The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Ant-Man is known for quips, his loyalty to the Pyms, and for going big during Civil War. Unfortunately, Ant-Man is also known for something he didn’t do. We’ve all heard the theory about Ant-Man taking out Thanos by shrinking, going into his butt, and then returning to his full size. The Ant-Man Thanos butt joke has become ubiquitous. So much so that it found its way into the Worlds of Marvel dining experience on the Disney Wish. Walt Disney Imagineering senior creative director Danny Handke told us how it came to Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship. And surprise, it involved writer Michael Waldron (Loki, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness).
“We write the script out of Imagineering, and then we usually give it to a Marvel writer to do some polish on the dialogue,” Handke told Nerdist. “It happened to be Michael Waldron, the writer on Doctor Strange and Loki and everything. It was so cool to have him involved. He brought in the Thanos joke because we wanted to make it super awkward for Ant-Man. It’s his first public speaking engagement, and so he wanted to start it off with something really awkward for Ant-Man. So he brings it up, because you know he’s been hearing the rumors everywhere. We got that joke. We’re like, ‘Can we do this?’ We’re like, ‘Let’s give it a shot. Is Paul willing to do this?’ Paul [Rudd] was, and Paul put his own spin on it because he’s amazing at improvising. That’s what we got in the show.”
As unlikely as it seems that a Disney show begins with a reference to Thanos’ butt, it happened. The first-ever Marvel cinematic dining adventure, Worlds of Marvel’s Avengers: Quantum Encounter features Ant-Man and Wasp giving a talk on the ship. But then… things go awry. Ultron attacks the Wish as he tries to get his hands on the quantum technology. Captain America (Sam Wilson) shows up, as do Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel. These characters can all come together in the Marvel theme park universe, like in Avengers Campus. Handke notes that, in this universe, the guests are the protagonists. The action is happening to them and surrounding them.
The battle with Ultron plays out on screens throughout the dining room, accompanied by MCU-inspired food. The screens show how the fight unfolds throughout different parts of the ship. Ant-Man and Wasp give their presentation in the Marvel Super Hero Academy, a kids’ space on the ship. Then we jump to the pool deck with Captain America and Ms. Marvel before the final fight with Ultron in the hallway outside the Super Hero Academy. Ant-Man and Wasp appear in person at the end of the experience.
Guests have a role to play as they eat dinner. Handke explained, “We play an active role in all of our stories we do in the parks. Like in our show, you have to press a button on the Quantum Cores to shrink and grow, things throughout the show. That’s the way you help defeat Ultron at the very end.”
Since the Marvel theme park universe is adjacent to the MCU, Imagineering got to add some new team-ups to Worlds of Marvel. “It was awesome because we got to create some pairings that we haven’t seen yet in the films or the series, like Captain America and Ms. Marvel,” Handke enthused. “What would happen if Captain America shows up to stop this big threat, and Ms. Marvel decided to tag along? He’s coaching her because she’s a novice, but then she’s also having a time of her life because she’s never been on a ship before. So we got to bring some of those fun dynamics together. Having the two captains meet face to face, Captain America and Captain Marvel, was also awesome to bring to our story. It’s almost like a big What If? episode.”
And with Ms. Marvel, Marvel was shooting that series when Disney decided to include her in Worlds of Marvel’s Avengers: Quantum Encounter. “They were still developing what her powers looked like, her hard light,” Handke noted. “We worked very closely with not only the series, but also the movie team [for the] The Marvels, to find out her story arc, and how her powers work and everything, so we can work concurrently in developing it for our show as well.”
Between scenes of the show, the screens show key character moments from the MCU’s movies and television series. Handke noted they have over 120 visual effects shot in the space. He added, “We have over 400 film clips for our tech showcase and 100 motion graphics to tell our technology story. Bringing all that together to create a 60-minute experience, I think is nuts.”
Then there are the interactive Quantum Cores on the tables. Handke said Imagineering is only starting to scratch the surface of what it can possibly do.
So, Avengers: Quantum Encounter has the Thanos butt joke. It also includes some specific Disney Cruise Line humor that repeat cruise guests will appreciate. And the show has a deep-cut Disney reference—one that Kevin Feige picked up on right away during a presentation. Handke related, “We used the song ‘Miracles from Molecules.’ It’s a Sherman Brothers song from the ’60s, from Adventure Thru Inner Space. So we thought, ‘What would be something really obscure for those Disney fans?’ Connecting ‘Miracles from Molecules’ with Ant-Man just made sense. If Scott Lang put together this presentation, he would dust off that song and use that as his title card, right? So Kevin got it—no one else [in the room] got that.”