As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands and its roster of heroes continues to grow, so do the various ways fans can experience the MCU. In addition to Marvel Studios venturing into television with its Disney+ shows, Disney has opened several MCU-based lands and attractions in its theme parks, including Avengers Campus at Disneyland, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Walt Disney World, and now Worlds of Marvel's Avengers: Quantum Encounter aboard Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wish.
The challenge Disney Imagineers face is that film franchises change while theme park lands and attractions are designed with a sense of permanence. To solve this, Lucasfilm chose to set its Galaxy's Edge at a specific point within the Star Wars timeline.
However, Marvel Studios has taken a different approach.
Even though Avengers Campus, Cosmic Rewind, and now Worlds of Marvel are directly inspired by the events of the MCU - and will even make reference to them in fun (and hilarious) ways - they're not considered canon.
So how does that work? And, why did Disney and Marvel Studios choose this unique approach? Disney Imagineering broke it all down during the media preview of Avengers: Quantum Encounter aboard the Disney Wish.
Disney Explains the Canonicity of Avengers: Quantum Encounter
The Direct's Savannah Sanders had the opportunity to talk with Imagineer Danny Handke, the Creative Director for Worlds of Marvel, who explained how Avengers: Quantum Encounter (and Disney's other Marvel experiences) coexist with MCU canon.
Handke described Disney's theme park universe - which also includes Disney Cruise Line's experiences - as "a Variant of the main MCU timeline" and one that "mirrors" MCU canon since "the audience are protagonists:"
"We are kind of in our own theme park universe, and the Multiverse concept's great because we're a Variant of the main MCU timeline, so it helps everyone understand that. Canon is the official canon we see on screen and our park universe mirrors that, but our stories go in different directions, mainly because we as the audience are protagonists."
This separate timeline or universe is something that Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has also referenced in the past. When asked about where Walt Disney World's Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind's story takes place within the MCU timeline, just like Handke, Gunn confirmed that the attraction is in "its own universe."
This is why Adult Groot is part of Cosmic Rewind, and why at Disneyland's Avengers Campus, Black Widow and Iron Man are still alive, there are two Captain Americas, and Moon Knight can share a similar space as Loki and Black Panther.
As to the role guests play at Worlds of Marvel's Quantum Encounter, Handke explains that "we become heroes" as opposed to observers, and "that's what makes the theme park universe a little different:"
"We're here, we're eating, we're demonstrating Quantum technology and then the action unfolds around us and it becomes closer and closer to our doorstep as Ultron becomes a bigger and bigger threat and we help save the day. We become heroes in our own story in that way. The Avengers are talking directly to us, like our other theme park attractions. That's what makes it different compared to watching a film or TV series. Where you're watching the action happen to those characters, it's happening to us. So that's what makes the theme park universe a little different."
But just like the MCU, Disney's theme park "Variant" of the timeline is all about cameos, connections, and Easter eggs. In fact, in addition to nods to W.E.B. at Avengers Campus, Hanke revealed that "Captain Marvel makes a reference to what's happening" at Disneyland Paris' Avengers Campus, saying,
"Nods to WEB and Spider-Bots and the upcoming Avengers Campus in Paris. Captain Marvel makes a reference to what's happening in that storyline - the new roller coaster that's opening in July over there. It's cool because we talked to other Imagineering teams and worked together and figured out where they're going with their stories in order to make those connection points."
Disney's Own Sacred Marvel Timeline?
Not only has the Multiverse created new storytelling opportunities for the MCU, but it also allows Disney's timeline of Marvel stories to exist adjacent to actual canon.
After all, due to the events of Loki and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it makes perfect sense that there's a timeline where all of the Avengers are still existing and wanting to educate the public.
Plus, how great is it that this timeline is one that fans can physically experience and take an active role in the story?
But even though Quantum Encounter in Worlds of Marvel is set within its own universe and with its own story to tell, that doesn't mean the ever-changing MCU won't have an effect on this space in the future.
Just like how Ms. Marvel was added late in the planning stages for the restaurant, Disney has also revealed that Quantum Encounter is designed to evolve as the MCU evolves. This way, fans will be able to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe's newest characters and become heroes alongside them in this specially-created timeline.
Worlds of Marvel's Avengers: Quantum Encounter officially debuts aboard the Disney Wish on July 14.