Disney to introduce Marvel characters in Middle East theme park

<i>This post has been updated. See the notes below for details.</i>

Disney plans to introduce the Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man and other Marvel characters in a theme-park setting for the first time since acquiring the comic book company in 2009.

PHOTOS: Marvel characters coming to Middle East theme park

The Marvel Adventure family entertainment center is expected to open in late 2013 in the United Arab Emirates with superhero-themed attractions, restaurants and shops. The eight-acre indoor mini theme park will be part of the $5-billion City of Arabia entertainment, commercial and residential development in Dubailand.


Plans for a full-size Marvel theme park in Dubai were initially announced in 2007 before the global economic downturn put the brakes on a number of ambitious yet unrealized Middle East projects by some of the biggest names in the theme park industry, including Universal Studios, Legoland, SeaWorld, Six Flags and Busch Gardens.

Concept art created by Chimera Design for the original Marvel theme park called for roller coasters, thrill rides and other attractions themed to Iron Man, Electro and the Fantastic Four. The three announced rides included Flying With Spidey, Fantasticar and X-Men: Danger Room. Renderings for a proposed 4-D movie showcased the Incredible Hulk, Thor, the Silver Surfer and others.

The significantly scaled down Marvel Adventure entertainment center promises to have “interactive entertainment experiences” featuring Marvel characters. While officials have yet to announce any attractions, the new Dubailand park will likely have smaller attractions rather than larger rides.

[Updated, 11:02 a.m. June 27: Disney, for its part, is taking an arms-length approach to the project. The corporate parent of Marvel has gone to great lengths to make clear that the Dubai project is strictly a licensing agreement not involving Disney theme parks or Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative arm of the company. To that end, Marvel issued a statement that read in part: “The Marvel entertainment destination is not a theme park, it is a family entertainment center.”

But for theme park and comic book fans, Marvel Adventure marks the first foray into a themed entertainment setting under the nascent Disney-Marvel partnership, stoking curiosity about what Imagineering has planned for the superheroes at the company’s theme parks in California, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai.]

[Updated, 2:21 p.m. June 27: Marvel Adventure was designed by Los Angeles-based Rethink Attractions for Dubai-based IMG Group as part of a larger 27-acre project dubbed IMG Theme Park.]


Disney CEO Bob Iger said in March that Imagineering artists were working on preliminary designs and attraction concepts involving Marvel characters intended for Disney theme parks “in a few places around the world.”

It appears Marvel Adventure will be the first Disney-backed venture to feature Marvel characters, but likely not the last.

Disneyland Paris executives have publicly suggested that a Marvel superhero theme park is part of the long-term vision for the French resort. Marvel President Kevin Feige has said he dreams of a day when he can walk into Asgard’s Hall of Heroes or the X-Mansion at a Disney theme park.

In the United States, Marvel characters would probably be restricted to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure on the West Coast. Universal’s Islands of Adventure has exclusive rights to use Marvel characters in Florida, prohibiting the superheroes from appearing at any of the four parks in the Disney World resort.