Late Saturday night a rumor started making the rounds online that involved one of the most beloved rides of all time, which you, dear Theme Park Tourist readers have named the best in all of Walt Disney World: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Essentially, this rumor (which originated on WDWMagic's forums) states that this attraction (both at Disney California Adventure and at Disney's Hollywood Studios) will be getting a massive re-theme sometime next year, with the Twilight Zone branding getting the boot in favor of something completely different: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.
Let's put this in context: it's a rumor. From an online forum. Hundreds, probably thousands of such rumors circulate on Disney forums every single year. Most of them turn out to be completely unsubstantiated, and this one may well fall into that category too. It could well be outright nonsense, in fact.
But that hasn't stopped fans of the Tower of Terror from panicking. So, in an effort to at least provide some balance to a hysterical conversation, we wanted to go over exactly everything we know, not just about this rumor, but about the larger possibilities of Marvel at Disney parks as well.
1. Marvel Land and Disney California Adventure
Late last year California government officials approved a $1 Billion dollar expansion project for Disneyland Resort, which many assumed was related to Star Wars Land, which is currently under construction. However, the day after this project was approved, Joe Rohde, the Imagineer most famously known as the creative lead for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, was named the global lead for Marvel properties.
While initially this seemed like it could be related to the Iron Man Experience opening soon at Hong Kong Disneyland, the timing of this announcement seemed to indicate that something big Marvel-related was in the works for Disneyland Resort, since Walt Disney World is essentially out of the equation when it comes to Marvel (except for a few notable exceptions, which we'll get to in just a second).
Fast-forward to 2016, and there has been no official traction on any Marvel attractions, though rumors persist that Disney is looking at development of a full Marvel-themed land. And here's where this rumor comes in to play. According to those who are perpetuating this rumor, the genesis of the idea to re-theme the Tower of Terror came from Disney's desire to create an "entry point" for a future Marvel land at Disney California Adventure, which would be fleshed out later. While we're still extremely dubious to say the least, this would at least make a certain amount of sense at that one park. However, the rumor that has been circulating online also references another park as well...
2. Guardians of the Galaxy and Walt Disney World
As Walt Disney World fans are no doubt well aware, Universal holds the exclusive in-park rights to Marvel characters east of the Mississippi, which is why you’ll never see Captain America, the Hulk, or any of the X-Men inside Walt Disney World's park gates (but you'll find plenty of merchandise at Disney Springs). However, there are two big exceptions to this rule. The first is Big Hero 6 (which currently has a presence at Epcot in the form of Future World's Baymax meet and greet), and the other is Guardians of the Galaxy, which isn't currently found at any park. So even though Walt Disney World fans might consider their version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror automatically safe because of this rule, Guardians of the Galaxy's exemption makes it at least theoretically possible for this re-theme to come to Disney's Hollywood Studios as well.
However, beyond whether something like this is legally feasible for the Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios or not (it is), the situation at Walt Disney World is even more complicated thanks to some other recent rumors that have popped up as well…