When the Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009 it brought into the fold a vast array of characters, many beloved while others hidden deep in comic book lore but yet to make their mainstream debuts. Marvel carries this nexus of instant brand power along with the potential for an almost never-ending stream of blockbuster franchises that come seemingly from the midst of nowhere much like Guardians of the Galaxy did when it hit theaters last year. With the forces of Marvel and Disney, the power of their storytelling and execution of their marketing it’s easy to see how the Walt Disney Company can gain advantages at the box office, at Disney theme parks and at retail. At Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney we get to see the Walt Disney Company’s Marvel strategies in play and with the opening of Super Hero Headquarters at West Side one gets the sense that its all just building towards something even more exciting in the future.
We’ve long been able to enjoy a Marvel blockbuster at Downtown Disney West Side at the AMC movie theater but now Marvel fans can enjoy yet another Marvel experience whilst at Disney’s retail wonderland. Super Hero Headquarters is a Marvel merchandise store that replaces United World Soccer and its World Cup fun for something a bit more – super. Those who’ve wandered into this space before in its previous incarnations know it’s a very tight fit and when you add a brand as popular as Marvel it quickly becomes an especially tight squeeze. But every inch of this petite store is packed with Marvel merchandise and even a bit of light theming to make you feel like you’ve entered a small slice of the Marvel universe. From SHIELD logos, to beautiful OLED televisions promoting the latest Marvel cinematic imagery and of course a healthy selection of dancing Groot figurines for sale your eyes won’t know where to turn to first.
The store is a great addition to the Downtown Disney retail mix and opening to coincide with the Avengers: Age Of Ultron release is good if expected synergy but one can’t help but hope this is a first iteration on an idea that deserves a much larger scope and focus at Walt Disney World. Yet what is there is certainly exciting guests and even on the first night when we arrived the crowds hoping to get a peak inside the store for themselves arrived in a continuous stream. From Marvel branded t-shirts to posters, books and even Disney Infinity playsets guests are greeted to a plethora of offerings. You can even have a little green-screen fun and have your photo taken as one of your favorite Marvel film super heroes. Still I can’t help but imagine what a dedicated larger store named simply Marvel (something Disney clearly doesn’t have the right yet to do at Walt Disney World due to Marvel’s previous licensing deals prior to the acquisition) in Disney Springs proper would be like.
Perhaps you could enter Tony Stark’s workspace and for a second feel like you are in control of technology from the future on loan from Iron Man so you can scan and select your favorite Avenger super hero object and order a 3D print of it to fire up and perhaps even be sent to your Walt Disney World hotel room once completed. A Marvel store with a little Disney Imagineering magic with built-in experiences as I concocted in just a few short seconds and perhaps a little advice from Disney’s corporate friend Apple (renown for their own Apple Stores and retail strategy), could make for a winning combination. Perhaps we’ll have to wait for version 2.0 to deliver these goods but for now Super Hero Headquarters achieves what it set out to be. A simple but great option for the Marvel fan who visits Walt Disney World to gear up for the growing Marvel universe that now just happens to be part of Disney’s empire.