Disney’s Epcot needed a makeover. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy are here to save the day

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

It’s not just any everyday attraction. This roller coaster is key to the future of the Disney Parks business.

Epcot is undergoing the “biggest transformation in its history,” the company said. Cosmic Rewind, an attraction that reportedly cost $500 million, is the linchpin of that change.

Disney is entering a synergy strategy with Marvel, one of the company’s most popular movie brands, to bolster a critical part of its business while updating one of its geekiest theme parks.

The strategy

"Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind"  is an exciting new ride at EPCOT.
Disney’s focus has been on streaming, with its most recent earnings report focused heavily on Disney+ and its 137.7 million subscribers. But investing in its resorts remains crucial for Disney because it offers the company a deeper connection with consumers that its streaming rivals can’t match.

“Broadcasting gives Disney an everyday presence in the lives of its consumers, but the parks give Disney headspace with those consumers in a way no recorded medium can,” Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, told CNN. Business. “A visit to a park or a cruise becomes a lifetime memory for millions of consumers, creating a lifelong affinity with the Disney brand.”

"Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind"  is Disney's latest state-of-the-art attraction.
The ride comes as the Disney parks are recovering from two terrible years. The company’s resorts were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, losing billions of dollars.

But the segment brought in $6.6 billion in revenue in the fiscal second quarter of this year, more than double its sales from the prior year.

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

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

The walk

EPCOT is in the midst of a renovation.  "cosmic rewind"  is an axis of that.

Epcot offers other exciting attractions like “Test Track,” but it has never been considered the most exciting resort in Disney World. That distinction belongs more to Hollywood Studios, its theme park with attractions based on Star Wars and The Twilight Zone.

In fact, the original Epcot wasn’t supposed to be a theme park, but Walt Disney’s planned futuristic neighborhood known as the “Experimental Prototyping 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 attract families who may have found the previous iteration of the park a bit, well, boring.

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

"cosmic rewind"  takes guests through a roller coaster 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 line up. Once they are on board, the roller coaster goes through a battle between the Guardians and a giant projection of a celestial space that prepares to play hit songs like “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, which matches the disco atmosphere of the movie.

That total immersion is exactly the point, according to Josh D’Amaro, president of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “We’re looking for next-level storytelling where our guests can enter their favorite stories in entirely new ways,” D’Amaro told CNN Business.

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

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