This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Disney References in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! With Captain Marvel now in theaters, we here at the SATURDAY SIX are in full Marvel Mania Mode. You may remember last year we did at SAT 6 on our Favorite Moments in the MCU, and this week we’re going to dive back into the films again and this time put a spotlight on the ways that the filmmakers have subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) referenced Marvel’s parent company Disney.
# 6 – D23 in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
This one is specifically for the hard core theme park fans. Just about everyone reading this is going to know what “D 23” refers to. The D23 Expo is a once-every-two-years convention that theme park fans now look forward to as much as comic book fans anticipate the San Diego Comic Con. Over the years, Marvel has moved away from the San Diego Comic Con and has had a larger presence at the D23 Expo.
In Captain America: Civil War, once Bucky Barnes is captured, he is put in a specially designed cage. To your average viewer, the markings on the cage mean almost nothing. But to a theme park fan, the numbers “D 23” mean everything and shows the tight relationship that Disney has with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
# 5 – Shuri mentions Disneyland in BLACK PANTHER
When you said you would take me to California for the first time, I thought you meant Coachella…or Disneyland.
At the very end of Black Panther, T’Challa takes his sister Shuri to Oakland, California. The pair overlook the apartments in which Eric Killmonger was raised. As citizens of Wakanda, both T’Challa and Shuri have spent their entire life making sure the country was effectively hidden from the rest of the world, keeping all of their advanced technology to themselves. Because of the events of the film, T’Challa realizes that Wakanda needs to help others in the world, and buys the rundown apartment complex in order to renovate them and use them as a Wakanda outreach center run by Shuri and Nakia.
Shuri, who throughout the film did not shy away from using sass, originally didn’t understand why T’Challa took her to California and said she thought she was going to Disneyland.
# 4 – Luis whistles the theme to it’s a small world in ANT-MAN
Hey, you know what? I was thinking of a tactic, like when I go undercover, like a whistling, you know I’m saying? To like, blend in.
Everyone has their favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one of my favorite characters in any of the films is Luis in Ant-Man. As comedic relief, every time Luis was on the screen everything he brought to the table was gold. Every time Luis would tell a story, he would add in superfluous details that would drive Scott Lang (Ant-Man) crazy.
Late in the movie Scott Lang realized that in order to defeat the movie’s villain, he would need some help. Lang called upon Luis and his two sidekicks. Each one of the characters was given a specific job to do, and Luis’s job was to work undercover as a guard in Pym Industries. Luis told the group that he thought it would be a good idea if his undercover character had a distinctive trait, and suggested whistling. Scott Lang immediately put the kibosh on that idea.
However, shortly thereafter we see Luis dressed as a guard entering Pym Tech. After he clears security, he starts whistling. This would have been a funny callback by itself, but the movie takes the next step and has Luis whistling the iconic song from Disney’s it’s a small world attraction. This not only is a clever Easter Egg that involves Disney, but super meta in that it alludes to Ant-Man’s diminutive stature.
# 3 – Pinocchio in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
I had strings, but now I’m free. There are no strings on me, no strings on me.
There is a saying that goes “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” and if that’s true the person in the MCU who is doing that paving is none other than Tony Stark. Trying to make up for past misdeeds, Stark begins Avengers: Age of Ultron by trying to create an artificial intelligence that could help save the world. Unfortunately, just like many a good theme park ride, things going terribly wrong, and the villain Ultron is created. Unlike other peacekeeping robots that Stark has built, Ultron doesn’t have to play by any programmed rules. He’s free.
After revealing to the Avengers that his ultimate goal is to take them down, Ultron transfers himself to Baron Strucker’s base in Sokovia where he can take control of many other new robot bodies. While he is doing this, he sings “I’ve Got No Strings,” from the Disney animated classic Pinocchio. Even more chilling, the entire scene is capped with a soundbite from that 1940 animated film, with Pinocchio singing the very same phrase. If there is one flaw in the MCU, its that when it comes to creating villains, they often fall short on creating memorable ones. Thanks to the amazing voice work of actor James Spader, and the creative use of a song everyone knows because of Disney, Age of Ultron created a main event bad guy immediately with Ultron.
Before Age of Ultron came out into the theaters, one of the movie trailers featured the iconic “I’ve Got No Strings” song. It was a fantastic ad, but generally these type of trailers are made up by Marketing and not people involved with the actual film. It was a nice surprise to see the “I’ve Got No Strings” moment in the actual movie.
# 2 – “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol 2
Going into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, most people probably had a least a slight understanding of who characters like Captain America, Thor, and Hulk were. Over the years the characters have been displayed on cartoons, toys, underoos, and even theme parks. The Guardians of the Galaxy were not even that well known by comic book fans, and certainly have never had a presence in mainstream media. Going into the first GOTG film, many thought that this could have been the MCU’s first misfire. Not only was it a movie based on characters almost nobody knew, but it was going to be written and directed by James Gunn, a man who at that time was known for the horror films Slither.
