Epcot needed an overhaul. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy are here to save the day

The company relies on a group of intergalactic scoundrels to help it. “Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind,” a state-of-the-art indoor roller coaster featuring the popular superheroes who debuted in the 2014 film, opened Friday at the Florida theme park.

It’s not just any everyday attraction. This coaster is key to the sustainability of Disney Parks operations.

Epcot is going through the “biggest transformation in its history,” the company said. Cosmic Rewind — an attraction that would have cost $500 million – is the pivot of this change.

Disney is integrating a synergy strategy with Marvel, one of the company’s most popular movie brands, to bolster a fundamental part of its business as it updates one of its most geeky theme parks.

The strategy

"Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind"  is a new thrill ride at EPCOT.
Disney’s attention has turned to streaming, with its latest earnings report focusing heavily on Disney+ and its 137.7 million subscribers. But investing in its resorts remains crucial for Disney because it gives the company a deeper connection to consumers than its streaming rivals can match.

“Streaming gives Disney a daily presence in the lives of its consumers, but Parks gives Disney headspace with those consumers like no recorded media ever can,” said Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com. , to CNN Business. “A visit to a park or a cruise becomes an unforgettable memory for millions of consumers, creating a lifelong affinity for the Disney brand.”

"Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind"  is Disney's latest state-of-the-art attraction.
The ride comes as Disney parks rebound after two terrible years. Company stations have been particularly affected by the pandemiclosing billions of dollars.

But the segment raked in $6.6 billion in revenue in the second quarter of this year’s fiscal year, more than double its sales from a year ago.

The company has spent the past few years updating its resorts around the world, often leveraging its popular franchises. These include “Star Wars: At the Edge of the Galaxy” at Disneyland and Disney World in 2019 and Marvel’s Avengers Campus at California Adventure in Anaheim, CA in 2021.

Now it’s Epcot’s turn. Enter “Cosmic Rewind”.

The path

EPCOT is undergoing a major overhaul.  "Cosmic Rewind"  is a pivot of that.

Epcot has other thrill rides like “Test Track,” but it’s never been considered Disney World’s most thrilling resort. That accolade belongs more to Hollywood Studios, its theme park with rides based on Star Wars and The Twilight Zone.

In fact, the original Epcot wasn’t meant to be a theme park at all, but rather Walt Disney’s planned futuristic neighborhood known as the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” Hence the acronym.

Marvel is the biggest name in entertainment, and now Disney is using it to boost its resort business to appeal to families who may have found the park’s previous iteration a bit boring.

Disney gave CNN Business a first look at the ride, and “Cosmic Rewind” is anything but boring. The rotating roller coaster matches the fun of the series, whose two films have grossed over $1.6 billion at the worldwide box office.

"Cosmic Rewind"  weaves guests through a rollercoaster battle between the Guardians and a giant celestial space being.

In fact, it’s less of a ride and more like living in your own Marvel movie.

Guests are immersed in a story that unfolds from the moment they walk in line. Once they’re on board, the roller coaster weaves into a battle between the Guardians and a giant projection of celestial space about to hit songs like “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, which matches the disco atmosphere of the film.

This total immersion is exactly the goal, according to Josh D’Amaro, president of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “We envision next-level storytelling where our guests can step into their favorite stories in whole new ways,” D’Amaro told CNN Business.

“As Walt always said, Epcot should always be in a state of becoming and it never stayed the same,” he added. “Our goals are to keep this special park vibrant, alive and always nostalgic, but ready for the future.”

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