Written by: Andrea Shockling Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 .
Comic book fans the world over got some exciting news last week when Hong Kong Disneyland announced a new park expansion that will feature Marvel superheroes. The theme park is majority-owned by the city government, and Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang said, “In the coming few years, Hong Kong Disneyland will launch a new night-time parade and put in place a themed area featuring ‘Marvel heroes’, the first of its kind in the world.”
Speculation has been high since Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment in 2009 that iconic characters like the Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man could be coming soon to a theme park near you. However, due to a licensing agreement with Universal, that park will not be Walt Disney World in Orlando. Hong Kong Disneyland is a smaller and less financially successful park that could benefit from the worldwide excitement when the Marvel expansion finally opens. And there’s nothing stopping Disney from eventually bringing the Marvel franchise to Disneyland in California, so Hong Kong could be an excellent “trial run”.
Hong Kong Disneyland has been ramping up its attractions, such as the recently announced Mystic Manor, and currently has six themed areas: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Grizzley Gulch, Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, and Toy Story Land. But the seven-year old park just posted its first annual profit since its opening and has been struggling to attract visitors from mainland China. Capitalizing on the immensely popular Marvel movies – last year’s Avengers shattered box office records thanks in large part to ticket sales in China – could be a way for Hong Kong Disneyland to woo affluent tourists who might not otherwise be excited about traditional Disney characters.
In March of 2012, Disney CEO Bob Iger reported to shareholders that design teams had begun working on concepts to bring superheroes to theme parks worldwide, but the Hong Kong Disneyland news is the first official announcement that plans for a specific park are in the works. Whether the results are another complete “area” with rides and other attractions or something more modest remains to be seen, however.
Fans have been excited before for superhero theme parks that unfortunately never opened. In 2007 – prior to Disney’s acquisition of the company – Marvel Entertainment announced a partnership with Al Ahli Group to bring the full character lineup to a new park in Dubai. Designed by Chimera Design, the concept art was very exciting and featured hero-themed rides and a “superhero city”. After the economic downturn, however, the park was significantly scaled down and eventually eliminated. Marvel’s characters may still be part of developments in Dubailand, but Disney is not involved and Marvel released a statement last year saying “The Marvel entertainment destination is not a theme park, it is a family entertainment center.”
As for Hong Kong Disneyland, with the announcement coming via official channels and with the full backing of the powerful Disney-Marvel partnership, we have no doubts that audiences in Asia will get their superhero fix sooner rather than later. And here’s hoping the next expansion at the Disneyland Resort in California is looking a little more Marvel-ous as well.
Image source: slashfilm.com, marvel.com, disneyparks.disney.go.com