As the MCU continues to expand, so do the number of ways Marvel fans can interact with its heroes and villains.
One of the latest is the Avengers: Quantum Encounter experience at the Worlds of Marvel restaurant aboard Disney Cruise Line's newest ship, the Disney Wish.
But the showcase soon turns into an Avengers-level threat when Ultron comes aboard to steal the Quantum Core, the latest of Pym technology.
While Disney always had certain characters in mind for the experience, such as Brie Larson's Captain Marvel, they originally envisioned a different Marvel villain given the show's setting.
Why Disney Swapped HYDRA for Ultron for Avengers: Quantum Encounter
In an exclusive interview with The Direct, Imagineer Danny Handke shared that Disney originally envisioned "HYDRA as the antagonists" for the Avengers: Quantum Encounter experience at the Worlds of Marvel:
"We had Hydra as the antagonist in our first draft. We liked the visuals of Arnim Zola hijacking the screens in the restaurant and Hydra Walkers rising out of the ocean to attack the ship from all sides."
Throughout the Quantum Encounter show, the fact that events are playing out aboard the Disney Wish is a key part of the story.
Not only is the actual ship - and the guests onboard - seemingly shrunk down when a Pym tech demo goes wrong, but the show's climactic battle takes place on the ship's upper deck.
Seeing Hydra Walkers rise out of the waves would definitely have been an amazing visual. And, as Handke noted, the restaurant's use of screens truly would've been a fantastic vehicle for Zola to wreak havoc.
Still, there's another reason why HYDRA was initially on the table.
Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself, Disney's own "Variant of the main MCU timeline," which exists in the Disney Parks and on the Disney Cruise Line, is also interconnected.
Having HYDRA serve as Quantum Encounter's villain would, as Handke explained, have "connected to the story in the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland."
The reason why Disney ultimately decided against HYDRA stemmed from an interest in a villain that Disney hadn't utilized just yet, as well as one that Handke noted "works better with our technology theme:"
"But in the end, we wanted to introduce a villain we haven’t seen in a Disney Parks attraction and one that works better with our technology theme; that’s when we pivoted to Ultron."
Still, that's not to say that HYDRA still doesn't have a presence aboard the Disney Wish.
Marvel Super Hero Academy, which is part of Disney's larger Oceaneer Club, allows young fans to design their own suit, battle Ultron, and encounter Marvel heroes like Ant-Man, Wasp, and Black Panther.
According to Handke, it's here that "We kept HYDRA as an antagonist in our tie-in gaming experience" titled Avengers: Mission Training:
"In the story, it is revealed that Ultron controls the HYDRA bots and he is using them as decoys to distract the Avengers as he searches for the Quantum Cores."
Of course, Quantum Cores are the new tech that Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne are demonstrating at the Worlds of Marvel and what fans use to help stop Ultron during the Avengers: Quantum Encounter climax.
Also, while it's true that Marvel Super Hero Academy is part of the kid's club for the Disney Wish, like most of the ship's experiences, it was designed for all ages.
In fact, adults are encouraged to check it out and even battle HYDRA and Ultron themselves during scheduled open houses throughout the cruise.
How Ultron and HYDRA Serve Marvel and Disney Storytelling
One of the best things about Disney's own MCU timeline is that characters from Marvel Studios' Earth-616 past can live on.
In addition to villains like HYDRA and Ultron, Iron Man, Black Panther, and Black Widow are still part of Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Line's Marvel narratives.
In fact, within Disney's experiences, current characters and past characters can even co-exist, such as Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson's respective Captain Americas.
While that doesn't quite mirror the stakes of the MCU on-screen, it is faithful to Marvel Studios' storytelling which, just like at Disney, always comes first.