Tuesday, 1 September 2009


So The Walt Disney Company buys Marvel Entertainment in a stock and cash transaction for approximately $4 billion. Marvel, of course, is the home of some of the most prestigious and profitable comic book characters such as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men or Iron Man.

Well, all things considered the news that Marvel is bought by bigger is not really a surprise. The continuing expansion of the comic book publisher, licensor and movie studio is built mostly on movies these days, the super hero genre being Hollywoodland's ultimate cash cow (is there a cow super hero, by the way?) As your humble servant wrote in a comment on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily (1), Marvel is arrived at a point where some kids believe comic books are licensed products of the movies adapted from Marvel's portfolio of characters. And movies are expensive to produce and to market, especially super hero blockbusters with all their fx fest.

Then what? Warner Brothers is the happy owner of DC Comics (Batman, Superman, The Justice League and so many others...) Remain Twentieth Century Fox and Disney, that will be the mouse. The synergy is obvious: « This transaction combines Marvel's strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney's creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories » explains Robert Iger, President and CEO of Disney.

The motives of Disney are brilliantly analysed by our Canadian friend Furious D on his blog: they need more than Pixar, the Dreamworks deal and tween magnets for their own sake and they are going back to the development strategy from the Michael Eisner era (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2009/08/hollywood-babble-on-on-360-disney.html). And they take a big piece of the sup hero Hollywood cake. For the complete saga of the spider-eating mouse, read Nikki Finke's DHD, as Nikki wrote yesterday no less than 11 updates (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/shocker-disney-buying-marvel/) about the facts and the impact of the news on existing deals on current Marvel movie franchises and theme park licensing.

« Did Disney overpay for Marvel? » asks Nikki (see her 6th Update). Strictly on paper maybe, but judging by my nephews' interest about everything beginning by "Spider" and finishing by "Man" Iger's move is definitely smart. Now Disney catches categories which would die rather than watching High School Musical 3 and were not attracted by the latest animated entries of the corporation, even when devised by Pixar. « Just look at Spider-Man and Iron Man films. This is a great fit. But we obviously know Disney has a lot of products that are more girl-skewed than boy. And we'd like the opportunity to go after boys more aggressively » said Robert Iger - who must know my nephews - to CNBC.

Indeed Furious D is right when he writes: « Disney's clout could get the company [Marvel] back in the mass-market publishing business again, but, and this is a Kirstie Alley size but, I don't think they're interested in doing that ». It's all about celluloid, not paper: Iron Man sequels, Captain America, The Avengers, Thor, and many more were in the pipeline before the Disney/Marvel deal. Your servant is curious to see how these last three will fare beyond their domestic territory, particularly Thor and Cap. And I don't do geek but (oops, sorry Nikki) The Hoff made a better Nick Fury than Samuel L. Jackson.

The most interesting in the acquisition of Marvel by Disney is that Disney is shopping. « Because everyone knows that Eisner, when he ran Disney, had to be pushed kicking and screaming to make acquisitions like ABC. (Believing that Disney did best when it grew its businesses organically.) But Iger, first with Pixar, and now Marvel, is showing himself to be the boldest Big Media CEO » writes Nikki Finke (2). What's next for Disney? Humble tip to Mr Iger: try ITV, they have all these wonderful Supermarionation shows (Stingray, Thunderbirds, etc) Imagine: The Jonas Brothers in a Stingray live-action movie, Demi Lovato singing the Captain Scarlet theme song... The synergies are infinite.

Update [16.26 - French Time]: Nikki Finke writes about the scope of the synergy with Marvel (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/why-disney-has-to-wait-for-marvel-synergy/) and investigates the relationships between Disney and Universal regarding theme parks after the deal (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/universal-vs-disney-over-marvel-characters/).

Update 2 [17.00 - French Time]: An interesting piece by Steven Zeitchik for Risky Biz (http://www.riskybusinessblog.com/2009/08/disney-acquiring-marvel-avengers-iron-man.html). In the perspective of Nikki's articles and this one it is clear that an active if not agressive worldwide relaunch of Marvel Entertainment's publishing branch would contribute to help Disney to get a faster return on investment.

Update 3: Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes of Disney-Marvel deal on DHD (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/behind-the-scenes-of-disney-marvel-deal/). Nikki Finke reminds me this line of Perry White in Superman II: « Relax; if I know Lois Lane, she'll not only come back with a Pulitzer Prize story, but a one-on-one interview with the hydrogen bomb titled "What Makes Me Tick" ». But Supe is a DC property.

(1) http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/marvel-beats-street-in-quiet-2nd-quarter/
(2) Those interested by the period that shaped the modern Disney, with the rise of Michael Eisner, may try to find a fascinating book by John Taylor called Storming the Magic Kingdom: Wall Street, the Raiders and the Battle for Disney (Ballantine Books, 1988). One of the 15 books always on my desk.

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