Disney buys Marvel: who benefits?

House of Mouse usurps the House of Ideas - we break down the multimedia deal of the decade

Disney cool again? - No offense to Mickey, Donald and Goofy… but they haven’t exactly been relevant to people above the age of 12 for a decade or so. But since Marvel’s stable of characters have shown the same generation-spanning longevity that Walt’s creations enjoyed during the last millennium, the weighty task of getting a culture to care about Disney again no longer rests solely on the shoulders of Pixar.


Above: Don’t expect Mickey in Marvel Zombies just yet

It seems very unlikely that Disney bought the comic giant just to tamper with what ain’t broke, so we can expect the Marvel image to remain largely intact. Plus, seeing how Disney has embraced the adult appeal of its older catalog with some stellar, uncut DVD releases, AND the fact that the Pirates of the Caribbean films have featured the highest body counts in the history of the PG-13 rating, it stands to reason that Marvel’s content won’t be diluted anytime soon.

Cross medium appeal - It’s not like Marvel’s comic characters are having trouble finding success in other mediums, but taking the company’s history into account, it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. However, Disney’s reach is even broader. Just taking into account the Saturday morning series of the mid ‘90s, Fox appeared to have little or no interest in keeping properties like X-Men and Spider-Man going, or even releasing them in a purchasable format.


Above: Jetix (aka Disney XD), where old cartoons go to live

Luckily, Disney does! They currently air during Marvel reruns in Toon Disney’s Jetix block, and the likelihood they’ll continue just grew a thousand fold. Given that Disney has a cross-culture appeal that took nearly a century to acquire, it’s not only in a unique position to keep quality Marvel properties accessible and in production - it’s now in their best interest! Dare we even bring up… A Marvel Channel?!

Disney World just got better! - Who doesn’t love a good crossover? Maybe we’re just dorks, but the idea of our favorite characters intermingling with one another in a singular location has our heads spinning at a 1000RPMs. Currently, a ticket to Disneyland nails you a meet and greet with Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, Kermit the Frog, Darth Vader, and now, f***ing Spider-Man and Hulk!!!!


Above: We live in a world where this can exist!

Best of all, when it comes to theme park attractions, Disney spares absolutely no expense. So, a billion dollars-worth of 3-D Marvel robots moving at the speed of awesome is a glorious inevitability.

Disney: Cons

Bonus Loser: Universal Studios - Not only does Universal currently handle the Hulk movies, but the better of its Island of Adventure Orlando park is dressed in Marvel attire. And by “better,” we mean the best things in the whole damn park, regardless of your love of comics. We’re not naive enough to believe these licenses were meant to last forever, but the closure of phenomenal attractions like Spider-Man 3-D ride is a sad thing indeed. Plus, re-skinning existing attractions means park goers may have to wait months before they can get on a newly painted Hulk coaster. A bittersweet score for the House of Mouse.


COMING SOON: Despereaux’s Purple and Green Mega Coaster!

The Future of DVD - Ever wonder why the 1960’s Batman television show has never seen a DVD release? Chalk it up to series of unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances: It was a TV show made by Fox, based on a property currently belonging to Warner Bros., which originally aired on a network now owned by Disney (ABC). Since 1960’s contracts failed to negotiate terms regarding a then nonexistent home video release, we can speculate that these three companies still haven’t figured out how to divvy up the pie, or simply don’t feel that the split profits are worth the time. Either way, we lose.

Pre-Iron Man movies under the Marvel umbrella are owned by the individual studios that produced them. Sony owns big screen Spidey, and Fox lays claim to any cinematic depictions of, and stemming from, the X-men. Marvel has stated that all contracts made before the acquisition will be honored, but what happens when they eventually expire? It’s doubtful that the corporate monoliths would allow even duds like Elektra and Ghost Rider to fall into obscurity, but it requires an all new level of cooperation between companies who’ve had a hard time playing nice in the past.


Above: Caution – pre/post acquisition DVDs are not the same

Additionally, these companies generally do own the rights to special features found on most DVDs. So, if you want to ensure that your copy of Spider-Man 2 contains a Sam Raimi commentary and a Dashboard Confessional music video, you better scoop it up now.

Conclusion- Disney is the clear winner here. They get to associate with a trendy, consistently popular brand (Marvel) and reap any and all benefits the latter ever earns. Conversely, if say, Disney decides to release a $200 million sequel to Chicken Little and it bombs, company-wide efforts to reduce loss would be Marvel’s problem as well.

Still, even the gloomiest naysayers need only look at the Warner/DC Comics deal to realize that a large company buying a slightly less-large company isn’t the end of the world for either brand. In fact, it usually leads to kick-ass rollercoasters.

Aug 31, 2009


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