Disney buys Marvel — Analysis

Spideymouse SmQuick thoughts off the top of my head:

§ Disney has always wanted strong boys properties. They rule the pink world with their princesses, but have had a historic weakness with older boys that they’ve tried to bridge. This is obviously a slam dunk for that.

§ Marvel has been rumored to be for sales for years and years, and Disney was a frequently mentioned potential buyer for the reason cited above. With Marvel making a ton of money and successfully launching their movie studio — and September the usual time for stock plunges, and the market still uncertain, there was never a better time than now.

§ After some tentative starts, Disney had become more enamored of the comics/graphic novel medium of late, including not only their licensing deals with Boom! for kids comics, and Ahmet Zappa’s Kingdom Comics line, but their own in-house comics division. However, the real gem at Marvel was the licensing.

§ Pure speculation: Although Disney has become a lot looser in recent time, launching non-character branded businesses like Hyperion and ESPN, their handling of licensed characters is still pretty traditional — and hugely hugely successful. Although Marvel had risen quickly to become the fourth largest brand worldwide, with $5.7 billion, they are dwarfed by the #1 Company, Disney, which logged $30 billion in licensing revenues.

§ UPDATE: Johanna Draper Calrson offers thoughts on the conference call.

We’ll keep updating this post with reactions as the biggest comics story of, well, the century ripples across the industry.

Comments

  1. not mike carlin says:

    My question is whether this will look like Time-Warner’s management of DC or a be more heavy-handed control situation.

  2. Walt Disney. Jim Henson. Stan Lee.

    Three creative entrepreneurial geniuses, each in a different medium, all now part of the same company.

    (Yes, I know there are many other creative individuals who contributed to the success of those named above. Ub Iwerks, Frank Oz, Jack Kirby…)

  3. As long as Hanna Montana doesn’t join The Avengers this acquisition is fine with me.

  4. Kind of puts the planned Disney Convention (http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/15663.html) in an interesting light…

  5. P. Darcy says:

    What happens to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure?

  6. P. Darcy says:

    What happens to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure?

  7. I’m sure the Marvel portion of Islands of Adventure will be leaving Universal Studios sooner rather than later. Not imminently, but I’d be surprised if it was still operating there by late 2010.

    “…but (Disney) have had a historic weakness with older boys that they’ve tried to bridge.”

    Older Boys = 30 to 45 year-old men.

  8. Charles Knight says:

    “Older Boys = 30 to 45 year-old men. ”

    You are thinking about the comics, I think Disney is thinking about the lunch boxes, the toys, the films, the hats, the sleeping bags, the drinking cups etc etc.

  9. A HUGE day for American comics. Though we may all look nostalgically at the seat-of-the-pants Bullpen days with Stan and Jack and Marvel as the gutsy underdog, those days are gone: comics are $3.99 and they just cancelled Captain Britain.

    There are Disney comics mags at check-out counters at supermarkets and Wal-Mart. And will there now be comics in Disney stores at the mall? Marvel just got officially mainstreamed. And if you love comics in 2009, that’s a very good thing, even if it hurts a tiny bit to see things change. Congrats Marvel — you earned it.

    And who would have EVER guessed that IRON MAN would be the character that would end up tipping the deal? wow.

    -Brad, Marvel Zombie since ’78

  10. Think of the possiblities!

    Aeril and Namor

    Beauty and Hank McCoy

  11. Synsidar says:

    Two reasons for corporate mergers have traditionally been “synergy” and “diversification.” A company with a predictably cyclical earnings pattern will acquire a company that doesn’t have cyclical earnings, or has a different pattern, for greater overall financial stability. In the case of Marvel, comics don’t seem to be a major reason for the deal, and there’s no guarantee of success for Marvel’s future superhero films, although analysts say Disney likes the male audience for Marvel’s films. On MSNBC, there’s a video of Disney CEO Iger’s statement re the deal, along with some AP analysis. Early reports suggest Disney sees value in Marvel’s library of characters and, as Heidi mentioned, growth in licensing revenue. Disney’s handling of R-rated films suggests that, if Marvel’s MAX comics aren’t eliminated, Disney will take steps to ensure that such comics have no effect on the Disney brand. For the corporate-minded fans, a preview of Disney’s 3Q earnings, versus Disney’s actual 3Q earnings.

    SRS

  12. Marvel’s comic business will probably remain unchanged, although I suspect Joe Quasada could come under fire/be replaced if Disney’s top brass thinks the comics are portraying valuable properties in ways that hurt their value (e.g., the way Marvel’s current top movie moneymaker, Iron Man, was treated in “Civil War”). Of course, it’s not as if Time Warner seems particularly worried about the sorry state of many of DC’s characters, but then maybe that’s why Warner Bros. can’t get a non-Batman movie franchise off the ground.

    But on the comics side of this deal, the only thing I’d bet on is Marvel starting something similar to DC’s kid-oriented line, combining kid-friendly versions of Marvel’s characters with traditional Disney properties.

  13. Wraith says:

    I have been saying for several years (both on and off line) that Disney should buy Marvel, so I’m happy to see this happen.

