Disney to buy Marvel

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Disney to buy Marvel

Postby James » August 31st, 2009, 8:22 am

TOP STORY
Disney to buy Marvel?
Just breaking from Market Watch is news that The Walt Disney Company will be acquiring Marvel Entertainment (the company behind such comic icons as Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four) in a stock and cash transaction worth about $4 billion. No other sources for this yet, but we’ll report more as it comes in.

Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s Chief Executive Officer: “Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses. This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”

Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company: “Ike Perlmutter and his team have done an impressive job of nurturing these properties and have created significant value. We are pleased to bring this talent and these great assets to Disney. We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation”.

According to the article: “Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its more than 5,000 Marvel characters. Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel’s properties.”

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Postby James » August 31st, 2009, 8:39 am

Wow - seems like an odd pairing. And that's without factoring in Marvel's movie deals and theme park character licensing with other companies.

Some people are also getting the jokes going which might be kind of fun here too -- Disney/Marvel crossovers! Some I've seen already:

"The Disney/Marvel acquisition raises some interesting possibilities. Like a Hercules/Hercules crossover"

"Howabout that starring role for Mephisto we've always craved: One Hundred and One Damnations."

"the classic X-Men crossover Beauty and the Beast. Oh my stars and garters..."

"Now we may finally get that Namor/Little Mermaid crossover we've demanded"
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Postby EricJ » August 31st, 2009, 8:44 am

Or, "Now maybe they'll finally get the X-Men cartoon out on di....oh, wait." ;)

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Postby GeorgeC » August 31st, 2009, 8:55 am

I have mixed feelings on this, James.

On the one hand, it clears all the video rights issues for the various Marvel shows that Disney owns and airs on its cable networks.

That probably means Disney is free to release Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, X-Men, and all the rest without fear of lawsuit from Marvel. Possibly the 1960s Marvel animated series will follow and maybe even the 1960s Spider-Man animated series will see another print run for those who missed it the first time around.

On the other hand, it could complicate licensing for future movies unless Disney steps out of the way and lets Marvel act as a separate licensing agent.

There could also be superior animated projects, or at least videos with better budget and hopefully better-directed talent. So far, none of the Marvel animated product has equalled DC's.

I'd love to see a film done with iconic superheroes given a full-animated treatment with a budget of at least $40 million but realistically that isn't going to happen -- especially not when companies have had successful OVAs done with $3 million or less in budget. For the big screen, companies are still convinced superheroes have to be done in live-action and we're going to continue to get re-envisioned characters and lousy realizations and costumes as a result. Spider-Man and Iron Man have been the notable exceptions to this rule only because fans of those characters are involved with those properties.

I suspect the days of certain Marvel executives may be numbered. I do think Disney is going to be looking at Marvel's books. Heads are certain to roll in that case. A paradigm change may be in order...


**********


Okay, here's where I get really negative....

I don't like the consolidation of companies in general.

Our multimedia corporations are too big as it is and there is no fair competitive field right now. POV's are dictated solely by market considerations and more often than not by editorial powers high up in the executive food chain. There is an illusion of exchange and freedom of ideas. You can see this in effect in the news media when the same stories get repeated again and again regardless of the channel you switch to. That's part of the reason people are abandoning traditional media and going to the Net for their news needs.

Traditional distribution and theater chains ARE controlled by the media conglomerates. It's very difficult for the little guy to find venues to air his product without selling out and receiving a pittance for his work. Very often, even after an independent film is sold to a major, it never sees the light of day again or gets exposed to an audience.

Just because Disney has bought out Marvel doesn't mean all the characters will get films or the current strategy of focusing on the top tier (Spider-Man, Avengers, X-Men) will change.

This also doesn't change bad decision-making and poor casting of directors, writers, and principal actors. It's a minor miracle that anything good comes out of the committee decision-making process.

I, for one, think a Captain America film is long overdue. I'm just terrified of what the ultimate result will be in this political climate. Will we get a film respectful of the character where he's proud to be the representative of what's best in the American spirit, or will we get another emo-type character who doubts himself all the time and acts contrary to the character portrayed in comics?

The filmmakers got Superman wrong in his last live-action movie... and we all know that film series is dead in the water until someone with a clue gets tapped to do another movie.

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Postby eddievalient » August 31st, 2009, 9:19 am

What does this mean for Marvel's movie deal with Paramount? Will Paramount still distribute their stuff or will Disney? And would this lead to a breach of contract lawsuit? And what about all the other Marvel characters at all the other studios? Does this mean we won't see any more X-Men films? Or Spider-Man? What about the X-Men and Iron Man cartoons on Nickelodeon? Did they think about all that stuff when they made the deal? As it stands now, there are an awful lot of unanswered questions and as a result, I'm not sure how I feel about this. My first reaction is fear, but I'll wait and see.
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Postby Josh » August 31st, 2009, 9:48 am

This news certainly surprised me. Regarding something this big, internet rumors of the deal usually precede the official announcement. With that said, I'd heard nothing about Disney possibly buying Marvel.

