What first comes to mind when think of the words ‘Marvel Night’? What if I told you about an event penned to be a headline act in the ‘Summer of Super Heroes’ and which featured a marketing campaign solely fitted around the iconic Marvel Comics colour scheme with fan favourite Iron Man swooping past? It doesn’t take a hardcore fan, or any sort of fan for that matter, to expect a night dedicated to the Marvel superheroes and all connected to it.
That was exactly what I had thought and when I first heard about the Soirée Marvel night announced for Infinity and MagicPlus annual pass holders on the 7th July 2018. Being a huge, passionate Marvel fan it was like my birthday and Christmas had arrived at once. I had already rode the hype and excitement quinjet of news about Marvel Summer of Super Heroes but this was going to be something so much more. A full evening party dedicated to my best biggest love besides Disneyland Paris, and it happening in Disneyland Paris! I knew immediately I had to be there, this felt like a dream come true to have my two biggest interests coming together. But in reality, it was a nightmare made real.
Upon entering to Walt Disney Studios Park attendees were rewarded with a Soirée Marvel themed pin and programme for the night featuring the much used poster of Iron Man along with the event name. As I observed the handiwork of metal pin on Front Lot, little did I know that this was the closest I would get all night to a genuine Marvel experience – and indeed the only moment I could categorically strike my mood as “happy” the entire evening.
With the promise of Marvel touches coming to a couple of WDS E-Ticket attractions, those quite obviously became my first ports of call. My love for Disney attractions as well as my passion for Marvel meant that I simply had to see how they managed to bring these two worlds together in a crossover to rival that of Avengers: Infinity War. These ‘overlays’, ‘rethemes’, ‘touches’ or however you want to call them ended up falling flat like going toe to toe against Thanos.
Rock n Roller Coaster has always been an unlikely favourite of mine, doubly so as the attraction will very soon become part of the future Marvel Land with an Avengers theme. Naturally this had me very excited when I learned for one night only, old Rock n Roller would have Avengers touches for the exclusive night. Could we get a glimpse of what is to come to the Studios’ opening day attraction? No. What we got was a sub-par version of the coaster, minus any lighting or effects, with tracks from different Marvel Studios movies replaced that of the Aerosmith songs normally found. As exciting as it was to finally hear ‘Can You Dig It’ from Iron Man 3 in the place I had armchair Imagineered for it to go several years prior, it was hardly an inspired overlay to the ride. Unbelievably, this was head and shoulders above what we got over in Hollywood Boulevard.
Officially mentioned by Disneyland Paris, we were asked if we would “dare to go through the doors of the Collector’s Fortress? A malicious raccoon entered the tower and inadvertently disconnected all electrical systems”. Anyone familiar with last year’s Tower of Terror successor in California, Mission Breakout, will immediately see the connection to Rocket Racoon and his starring role there bursting out the Guardians of the Galaxy from the glitches of the antagonist’s museum. For Marvel fans everywhere yet to experience the DCA attraction, this was huge. Could we get a Mission Breakout style overlay? Before entering our elevator shaft we were coming up with all sorts of guesses. Maybe the long rumoured random drop sequences will finally be activated? Or Rocket will show up in projection mapped form, changing the ride system to blast ‘Hooked On A Feeling’ through the Tower? No. What we got was an identical ride experience of the Tower of Terror, only lacking any visual or audio effects. No Rocket, no famous 70’s hit from Star-Lord’s collection. No Collector any reference to the Guardians of the Galaxy. Nothing.
I was speechless. How on Earth can an attraction be marketed as having a Marvel overlay, only to in actuality be just the ride system without several key features switched. It may sound harsh but this is blatant false advertising in my eyes. The Collector and his museum was directly referenced by official marketing, as too was Rocket Racoon, and they were nowhere to be found. Not a single element within the attraction had any Marvel features, elements or references in any way, shape or form. Even the Cast Members manning the attraction failed to make reference to the night’s event opting for the standard Tower of Terror spiels. Speaking to others in attendance that night I learned that some music was pumped into the ride show later into the night, over the Cast Member intercom designed to be used in events of emergencies. I prayed that this wasn’t the case, that Disneyland Paris surely wouldn’t do something so unprofessional, crude and desperate to avoid more backlash, but hearing this story more and more times makes me believe it to be true. That is ridiculous.
So the attractions were an complete letdown, but that didn’t have to mean the end of the world. After all, Disneyland Paris has always been more about the experience and rich atmosphere and not just the attractions. Journeying through the entirety of Walt Disney Studios Park, from Backlot to Place des Remy, one thing became very apparent very quickly; a lack of anything Marvel. There was no atmosphere, theming or anything to even hint towards the comic book franchise on what was a night supposedly dedicated to it. Everything was exactly how it always is and without any sort of speciality. Indeed, with no Super Heroes United or Stark Expo performing, there was actually LESS Marvel themed experiences going on in the park than on a bog standard, normal day.
Credit is due however as some Marvel characters were meeting guests, but only about 12% of credit. Of all the Marvel Super Heroes who have landed in Disneyland Paris for the Summer of Super Heroes, just 5 ended up meeting guests on the night dedicated to them. Five. Out of 13. Less than half. In fact, with the exception of Loki the only characters who did meet (Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and without any sort of information to guests, Spider-Man) are all already capable of meeting in one form of another in normal operating hours. This completely nullifies the entire point of a Marvel dedicated night if you can do the exact same things, or even more in this case, outside of the €39 hard ticket event. The exclusivity of the villainous Loki clearly showed that there was high demand for new superheroes as the queue quickly rose to over a 4 hour wait time in the soulless, dull and unpleasant rear side of Tower of Terror.
