Upon hearing the news of Disney‘s acquisition of Marvel in 2009, it was only natural for fans to speculate what might result from the two companies bleeding into one — like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to see some Marvel stuff at Disney’s theme parks?”
Other than some Marvel merchandise showing up at theme park shops, however, the infiltration has been slow, due at least in part to the pre-existing Marvel presence at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. This week, Marvel makes its most notable mark on the Mouse’s family getaways thus far at Disney’s original theme park, Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, with the opening of the “Thor: Treasures of Asgard” experience within Innoventions (in Tomorrowland, neighboring Space Mountain). Debuting a week before the theatrical release of “Thor: The Dark World,” the Asgardian-themed attraction actually the second Innoventions exhibit this year to tie-in to a Marvel Studios film, after “Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries,” launched to promote “Iron Man 3”.
CBR News previewed “Treasures of Asgard,” which distinguishes itself from the “Iron Man” exhibit in a rather significant way: It’s the first time a Marvel character has been portrayed in-person at a Disney theme park, with Thor joining the ranks of Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Cruella de Vil and the many other interesting fictional folks circulating throughout the park for photo-ops.
It’s a good Thor, too. The costume looks to be of a suitably high quality, and the cast member (Disneyland code for employee) bringing the God of Thunder to life did an impressive job of staying in character. (When I told him I wrote for a website covering comic books, he responded, “Ah, yes. My tales.”) Perhaps most importantly for a Disneyland character without the benefit of wearing a big giant head, he looks the part; a reasonable facsimile to his big-screen counterpart, Chris Hemsworth.
“Treasures of Asgard,” in typical Disneyland fashion, is presented as an authentic experience within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, rather than something simply installed to promote a new movie. It’s purported to be an exhibition of artifacts organized by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman’s character in the films) to buoy Midgardian/Asgardian relations.
To that end, the bulk of “Treasures of Asgard” is a museum-like showcase of “Thor”-related items, mostly weapons, in glass cases — including Sif’s shield, Volstagg’s axe, Heimdall’s sword and Loki’s helmet (sure to be a popular one). Some are directly related to “Thor: The Dark World,” such as a dark elf mask (the film’s primary antagonist is dark elf Malekith the Accursed, played on screen by former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston) and an accompanying elvish text.
Ultimately, this is a backdrop for the main event. The initial promotion for “Treasures of Asgard” stated that attendees would get the chance to come face to face with Thor, and Disney delivers, quite literally, on that promise. After a narrator explains that the exhibit happens to be located on the opening of the Bifrost — a portal between Earth and Asgard — a few sound effects and lighting tricks aid in transporting theme park guests to the realm of the gods, and a door opens to Odin’s throne room. It’s a detailed, effectively rendered representation, allowing for some up close and personal (and distinctly Instagrammable) interactions with the Mighty Avenger — plus, the opportunity to see if you’re worthy of lifting Mjolnir. (Spoiler alert: You aren’t.)
In real life, “Thor: Treasures of Asgard” was produced by Jennifer Magill of Disney’s creative entertainment department. She answered questions at the press event, but, in keeping with the theme, admirably refused to break character; when asked if the items on display were authentic movie props, she replied that they were in fact, “actual artifacts from Asgard.” In spirit of the conversation, CBR asked if it was a good idea to put Loki’s shackles on display, suggesting that the Trickster God could be running free — Magill replied that Disney’s Asgardian allies wouldn’t do anything to “put the cosmos in jeopardy.”
The exhibition is scheduled to run through Jan. 6, and allows for about 30 visitors at a time. Thor will be in the throne room for about six and a half hours each day, Magill said, but the displays will still be available for viewing during his off-time.
Thor: Treasures of Asgard opens at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California on Friday, Nov. 1.