Anyway, I think the deal was a very wise move on Iger's part. Like Eddie, though, I am a bit confused about what this deal means for some of Marvel's current relationships with other studios.

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Postby estefan » August 31st, 2009, 9:55 am

But, does this only include the comics and animated series or does it also count the feature films? Because, I hardly see Paramount (who produces Iron Man), Sony (who produces Spider-Man) and Fox (who produces X-Men) wanting to share their profits with the Mouse House.

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Postby Josh » August 31st, 2009, 10:00 am

CHUD [article has a bit of strong language] now has notes from a conference call that will answer some of our questions.

Some highlights:

UPDATE 7:25: All current Marvel deals should stay in place - ie, Fantastic Four remain at Fox, Spider-Man lives at Sony.

UPDATE 7:30: No shock, but Disney expects to bring the characters home when the deals are done, as the third party deals are not as sweet in this new paradigm.

UPDATE 7:35: Disney expects to be able to exploit Marvel characters more broadly and more deeply, but they think that the people at Marvel are already doing a great job with that and are the experts on how to make that work. Read that as: Disney isn't going to be telling Marvel to get cracking on a Power Pack movie.

UPDATE 7:38: Expect more Marvel stuff on Disney XD Channel.

UPDATE 7:40: Disney may keep some Marvel video game licenses at other companies, depending on what works best.

UPDATE 7:42: Marvel and Pixar? John Lasseter and Marvel honchos recently met and got so excited the suits had to tell them to calm down, the deal wasn't done yet. There is DEFINITELY Marvel/Pixar stuff brewing right now.

UPDATE 7:44: Who will call the shots on unproduced, upcoming Marvel films? 'No one knows the Marvel characters and stories better than the folks at Marvel.'

UPDATE 7:45: 'If ain't broke...' says Bob Iger.
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Postby eddievalient » August 31st, 2009, 10:03 am

I haven't been able to read any of Marvel's books month-to-month in years, so my big concern here is the movies. With Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, Marvel has already shown that they can make great movies when left to their own devices. I'm hoping that Disney will leave them alone and not try to interfere with ten billion notes and "suggestions". Personally, I am officially putting Disney on probation until I see the first Marvel film made under their umbrella (which will probably be Captain America). If it's good, then I have nothing to worry about. If it's bad, I would blame Disney for that, not Marvel, and Disney would lose me forever (not Pixar, though, never Pixar).

EDIT: OK, the conference call definitely put my fears to rest, for now. I'm still going to wait and see though. All I can say is that Disney had better put their money where their mouth is. And Marvel/Pixar? Awesome if true.
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Postby Rodney » August 31st, 2009, 11:22 am

It's certainly very interesting news. Disney has already been releasing a lot of Marvel's stuff on television and DVD, so it's just making their relationship deeper. For whatever reason, i keep thinking theme parks. Universal Studios has alwasy had the Marvel rides so I expect that those will stay there until their licensing agreement comes to an end. Then, I expect to see similar rides at Disney World. Maybe a new addition to the park - or another park altogether. We'll see what happens. I'm not sure this is going to change much, but it's certainly weird to think of Spider-Man as a Disney property now.

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Postby Josh » August 31st, 2009, 11:33 am

Nikki Finke has the latest on the possibility of Marvel attractions at the Disney theme parks:

Nikki Finke wrote:Meanwhile, it's important to note that the statement today does not mention Marvel in connection with Disney theme parks. That's because, I've learned, Disney may not be able to use the 5,000 Marvel characters to freshen its theme parks for some time. Because Universal theme parks have a long-term licensing deal with Marvel that gives them the rights to the characters, and Universal not only has Marvel attractions (like the Spider-Man ride) in Orlando and Osaka but has also built them into future theme park plans. "We have a license deal that goes on for a long time," a Universal insider tells me.


On a side note, I'd been thinking, 'It's too bad Disney owns Marvel but can't do a big Spider-Man project in the near future.' Then something occurred to me. I think Julie Taymor's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical may have just found its much-needed funding.
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Postby Ben » August 31st, 2009, 11:46 am

This isn't such an odd pairing. Strange, but not odd. ;)

Disney has <I>never</I> been in the superhero business. Rocketeer, Dick Tracy, Super Goof...they don't count. And they missed out on the television merchandise toy commercials of the 1980s that Marvel was one of the companies at the forefront of.

I think their purchase of the Fox Kids channel and the Saban company a while back was a wholesale way to basically break into those markets. And the Mouse as a result has seen good sales of those properties on DVD whenever a big screen movie featuring the major characters comes around.

The one thing Disney doesn't do is stuff like Hulk, Iron Man and Spider-Man. But they can see the value in those properties, as was evident in signing up Stan Lee to the company for a new series of comics and animation that was, if you recall the original announcement, supposed to also launch some new theatrical characters.

That, basically, hasn't happened yet, while the classic characters are still raking in the cash and are only set to get bigger still.