But then the first GOTG film was released, and it was a huge hit thanks to the likable characters, hilarious humor, and possibly the most heart of any superhero film ever made. In a way, the Guardians of the Galaxy were to movies what the original Marvel Comics were to the comic book industry. Generally speaking, we were used to seeing superheroes who were basically perfect, and now we had characters who were more like the people we see in the mirror every day. They were flawed, sometimes selfish, but ultimately always wanted to do the right thing.
With the characters established, GOTG vol 2 flipped the script a bit with the reveal that Yondu, who had raised Peter Quill since he was a young boy, was only hard on Quill because he loved him. During a tense moment in the film, both Yondu and Quill were on a ship that exploded. Other characters expected the worst, but out of the smoke came Peter Quill – flying with his jetpack – and Yondu – using his floating arrow to slowly descend to the ground.
In a moment that encapsulates everything that makes GOTG special, Quill laughed at Yondu and said that he looked like “Mary Poppins.” Yondu, being from another planet, had no idea who Mary Poppins was and asked if “he” was cool. Peter looked up at Yondu, with an earnest expression of respect, and said, “Hell yeah, he’s cool.”
That in and of itself would have been a great moment. It had the laugh of Yondu not knowing Mary Poppins was a woman and Peter Quill showing true respect. But the movie then went to “11” as the camera panned back showing that Yondu did look a lot like Mary Poppins floating down with her umbrella, and Yondu hilariously yelled, “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” to the characters on the ground.
# 1 – Howard Stark channeling Walt Disney in IRON MAN 2
What is, and always will be my greatest creation, is you. – Howard Stark
Iron Man 2 began with Tony Stark trying to rekindle hope for the world’s future via the use of technology. Stark brought back the Stark Expo, an event originally created by his father, Howard Stark. The Stark Expo was designed to last an entire year, and was intended to remind people of the World’s Fair, an event which theme park fans know very well because of Walt Disney.
The movie took the comparison even farther, creatively using “archival” footage of Howard Stark that would draw comparisons to Walt Disney. The recordings humanized Howard Stark, and came across exactly like the films we have watched Walt Disney star in as he introduced to the world attractions such as Carousel of Progress or his plans for The Florida Project.
In a brilliant moment of filmmaking, Iron Man 2 used the old footage of Howard Stark to allow him to talk to his son. The elder Stark explained that he was limited by his technology, but that Tony would figure everything out in the future. Tony ends up retrieving his father’s scale model (which will remind any theme park fan of a place like EPCOT), and used his computer technology to figure out what his dad was working on decades earlier. It was a creative way to not only move the story along, but also helped further the bond between Tony and his father. In previous films, including the original Iron Man and Avengers, Tony would often speak dismissively of his dad, implying that the two never spent much time together because Howard was always working. Iron Man 2 helped Tony realize that his dad was working tirelessly on a future for his son.
After seeing the video, Tony Stark returns to his company and sees his dad’s scale model of the 1974 Stark Expo covered under a tarp.
Pulling back the tarp, Tony is convinced there is something hidden within the scale model.
So he takes the scale model back home…
…and uses his computer technology to scan the entire Expo to create a digital version.
Tony strips away all the parts of the Expo that aren’t pavilions, and realizes his dad was working on an entirely new element.
This new element would allow Tony to fuel the arc reactor inside his chest, ending his dependency on a rapidly depleting palladium.
“Dead for almost 20 years…still taking me to school.” – Tony Stark, admiring his father’s work.
Honorable Mention – Mission Breakout!
Okay, this one is definitely NOT part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but we’re going to include it here anyway because most people don’t know about it. On the Disney XD channel there is a series of Marvel-based cartoons, and one of them features the Guardians of the Galaxy with the lineup of characters that we all know from the MCU.
Last year the Guardians of the Galaxy show featured a special episode titled “Mission: Breakout!” the exact same name as the attraction in Disney California Adventure. The episode has a brief look at the Collector’s fortress-esque collection called the Tivan Collection (which DCA theme park fans used to know as the Hollywood Tower of Terror). It’s a fun episode, even featuring a cameo by Stan Lee as the person who controls the elevator in the tower.
At one point in the episode, the characters all board an elevator and are bounced around the entire Tower.
There is a certain point when all of the Collector’s cages are opened, which gave the episode a chance to fit in a ton of Easter Eggs, but for the most part all the creatures in this sequence are generic monsters. How great would it have been to see Harold the Yeti from Disneyland’s Matterhorn or even Trader Sam from the Jungle Cruise in the background?
So there you have it: Six Disney References in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:
Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Mr. ‘Ohana Tim Grassey, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, the sweet siren of secret shopping Hedgehog’s Corner, crazy cat lady – and our Fearless Leader – Laurel Stewart, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2019 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it?That’s right, ANOTHER NEW ONE EXCLUSIVE TO THIS EDITION!Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!