This night was heading in a downward spiral very quickly. Poetically ironic that this superhero event was in needed of saving. It was all down to the Marvel conference in Studio Theatre to turn this night around and make it something worth the hundreds of pounds and miles I had spent and travelled to be here. I had loved the two conferences held during Disney FanDaze so I had high hopes for an insightful and interesting look at all things Marvel related in the world of Disney and Disney Parks. Once again, I was disappointed.
The Marvel conference was nothing more than a glorified showcase of the existing attractions and shows that have been worked on throughout the world and that’s it. No interesting insight, no behind the scenes stories, no previews of what’s to come. Just a pretty stage and half an hour of advertising. Despite the high potential with the guest hosts, Marvel Themed Experiences chief and Summer of Super Heroes show director, we were presented with nothing more than information of things that exist. The fact that my showing (this conference ran several times during the night) included a moment where the theatre erupted into booing, after the refusal to share any sort of news on the upcoming Marvel Land, speaks volumes for this conference. This was a theatre filled with the most dedicated and passionate Marvel and Disney fans, and that audience was completely patronised by this. We already know everything that has already been done, most of us have for years and ridden/seen most of it. What we wanted, what we had put our money on the table for, was a in-depth discussion and interesting stories on Marvel and the Walt Disney Imagjneering world. While yes it is not always possible to reveal new details when they are still a closely wrapped secret, but something – anything – should have been found. This only has the potential of becoming an even bigger mess if news details end up leaking in the coming weeks.
But perhaps the very worst mistake from the conference was something I wish didn’t have to happen, but definitely should have. On the morning of 7th July, the day of this event, it was announced that Marvel legend and co-creator of Spider-Man, Steve Ditko, sadly passed away at the age of 90. There was no reference to this whatsoever. In a Marvel oriented conference, full of devoted Marvel fans, with an actual employee of the Marvel company, a moment wasn’t given to veer off the script for less than a minute to pay tribute to such a huge inspiration of the entire comic book and superhero genre. I am floored by how disrespectful that was.
This night has been a mess. The event I have always dreamed of, waiting months for and forked out hundreds to be able to attend, has been anything but what we were promised. Halfway into the event and I was genuinely considering leaving I was that disappointed and upset with what we’ve been given as a “Marvel” event. As the night went on, I wish I had I left early.
One element to the night that was very lately mentioned to attendees (suggestIng it was a last minute addition after realising the lack of quality in the night’s content) was the addition of non Marvel characters to meet. Now, I wasn’t against this when it was announced, as long as the focus was primarily and always about superhero powerhouse. In reality however it became very, very clear that these characters were the real focus of the evening and Marvel was the afterthought… in its own event. While meeting rare characters like Abu and Mike Wazowski it a fun concept, it only filled me with more disappointment as this was the type of content we should have been getting with Marvel. The surprise of meeting a character you never thought you would, the convenience of only waiting a short time to do so, this is what should have been happening with the likes of Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange and others. The more the night passed the more it became clear how this event, this “Marvel Night”, was more beneficial and geared towards those interested in characters than Marvel fans. It was closer to an ‘Anti-Marvel’ night.
It’s clear that this AP night suffered severely from a complete lack of quality features, but what became even more shocking was the lack of quality infrastructure which turned a bad night into a dangerous one. This special event was held in July, during one of the hottest European heatwaves in years. During long summer days like these keeping a small arsenal of water is a necessity. I was appalled to see that virtually no snack wagons were open for the vast majority of the night. For most of the evening I wandered from land to land like a dying traveler lost in the desert, praying the Next shop or cart I would come across would be open and to no avail. Eventually I discovered two snack wagons that were opened in Production Courtyard, only to be turned away and denied custom from both as they were looking to close a full 15 minutes before the end of the party. Keep in mind to that a lot of guests (as heavily encouraged by Disneyland Paris, I might add) came in cosplay. With guests running around wearing heavy, full body outfits in temperatures going 23C and above, and only En Colossue with its manic queues as their sole resource for hydration, I am shocked nobody ended up fainting.
I truly am shocked with how disappointing the Marvel Annual Pass night ended up being. I never thought it could be possible to get a night that is so simple on paper, so easy to satisfy guests, so wrong. Normally I try my best to look for even the glimmer of a diamond in the rough of something I dislike. I must as I disliked Swing into Spring it at least had the magnificent Main Street residents show. This however, I can’t find a single redeeming quality. Everything went wrong. Even our complimentary pin – the one I opened this review with – turns out not to be an official Disneyland Paris product. To top off this problematic night of broken hopes the 80’s disco party, DLP’s very last chance to make a desperate, but small tie-in to a Marvel property, went against its own name and played modern songs. I thought I was experiencing a parody.
Marvel fans have been sold up the river and taken for a bunch of chumps. We were promised a night of celebration of everything we love from our favourite movies, TV shows and comics but got none of that. Being such a huge Marvel fan, and someone who traveled all the way from Ireland, I was devastated with how the night went. It is no exaggeration when I say this was the worst night I have ever had in Disneyland Paris. This has hurt me like a kick in the teeth and left me feeling not only that management simply doesn’t care about this part of their own company, but aren’t even willing to put guest well-being as their number one priority. That is unacceptable, plain and simple.
I am now very worried about this September’s 25th Anniversary closing party…