It then doesn't take a genius to work out the next step. Can't break into the market even with one of the creators on board? Then let's buy the actual company then! Who knew Iger liked comics so much he bought the company!?

Anyway...deal done, this now gets Disney lock, stock and barrel into the superhero comic and blockbuster movie business, just like - hey! - Warner's ownership of DC Comics!

The reaction from fans might well be shock, but I'm more awed. We're not going to see any major changes for a good <I>long</I> while yet. The deal won't even be complete until year's end. And all the motion picture properties will be staying put at their respective distributors. The only thing changing in the short term is that the profits go not to Marvel but to Marvel's new owner Disney. So a producing studio like Fox or Sony isn't losing money...they would have always had to split with Marvel anyway.

In the long term, Disney wants to bring those movies in house. So when the Spidey deal ends with Sony, when the Fantastic 4 deal ends with Fox or when the Iron Man and Avengers deals end with Paramount, then those characters <I>could</I> (but by no means is it certain given the money they could be making) be brought back in under Marvel, with Disney funding and distributing themselves.

From what I've read from Iger, he wants the Marvel stable to keep running with its own autonomy, a la Pixar. And collaborations between those two companies are going to happen, according to conversations that have already taken place. But again these might not be green-lit for a while yet, given the character deals with the other studios, but there are exciting possibilities.

And then there's DisneyXD, the "new Jetix" as its being called, a boycentric channel on which the Marvel content will run indefinitely, now without Disney having to pay a penny for it (after recouping the $4b for the purchase, of course, but they'll have that back in no time thanks to the many films about to emerge). And of course there are the parks, but they will come too...and in any event they'll enjoy the benefits of the Universal licensing in the meantime.

So...what's this now? ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, plus the DreamWorks distribution deal. I wonder if any of those rumors marrying Disney and Warner Bros. might ever come true too?

Big kudos to Iger...not only has he made a barnstorming business decision here, but he managed to keep those actions quiet and surprise his competitors.

Good work...I bet Sony are kicking themselves right now, as is, perhaps, Warner/DC.

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Postby GeorgeC » August 31st, 2009, 1:31 pm

To be honest, Ben,

Stan Lee co-created many the Marvel characters with artists during his run as Marvel's chief editor from 1961-1970.

That's been a source of controversy for several decades since it's apparent Stan claimed in a number of editorials and prefaces in books reprinting these comics that he was the sole instigator of a bunch of these things. If you read the actual comics during the runs of the original artists and after they left it's night-and-day. Spider-Man post-Ditko was never as creative. Fantastic Four and Thor post-Kirby were also not as imaginative and as fantastic as they were with Kirby on the title. These artists' contributions were never fully acknowledged when they worked for Marvel during its creative peak in the decade I mentioned.

Granted, it wasn't all Stan's fault. The guy really running Marvel at that point -- Stan's boss -- was the true financial head of the company and a person who continually broke contractual agreements with the hired help since the beginning of the company!

I have read newer comics written by Stan since the early 1970s. They just don't compare to the 1960s output. They're flat, derivative, and just lack the liveliness of the 1960s work. On the other hand, if you read his editorials or hear him speak about his past work it's real obvious that he was at the very least scripter of those same comics published in the 1960s. There's that and also the fact that the man does have a certain irresistable if cheezy charm to him. I'd say Stan's creative days (without a good artistic partner) are far behind him. He's better as the ambassador and figurehead/father figure he's been for Marvel Comics and the comic book industry since the early 1970s. I still think in that sense he's worth whatever he's being paid now. He's still a great spokesman.

************

As for Disney acquiring Marvel, this isn't the only time they could have done this... They've had multiple chances since the late 1980s when Marvel's value was far less than it is now. (Even then, I question the $4 billion price tag. It sounds a bit much to me... Comic book publishing doesn't make one-quarter, let alone 1/12 of that stock value. I doubt Marvel has seen $1 billion in revenue at any point in its history!) If Disney had been smarter, they would have bought Marvel stock at its lowest point following the distributor crash in the mid-1990s. Marvel has been close to being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange at times...

Yeah, I never really understood Disney's desire to buy companies for billions of dollars. This is Pixar and Fox Family Channel all over again. It's like there's a chic in buying companies for billions more than what they're worth! The Disney heads obviously don't understand how to get the most for their buck. I seriously think they are overpaying for a company again.

Sure, they may eventually make their money book, but it'll takes years if not decades to do so.



EDIT: Avatar changed to reflect that for the moment Disney is radioactive hot. Biggest business and entertainment news of the day for sure!

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Postby Dan » August 31st, 2009, 2:02 pm

Well, now it looks like the Marvel/DC rivalry just got more interesting with Marvel now having the corporate backing DC has had for a while (DC is under the Warner Bros. flag).

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Postby James » August 31st, 2009, 2:19 pm

Another funny Tweet I just read:

Every article on Disney/Marvel deal: "Disney adds 5,000 new characters to its stable." BUT! They forget to add "..Of which 23 are any good."