    Heck, I had a feeling this was going to happen once it was announced that Disney inked a deal with Stan Lee to create new superheroes for Disney. This was a simple case of “if you can’t beat them, buy them”.

  14. Re: Universal Studios

    Given the amount of money required to build an attraction like the Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure, I’m sure Universal and Marvel signed a long-term agreement.

    Even if Universal were to lose the Marvel Super Hero Island, they plan to open a Harry Potter “island” in 2010. Six Flags does license Warner Bros. properties, but Universal could easily reach a deal with DC. (They have an international chain of amusement parks, and are more financially sound than Six Flags.)

  15. Alexa says:

    @Synsidar- That “male audience” thing is pretty bullshit though– it’s been pretty well established that half the audience for Iron Man was female.

    I don’t know, I could see this going so well (especially in terms of broadening distribution and getting actual comics into kid’s hands) but it probably won’t.

  16. Wraith says:

    As for whether or not Disney will make Marvel’s comics more “kid/family/all ages friendly” there are 2 possible directions they might go with this.

    1. They leave well enough alone and let Marvel continue to aim their comics at a small and rapidly shrinking adult readership. The “adult” content that they have allowed in the GARGOYLES and GARGOYLES:BAD GUYS comics (in terms of language and violence) is proof that Disney isn’t all that concern about the “adult” content in comics featuring characters that they own.

    2. They could simply tell Marvel to return to the pre Quesada/Jemas way of all ages Marvel comics. In other words, no on panel blood and gory graphic violence,no strong sexual innuendos,and no longer allowing cuss words in their books (like bastard,ass,bitch,and goddamn).

  17. The first (and unfortunate) thing I think in my mind is “bye-bye” Boom Studios.

  18. Well, now I know why Quesada had to take off early from his Marvel panel on Sunday in Toronto.

    Quesada mentioned during the panel that he couldn’t draw a 4 issue mini he really wanted to because of the amount of work he had to do. He said it had been crazy for the last couple of months, specifically mentioning he’d been made EIC of Marvel Animation dept.

  19. That’s what I was wondering — has Boom released a statement yet?

  20. Robert Morales says:

    What’s really interesting here is how this will ultimately impact Marvel’s dealings with Diamond, and the residual effect that will have on the direct market as a whole. Good times!

  21. mark coale says:

    I’d say ESPN was huge before the mouse bought them.

    But they certainly took them to new heights/depths depending on your perspective.

  22. Boom and Disney presumably have a contract of some finite term, which will probably run its course. When it comes close to expiration, Disney will presumably look at the situation, consider whether they can make more money (or not) by taking it in-house, and act accordingly.

  23. I would love it if the purchase of the character library was itemized:
    “Daddy Longlegs – $117.53″

  24. Ken Raining says:

    Well, at least Marvel can no longer pretend to be the “little guys” next to the giant-conglomerate owned DC. And I knew I shoulda bought Marvel stock….

    Does this mean that Marvel could publish the Rocketeer?

  25. WOW.

    My first thought was: PIXAR MARVEL MOVIES!!! Can’t wait to see what Lasseter and Co. could come up with in this new corporate synergy…

    I’ll wait for that Incredibles/FF crossover.

  26. Sean D says:

    “I’d say ESPN was huge before the mouse bought them.

    But they certainly took them to new heights/depths depending on your perspective”

    ESPN was growing when Disney merged with ABC/Capital Cities (with ESPN 2 launching two years before the merger), but the real marketing push really kicked in after with the brand being extended into clothing, ESPN the magazine, the expansion of ESPN Radio into daily programming and the ESPNZone resturants which all came after being integrated into the Disney system.

    This has the potential to do great things for Marvel as a company in the long term. Person to person though, should be interesting.

  27. Trocar Slush Weasel says:

    The important thing here will be if Disney fires Quesada and forces the editors to focus on more traditional comic stories and avoids stories that could be considered “controversial” like a gay Rawhide Kid or allegories between anti-American sentiments and Ultimates 2, etc.

    Mark Miller and Brian Bendis probably want to start updating their resumes.

    Also, does Alan Moore hate Disney? This will affect the Miracleman negotiations with Moore if he does.

  28. Having no wish to be a Disney shareholder, I just sold my Marvel stock. I can’t complain though as an 84% profit is a great consolation prize.

  29. Disney has petabytes of data regarding comicbook sales from around the world. They have tried publishing traditional periodical comics in the U.S. With the new graphic novel business model, they are trying to re-introduce old concepts via Kingdom Comics. Add the terabytes of book publishing data, and Disney knows how stuff sells.

    Disney selling comics in the Disney Stores? Unlikely. Periodical comics are hard to merchandise in a mixed retail store like Disney. When they published Disney Comics in the 1990s, they offered a special collector’s box of the first issues. Disney could (does?) sell graphic novels with the other books they offer in the stores. Could Disney set up a special “Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories” store at Disneyland, offering comics and other collectibles? Sure. Could Disney create a superhero themed restaurant in their parks, with a possible expansion to other tourist locales such as Times Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, complete with gift shop? Definitely.

