man animatronic talks to us in French. Next to him is a screen showing Captain Marvel going through space, talking to us in English. Theyre very much conveying the same basic information, like Captain Marvel going, Yes, Tony!

Carol Danvers would understand Starks' French conversation. After all, she is Brie.

Captain America (Sam Wilson), Ant-Man, Wasp, and Ms. Marvel join forces against Ultron in the Avengers: Quantum Encounter, only to be interrupted.

Disney acquired the Avengers Campus in 2021, extending it to the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout! ride. This game is a similar game to Disneys Toy Story Midway Mania, where Peter Parker accidentally unleashes a bunch of self-replicated spider bots onto Avengers Campus. You can also purchase physical webslinger and repulsor cannon accessories that enhance the game and give you the pay-to-win advantage.

This Spider-Man ride isn't a household name, although the pre-show does give us first glimpses of MCU versions of Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl, so that's nice.

From Dr. Strange to Time-Travel Hulk to Agatha Harkness to Zombie Captain America, Disneys go all out. The most impressive is a robot dressed as Spider-Man, which can swing around and do flips from building to building.

King Thanos

The next Marvel theme park ride is expected to be a Marvel take on Star Tours' current form. Perhaps you start off flying in a Wakanda world before going to Sakaar, where Thanos is finally taken down. Different locations for every time you ride it.

Regardless, promotional artwork indicates Man-Thing is involved, and thats already a major advantage over every single other Marvel ride that has ever existed.