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Monday, August 31, 2009


Disney's buying Marvel.

My first thought was to wonder how this effects the theme parks in Orlando. Universal is Walt Disney World's biggest competition, and they have an entire section of their Islands of Adventure park modeled on the Marvel characters. Whatever deal they made with Marvel would almost certainly prevent Disney from competing with the same characters, so Disney's in a weird position where they can't use (what will be) their own characters in theme parks until that deal expires. Or so I imagine; I'm sure what those lawyers are doing is actually really complicated.

There are similar issues all over the place: Disney's licensed their brands to BOOM Studios, who are doing a good job with those comics. Sony has the rights to Spider-Man movies. Fox has the rights to X-Men movies. I'm really curious to see how they'll wiggle their way out of these prior commitments.

But even without all that, this is a shrewd move. The Avengers movies will appeal to the same kind of audience as Pirates of the Caribbean, the kind of audience that gets them huge amounts of cash. And it would help, in making those movies, to call on all the expertise Disney has. The marketing money alone that Disney will get from this will pay off the outrageous price (4 billion dollars) they're paying. They've got more licenses for Disney Interactive to work with. They've got total control over the Marvel cartoons which they're already using on TV. Plus, they can make big-screen animated movies based on characters like Captain America and Hulk... they're going to be getting money off this for centuries. And with the way Marvel Studios seems like they're just about to take over the world with their crazy plans, this is the perfect time to buy.

A lot of the comics community is concerned about Disney meddling in the actual Marvel comics, but I think they're safe for now. Marvel's the market leader. Under the current management the business has done well (by comics standards), so Disney would have to be really stupid to try to mess it up. When DC starts overtaking Marvel, that's when the bosses will step in. But as long as Marvel's on top, it's good business to leave them alone. Disney's comparing this arrangement to Pixar (in that they haven't messed with them), and I'm inclined to trust them. What I do expect to see is greater coordination between the comics and the TV cartoons, as in, there will be some cartoons set in the current Marvel continuity. If TV-watching kids see a crossover with crazy events that they can only read about in the comics, that gets a lot of them to jump onboard. That's an obvious enough idea that I'm sure Disney's come up with it already. It'll make editing Marvel much more complicated, but I don't see that it's at all harmful. Crossovers with Disney characters are going to happen (Anything for a buck, right?), I'm sure of that, but it's not going to happen often. It's a gimmick, not a long-term plan.

I think the most important thing about this news is that it guarantees more readers of Marvel Comics. Disney can market anything. Superhero comics have been a niche for a very long time, but they're now in the public eye (thanks to the movies) and I don't know who could possibly take advantage of that better than Disney. So I'm pretty hopeful about this whole thing.

Also, I'm very curious to see how Marvel deals with Uncle Scrooge.



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