The use of Intellectual Property at theme parks is commonplace, but IP at Disney World is often a major point of contention, especially as the Resort continues to expand its offerings.
Intellectual Property Advancements at Walt Disney World
What is Intellectual Property (IP)?
Intellectual Property, or IP, is something that is created using human intellect. Forms of IP include things like a story, art, or an invention, for example. When looking through a Disney lens, it is easy to see why the company, then, has so much to contend with; after all, the company has just began its centennial celebrations, the Disney 100 Years of Wonder, marking a century of storytelling and entertaining audiences.
IP at Disney Parks, and more specifically IP at Disney World, therefore, comes from the comprehensive catalog of brands and stories The Walt Disney Company owns. From lands like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora — The World of Avatar to attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and the upcoming TRON Lightcycle / Run, Disney World’s use of the House of Mouse’s extensive library of content — of IP — is both increasingly noticeable and seemingly never-ending. But is that a good thing or a bad thing?
How does Disney World incorporate IP?
The Walt Disney World Resort (Orlando, Central Florida) is The Walt Disney Company’s crown jewel in the theme park arena. With four theme parks, two water parks, 25 Hotel Resorts, Disney Springs, and other locations spread over its 25,000 acres, there is a lot of space to fill, and even now, as big as Disney World feels, it still only inhabits about half of that space.
So with millions of Guests to entertain year after year, Disney World’s use of IP across its locations is both in-keeping with the company’s ethos to provide continued innovation and imagination but also draws in fans, time and time again, to experience what could be their favorite franchise in real life.
The IP machine at Disney World and other Disney Parks like Disneyland Resort (Anaheim, Southern California) and Disneyland Paris (Chessy, France), only looks to get stronger, with no true original land or attraction being established in years. At Magic Kingdom Park, IP attractions include Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Peter Pan’s Flight; at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, IP attractions include Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Slinky Dog Dash, and Muppet*Vision 3D; at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, IP attractions include Avatar Flight of Passage, DINOSAUR, and Festival of the Lion King; and at EPCOT, IP attractions include Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Frozen Ever After, and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
From large elements like entire lands right down to character meet and greets and Hotel Resort theming, IP at Disney World is everywhere, and it’s here to stay.
What are some attractions that are not IP?
While IP attractions and experiences are plenty, there are many original concepts throughout Disney Parks’ library. Walt Disney Imagineering, while not really in recent years, often created original attractions for Guests to experience across the Resort. It is the lack of original storytelling that has caused contention between fans who long for Disney to explore non-IP inspiration for their Parks — but more on that later.
At Disney World, Guests who want a break from Jedi and talking raccoons can do so by riding Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom, Test Track and Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Hollywood Studios, and Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safari, and Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Animal Kingdom.
In fact, Expedition Everest is Disney World’s last non-IP addition to the Park, opening at Animal Kingdom in 2006. And then there’s the flip to this all, where attractions become so popular that they themselves launch a new IP. Take Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean, all rides that spawned popular movies, with the latter becoming a billion-dollar franchise starring Johnny Depp.
Bob Iger’s Return and More IP Coming
What does Bob Iger think about IP at Disney Parks?
During his initial 15-year tenure as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger was responsible for many of the Mouse House’s biggest acquisitions. In 2006, Iger acquired Pixar Animation Studios for $7.4 billion, Marvel Entertainment, and thus the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in 2009 for $4 billion, Lucasfilm in 2012 for another $4 billion, and 21st Century Fox, and assets like the now-named 20th Century Studios film production arm, for $71 billion.
All these acquisitions provided Disney the ownership of all the IP and franchises they contained. While some attractions and experiences at Disney World were already based on pre-acquired IP, now the vastness of the library has grown exponentially. Iger once said (via The New York Times) a franchise is “something that creates value across multiple businesses and across multiple territories over a long period of time,” and it seems Bob Chapek’s replacement wants those franchises to have life at Disney Parks.
During the most recent, and Iger’s first since returning, Earnings Call in February 2022, the Disney CEO stated he had reached out to Disney Parks & Resorts Chairperson Josh D’Amaro to explore the idea of bringing more of Disney’s franchises to the Parks to “increase capacity while preserving Guest satisfaction.” This echoes thoughts made by Disneyland Resort President, Ken Potrock last year when the Disney Park head commented on the need to infuse Intellectual Properties quickly — and not just projects that take years like Avengers Campus or TRON Lightcyle / Run at Disney World — into the Californian Disney theme park.
What are the rumors about IP coming to Disney World?
As Walt Disney World readies Guests to enter the Grid with Tron Lightcycle / Run, an attraction based on the original TRON (1982) and TRON: Legacy (2010) movies, and the Moana-inspired Journey of Water at EPCOT, what does the future of IP at Disney World look like, and will there be any original attractions coming along the way?
One of the biggest question marks for the growth of IP at Disney World are the multiple “blue sky” projects Disney Parks & Resorts chief Josh D’Amaro laid out at last year’s D23 Expo in Anaheim. At the Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products panel, D’Amaro not only revealed — along with Star Wars darling Jon Favreau — that Mando was heading to Disneyland Park, but that there are early plans to bring multiple beloved franchises to Disney World.
Welcoming Walt Disney Imagineering’s Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty and Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios Jennifer Lee to the stage, D’Amaro laid out massive advancements for Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom Park.
