Friday, September 4, 2009
You've Got Disney In My Marvel
So Disney is buying Marvel. One thing that needs to remain clear and that some people just aren't getting is that Marvel is being bought by The Walt Disney Company, not Walt Disney Studios. The Walt Disney Company is a giant entity that owns multiple movie studios including Miramax, Dimension Films, Pixar, Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures and the aforementioned Walt Disney Studios. They also own several theme parks, cruise lines, retail locations, a radio station, ABC, ESPN, and the Muppets just to name a few. They're a huge conglomerate, not just the company that puts out straight to DVD Lion King sequels. Marvel being bought out by a large corporation has been rumored for very long time now. Likely since as long as DC was bought by a large corporation. This was especially true back when Marvel came very close to bankruptcy in the 90s. It's actually pretty amazing they lasted as an independent company as long as they did. Things could have gone a lot differently. Disney has been trying harder to target boys and young adult males. They've experienced some success in this field with the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Then they converted Toon Disney to Disney XD. Next year they'll be releasing Prince of Persia and Tron Legacy movies. So Disney made the bold move of buying the largest stable of characters that target this demographic. That's good for both companies involved, although four billion dollars seems awfully steep, but what does it mean for the future? What does this mean for the comics? Probably nothing. The publishing division of Marvel wasn't all that important to begin with. Comics sales haven't been what they used to be for years now. For the most part Marvel Comics cater to the same loyal fanbase without doing a great deal to draw in new younger readers. Disney isn't going to do anything to interfere with them so long as comic books have such a low profile. The comics real power is to develop new characters and stories that can be adapted and marketed into more high profile venues. I'd say the comics are safe long as the comics they make money, but it seems almost inevitable that some day the comics will no longer be profitable. Still that was an issue long before Disney came into the picture. I'm more concerned about Boom! Studios. They're the comics company with the rights to produce Disney based comics. Now that Disney owns the biggest comic book company in terms of market share, the deal with Boom! Studios may not last too long. What does this mean for the movies? The thing about Marvel is that they shopped their properties around everywhere. Sony has Spider-Man and Ghost Rider. Fox has X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Elektra. Universal has Hulk. New Line has Blade. Lionsgate has Punisher. Paramount has Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Avengers. Disney is about the only major movie studio who hasn't already made a Marvel film (and Warner Bros but that's because they own DC Comics). So Marvel is going to be navigating a real minefield. This is where we get into the real meat of why Disney plans to plunk down four billion dollars for a comic book company. They're thinking entirely long term. They have to because there isn't all that much they can do with Marvel right now. What's going to happen is that Marvel will honor their many contracts and when they eventually expire Disney will assume those rights. The problem arises when it's written into the contracts that the studio will retain indefinite rights so long as they continue to produce new movies. Hence Fox has announced they're going to reboot the Fantastic Four franchise. Fox can produce endless movies of Fantastic Four, X-Men and Daredevil into the ground just to keep them away from Disney. This is all stuff Disney-Marvel is going to have to deal with down the road. That doesn't mean Again this is very much a long term plan. I'll probably be in my 40s before I see the full impact of Disney owned Marvel. In the meantime Disney can exploit some of Marvel's lesser known properties. How about a live action Power Pack sitcom on the Disney Channel? If they're taking requests than I want to see a Pixar produced Devil Dinosaur movie. What does this mean for the TV shows? As with movies, Marvel has no loyalties when it came to TV networks. They have multiple shows on Nicktoons Network and Superhero Squad is coming to Cartoon Network. Prior to the buy out the only connection between Disney and Marvel is that Disney has the rights to nearly all of Marvel's classic animated series. For years those shows have been regularly airing on Toon Disney and now on Disney XD. The one current Marvel show airing on Disney XD is The Spectacular Spider-Man. In fact what is possibly the first big post-Disney news concerns The Spectacular Spider-Man. ICV2 reports that Sony has relinquished their righs to produce TV shows based on Spider-Man. Sony did this "in exchange for a concession on the Spider-Man live action features". What that means exactly I don't know. I am glad that Marvel has control of Spider-Man for TV again. This means he can finally guest star on the shows of other Marvel characters and vice-versa. Plus as good as The Spectacular Spider-Man is, it doesn't make up for the mess that was Sony's CGI Spider-Man toon that aired on MTV. So now the fate of Spectacular Spider-Man is in Marvel's hands. The fact that it airs on a network controlled by their parent network gives it a much better chance at being renewed. Still it's probably more likely it will be canceled in favor of a new Spidey series. I suspect the same will be true for Wolverine and the X-Men and the other current Marvel cartoons. They won't be canceled right away but they won't produce any more episodes than have already been ordered. Just as with the movies, they'll honor their contracts then choose not to renew them and let Disney take over. The difference is it's going to happen with the TV shows a lot sooner and with less hassle than it will with the movies. There's still a lot more that will be affected by this deal but I think I've covered enough territory for now.