Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Make Mine Mickey

Make Mine Mickey

All weekend long I've been working on a future article reminding your why you should hate Disney. But then like Tina Turner, love them anyway after they beat you, news broke today that in a very interesting and strange turn of events, Disney is buying Marvel Comics.
An investor conference call will take place at approximately 10:15 a.m. EDT / 7:15 a.m. PDT August 31, 2009. Details for the call are listed in the release.

Building on its strategy of delivering quality branded content to people around the world, The Walt Disney Company (DIS 26.47, -0.37, -1.38%) has agreed to acquire Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (MVL 48.90, +10.25, +26.52%) in a stock and cash transaction, the companies announced today.
So what does this mean? Let's take a look at the break down:

+Marvel animation projects will have access to better sweatshops.
-Slave Labor Graphics is screwed.
+Marvel projects, after contractual obligations, will "go home" to the Disney Interactive Studios banner.

I've seen a couple of releases from Marvel and Disney. Disney intends to take the same approach to Marvel as they have to Pixar: As far as Disney's concerned, Marvel knows how to manage their properties, and there is no reason to change that. As long as Marvel remains profitable, Disney will let them do their thing.

This means that everything Marvel does now will continue to happen. The only change we can expect to see from their movie plans will be Disney distribution of movies that are not Iron Man, i.e. Thor, Captain America and The Avengers. This also likely means we'll see more animated Marvel material, taking advantage of the vast resources and experience Disney has when it comes to animation.

Additionally, when Marvel and Pixar people were put in the same room, they "got very excited very quickly"
He called the Marvel integration an opportunity similar to the $7 billion acquisition of Pixar a few years ago, saying the combined assets will be more valuable than its separate parts. And Iger pointed to the global and cross-platform appeal of Marvel's characters as key opportunities in his second-biggest acquisition at the Mouse House that are even more important in "a world of increasing consumer choice."

Iger said though that longer-term Disney wants to be the exclusive distributor of Marvel films. While the company respects and will honor Marvel's third-party licensing deals with Paramount, Fox and Sony, "it clearly would be in our best interest if we ended up as the sole distributor," he said. "When you distribute your own films, the opportunity is even better."

The Paramount deal, for example, contemplates another five more pictures and will then be reviewed, said Disney CFO Tom Staggs.

Asked about potential Pixar-Marvel synergies, Iger said Disney executives have had some conversations internally, and Pixar creative guru John Lasseter has met with Marvel folks as well. "The group got pretty excited pretty fast," Iger said, adding he expects exciting collaboration opportunities. "Sparks will fly," he said.

Staggs said the Marvel deal will dilute Disney's earnings in the mid single digit range in fiscal year 2010. He projected it should add to earnings by fiscal 2012.

Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce called the deal a "good move" for Disney, even though it "should put some near-term risk arbitration pressure on it."

He pointed out that the Pixar acquisition a few years ago worked out well for Disney under Iger's leadership.

"Disney already knows how to monetize characters across multiple platforms, and now it has 5,000 (Marvel) characters to apply its success to," Joyce said. "It helps give Disney a new, rational area to expand its exposure to younger audiences, especially boys, in which Disney had lost some balance in recent years." Iger said more Marvel content will, for example, be seen on the boys-centric Disney XD channel

This is Disney finally reacting to Warner Brothers since WB owns DC. But unlike Warner, Disney may actually be able to help and market Marvel's product and films in a positive manner. It hasn't affected the stories all that much. Yeah, Wonder Woman was brought back to print because they were trying to get a movie going. But it really comes down to Comic books being just places to farm out characters for movies. After Dark Knight made more money than every comic book ever sold it's pretty obvious that if you want to really rake in the cash you need to hop on that comic book character gravy train.

But that's where the issue comes up. Marvel doesn't have the license for all their films. About 10 years ago they suffered from heavy losses and had to sell off a lot of their film and television license rights away. This is how Fox got X-men and Fantastic Four and Sony got Spider-man. Two film franchises that Marvel, now back organized properly would want back. This is where Disney comes in. Disney has the money, the legal team, and the deal-making abilities to make bringing those titles back to one fold a reality. They'll likely be able to finesse deals Marvel never could have on their own, whether it's a co-production/profit sharing model or just getting the properties back to Marvel outright.

For those of you worried that Disney will want to censor or water down some of the more graphic of titles. Like the great Hitchhiker's book says.. Don't Panic! Disney hasn't been anything resembling a squeaky-clean company for probably decades. Disney owns Miramax, Touchstone, Dreamworks and Hollywood Pictures, none of which are PG-rated family entertainment companies. Lets look at some other films that Disney has dealt with recently:

The Queen
No Country For Old Men
The Life Aquatic
The Prestige
Sin City

Three from Miramax, two from Touchstone. Look, Disney is perfectly capable of not getting involved. They do it all the time. There will be some things, this time, where they will get involved, since the Marvel brand is strong amongst kids. We probably will see some analogue of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command with Marvel characters. But just as that didn't lead to Disney actually forcing Pixar to make a movie of it, so there will be no real change to Marvel. Additionally, when Marvel and Pixar people were put in the same room, they "got very excited very quickly"

Seems like a match made in heaven to me, as there is only one company as good as Marvel at whoring out their characters to be licensed on toothbrushes, underwear, stickers, magnets, bedding, bicycles, toiletries, etc. Just think of the crossover possibilities of making my dream of a future Kingdom Hearts game where Wolverine teams up with Goofy and Donald to fight Hopper from A Bug's Life closer to reality.
I can show you the worrllldd... and then my cosmic master shall devour it.

Aladdin/Silver Surfer - Summer 2010

Now the bigger question.. What will this mean for the Universal Studios Island of Adventure rides that are using Marvel characters for it's theme parks? Having been there I can tell you it's fun as hell to ride the Hulk ride. The spider-man one was pretty cool in the Back to the Future sense. Even one had Doctor Doom! Well, they're safe... for now.

You may have seen reports this morning that Disney intends to acquire Marvel Entertainment. Naturally, Team Members and guests may wonder how this will impact Islands of Adventure. Marvel Super Hero Island and the Marvel characters are a beloved and important part of the Universal Orlando experience and will remain so. Our guests are still going to be able to meet Spider-Man and all our other Marvel characters. We believe our agreement with Marvel stands and that the Disney/Marvel deal will have no impact on our guest experience.
In the end, this is a smart investment for both companies. Movies like Iron Man and the intended Thor/Cap/Avengers cost a LOT to make and Marvel took huge risk starting their own entertainment company that hasn't been entirely as smooth as one would expect.

There should always be an excuse to post this picture

Take the example of the change from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle as War Machine. There was some sort of budget fuckup on the first movie, Howard wound up being the highest paid actor in the film, despite playing a supporting role. When casting came up for Iron Man 2, Marvel decided to correct this, and offered him a salary that matched the role he would be playing, i.e. not more than the star of the damned movie. Howard, for some reason, thought it was a good idea to dig his heels in and demand the same salary. Marvel said "Yeah, no." and got Don Cheadle.

So this deal provides Marvel with the moeny that licensing and book sales can't bring them. The best kind of money... Disney Dollars! Marvel gets the funding they need, Disney gets a whole slew of proven franchises, fans get to enjoy the work that Marvel does on their own instead of dealing with Fox or Paramount. They still get to run Marvel comics like they have as it generates profits and don't worry about the ICON and MAX series. They will still be around. I just can't wait to get my Disney autograph book signed by Frank Castle near sleeping Beauties Castle.

No comments: