Since acquiring Marvel for $4 billion in 2009, Disney hasn’t done a lot in the interactive space – outside of the free Facebook game, Marvel Avengers Alliance. But that’s about to change. And of all places, the convergence of Disney, comics and interactivity will occur on a cruise ship. The Disney Magic, which is being retro-fitted this fall, will set sail in October 2013 with the first interactive attraction featuring Marvel characters designed by Walt Disney Imagineers.
While Disney is still keeping a lot under wraps with the new multi-day interactive experience, Avengers Academy, it’s being designed for kids with video game role-playing elements built in. The experience will take place in a separate large room aboard the ship’s kids space, the Oceaneer Club. The themed room will house real props from the film, including Iron Man’s suit, Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield.
“The whole room is programmed so that when the kids get scanned and they get their superpower there will be an accompanying effect,” said Lysa Migliograti, senior project manager at Walt Disney Imagineering. “It will be the full experience within the whole room. This super hero power that they have will be developing throughout the cruise as kids train to become this super hero. It’s really fun because it’s an experience that takes place throughout the entire cruise. The counselors will add to that experience as they work with the kids.”
The room will feature a 103-inch monitor that can be used to play movies, including The Avengers. Migliorati said her team is working on some interactive surprises that will connect these movie super heroes with the kids aboard the ship. There will also be additional interactive elements for this experience, which will be exclusive to Disney Magic (for now).
Disney has focused on video games and interactivity with its two newest cruise ships, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. With reported costs of $1 billion each, these newest ships, which launched in 2011 and 2012, feature game technology not even available on land. One of the coolest interactive elements – the Magic Play Floor – won’t be part of the Magic makeover (which will be done in just six weeks and include a lot more than just the Avengers room). I like this game floor because it allows as many as 32 kids (or 16 adults) to interact with original video games from movies ranging from TRON to Lilo & Stitch on 32 HD displays built into the floor. I’m hoping the Disney Wonder retrofit next year will include one of these. The Dream and Magic each have two of them.
Disney is bringing over some of the other video game elements from the newer ships. The Magic Play Tables will be part of the redesign. These video game tablets offer multiplayer experiences for up to four players with touch screen interactivity. These original games are all based on Disney movies ranging from Cars to Bolt and they’ve been designed for new titles to be added at any time. It’d be cool to see an Avengers game added to the mix across all the ships.
There will also be ship simulators aboard the Magic. These video games feature ship wheels for steering, various buttons and a gear shift for speed. Players can choose to pilot vessels like a pirate ship or a Disney cruise ship through different interactive adventures. These are the types of gaming experiences that you can’t get at home.
Going back to Marvel for a minute, there might be some people wondering why we haven’t seen any Marvel characters yet in Disney theme parks. This ship is the first integration of characters into a Disney experience, after all. Things are still cloudy with Marvel and Disney theme parks because of an old, long-term licensing deal between the comic book giant and Universal theme parks that includes exclusive rights for Marvel characters east of the Mississippi for theme park use. Hence, the Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure theme park, which includes attractions like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk Coaster and Doctor Doom’s Fearfall. So that would seem to leave Walt Disney World out of the picture.
With the renovations for the Disney Wonder expected next year, I’d love to see a Star Wars theme as well. I’d expect Marvel to expand to the new ship as well, but Star Wars is a brand new property that could further distance the Disney cruise experience from the competition. But for now The Avengers is plenty for kids of all ages to get excited about, especially in the wings of Iron Man 3.
By John Gaudiosi, Forbes
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