For Animal Kingdom, D’Amaro, Beatty, and Lee revealed that plans had begun to potentially turn the DinoLand U.S.A. area into a dual-themed land featuring attractions and experiences from Disney’s Zootopia (2016) and Moana (2016). Moana will already be getting an attraction in the World Nature neighborhood of EPCOT with Journey of Water, but this concept looks to bring a more extensive Moana experience to Disney World.
Then for Zootopia, the humanoid-animal animated movie scored Disney $1 billion at the box office and has long-since been advocated by fans for a spot at Animal Kingdom. What adds even more weight to the inclusion of Zootopia IP at Disney World is the recent announcement of a Zootopia sequel from Walt Disney Animation Studios — Zootopia 2 was announced along with new movies in the Toy Story and Frozen franchises.
At Magic Kingdom, the trio revealed an early concept for the addition of three themed areas to the original Central Florida Disney Park, including Coco, Encanto, and Disney Villains. Colloquially dubbed the “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain” project, Beatty invited fans to go beyond the spires of the classic Disney Frontierland attraction into Santa Cecilia from Disney Pixar’s Coco (2017), where future Guests may possibly be able to ride on the back of an Alebrije like Pepita during the Day of the Dead.
Disney’s most recent hit and pop culture phenomenon, Encanto (2021), launched onto the scene over a year ago. While its reception at the global box office was lukewarm thanks to the ongoing restrictions caused by the pandemic, its release on Disney+ saw the skyrocket in popularity thanks to viral hits like “Surface Pressure” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”
Encanto already has a slight presence at Disney Parks, with Mirabel Madrigal appearing first at Disneyland Resort and then in the parade at Walt Disney World. Also, at Disneyland, an Encanto facade was placed atop the “it’s a small world” attraction, and Bruno could be met at the Resort’s annual Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure.
Lee and Beatty invited Guests to imagine exploring Encanto‘s Casita and maybe “step up to a door” to get their own magical gift. Lee suggested that Guests would get to walk through the Madrigal’s Casita with Mirabel as their guide in what seems to be a potential sensory experience.
Then, lastly, D’Amaro teased a plan to bring the iconic Disney Villains to the theme park in a corner “overrun” by the beloved foes in the Disney animated canon. Characters like Captain Hook and Maleficent, Cruella de Vil and Scar have entertained audiences for the last 100 years, and this inclusion of Villains at Disney World may be ticking all the right boxes.
There are no confirmed IP takeovers for any existing attractions currently, but there are always whispers and rumors being floated over what could happen next at the Disney Parks. TRON Lightcycle / Run will be the latest addition to the IP fleet at Disney World. Found in Tomorrowland alongside Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, the TRON attraction will open at Disney World on April 4, 2023. Sometime in 2024, Splash Mountain — which itself was an IP attraction based on the animated sequences of Song of the South (1946) — will officially become Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, inspired by the events of The Princess and the Frog (2009).
As for rumored IP advancements of existing rides, the Tomorrowland Speedway has long been suggested to become a Wreck-It Ralph-themed attraction, using the Sugar Rush racing game as inspiration for the rides theme. Then, also in Tomorrowland is Space Mountain.
The popular dark-ride has already been turned into Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain occasionally at Disneyland Resort, and more consistently at Disneyland Paris, so the chances of a change at Disney World is a possibility. That said, with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge already at the Disney Resort, it may seem odd to then utilize this Magic Kingdom ride for more Star Wars IP — especially with TRON Lightcyle / Run just next door.
There was also a time that a Cherry Tree Lane expansion was planned for the United Kingdom pavilion on EPCOT’s World Showcase; this was said to include a Mary Poppins-themed attraction. But, during the industry-wide closures in 2020, Disney said it was evaluating its long-term plan with the Mary Poppins ride and the proposed renovation of Spaceship Earth being postponed indefinitely.
Over at Disneyland Resort, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel will be transformed into Disney’s Pixar Place Hotel. At Disneyland Paris, the company has already changed one of its existing hotels to Disney’s Hotel New York — The Art of Marvel, celebrating all things Marvel Cinematic Universe.
At Disney World there are no current plans to build or reimagine an existing hotel to one of the Disney company’s many IPs, but the Resort has been injecting IP elements into its hotels for years. Disney’s Contemporary Resort gained decor inspired by The Incredibles (2004), much to the chagrin of some fans, and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will replace the Pirate room offering with one inspired by “Under the Sea”, this, of course, could be anything from The Little Mermaid (1989) to Finding Nemo (2003). The issue some have found with this upgrade is the already sea-themed parts of the popular Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.
On the recent Earnings Call, Christine McCarthy commented on the success of Disney Parks in the first quarter of fiscal 2023, and relating it to the success of offerings at international Parks like Disneyland Paris’ Avengers Campus and Marvel hotel. This could be a sign that Disney may roll out more existing hotel transformations to entice Guests back to the Resort.
What do Disney World fans think about IP at the Resort?
IP attractions have long caused division amongst fans of the Disney Parks. While some argue that Disney may as well use the franchises that are beloved by so many, others state that the seeming lack of originality is in conjunction with Disney forcing IP into areas of the Resort where they may not necessarily fit. And argument has been made on this issue regarding TRON Lightcycle / Run, with early preview riders stating the attraction does not fit in the Magic Kingdom landspace.
Similarly, some Disney World enthusiasts claim that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind does not belong in EPCOT — a Park that historically combines education with innovation — and instead should be located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So it is not always an issue with IP attractions coming to Disney World but in where they are situated inside the Resort. This thread explores more of what people think about IP at Disney World and beyond.
What do you think about IP at Disney World? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!