    Both Pixar and Disney animation deal with original concepts (no need to pay royalties). Disney live action… sure, why not? PG-13 is nothing new for Disney Pictures (Pirates of the Caribbean).

    Disney Publishing Worldwide will probably oversee Marvel. Info here:
    https://enterpriseportal.disney.com/gopublish/sitemedia/dcp/Home/Our%20Businesses/us_lob_dpw_fact_sheet_021009.pdf

    “The next goal for DPW Global Magazines will be to bring the comics into the digital space, creating new revenue streams in the long term.”

  30. Trocar Slush Weasel says:

    Other thoughts:

    - Frank Cho and J. Scott Campbell. Disney probably won’t be in favor of the sweetheart deals these two guys got to be solely cover artists. Frank may FINALLY be forced to return full time to Liberty Meadows while Campbell may have to knuckle down and start doing monthly work again.

    - Marvel Islands of Adventure: Universal Theme Parks is already on the brink of bankruptcy as they try to negotiate a massive cash buyout they owe Steven Spielburg. If Disney pulls the Marvel properties, they’ll take a huge hit.

    - Axel Alonso and Steve Wacker: both are viewed as Quesada toadies. If Joe is shown the door, neither guy may lost long. Both also have the reputation of being “butt kissers” towards big name talent, Disney may frown on that type of creative freedom.

    - Jean Grey and Kitty Pryde: both are currently “dead” and both are considered big name properties due to their exposure in the X-Men movies and Ellen Page’s post-Juno stardom. The resurrections of both will probably be fast-tracked as Disney will undoubtedly try to get Ellen Page to appear in a Kitty Pryde solo-movie as we get female-oriented superhero movies.

    - Coddling creators: People who have left ABC and ESPN are routinely critical of how they were treated. It is unlikely that a Kevin Smith or Alan Heinberg would be allowed to be YEARS late on turning in work as Disney will probaby order editors to start demanding work be turned in on time. As an example, the Kubert brothers could be bluntly told to choose between teaching at their father’s school full-time or working for Marvel full-time, no more doing both.

  31. “Also, does Alan Moore hate Disney?”

    If you’re out to make a profit, chances are, Alan Moore hates you.

  32. “-Coddling creators: People who have left ABC and ESPN are routinely critical of how they were treated. It is unlikely that a Kevin Smith or Alan Heinberg would be allowed to be YEARS late on turning in work as Disney will probaby order editors to start demanding work be turned in on time. As an example, the Kubert brothers could be bluntly told to choose between teaching at their father’s school full-time or working for Marvel full-time, no more doing both.”

    Interesting. I haven’t seen the work ethic angle explored, and you bring up some very interesting scenarios. You’re probably right that some of the ridiculously indulgent (i.e. “money-losing”) practices of the past several years will be tightened up if not downright eliminated…which won’t make the pampered pros happy, but will definitely get product out the door faster…a win in the fan column.

  33. What the Disney/Marvel deal signifies is multi-faceted. Marvel publishing will now have to meet deadlines; there will be more kid-friendly books for the under 12 set; All Ages, as a category description, will finally go away. There are no All Ages buyers in the traditional book world and Disney knows this. As for the demise of Boom! Studios? I seriously doubt that. Disney was pretty intent on selecting Boom for some key projects. Good times for Boom! Interesting times for the Marvel Universe…

  34. Synsidar says:

    From the financial/analysis standpoint, there’s plenty to be excited about, since Disney can be more successful at licensing and managing Marvel’s characters than Marvel itself has been. From the consuming standpoint, though, I don’t see anything to be excited about. What could collaborations between Marvel and Pixar produce that would be superior to a Pixar-only product? Does anyone think that DC’s LOONEY TUNES comic books are superior to or even comparable to the old WB cartoons? Over the next several years, this might turn out to be more about Disney valuing “Marvel” as a brand that gives them access to male demographics than it is about valuing Marvel’s creative talent.

    SRS

  35. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I think it would be fun if in the fast-tracked Ellen Page Kitty Pryde solo movie she did furious battle with the deranged corporate executive that thought it was a good idea to fast-track an Ellen Page Kitty Pryde solo movie.

  36. Still looking at numbers from when Marvel published Disney comics in the mid-1990s…

    http://blog.comichron.com/2009/08/disney-buys-marvel-few-historical-notes.html

    …the subscription numbers for Disney Comic Hits were astonishing, nearly half of ALL sales and almost five times direct market numbers. They were doing a lot of crossover work with mailing lists, as I recall — if that potential continues to exist, that could be an interesting part of the publishing picture.

  37. Synsidar says:

    Commentary from David Hinckley of the New York Daily News:

    But Marvel has always stood for something else. Where the Disney characters have over some 80 years been the comic establishment, the Marvel folks have been the outsiders, the round pegs in a world of square holes, the spider webs in a world of brooms.

    To see them ushered inside the Disney tent, no matter how handsomely they’re compensated, stirs what Bob Dylan once called “a restless hungry feeling that don’t mean no one no good.” [. . .]

    But still, there’s this little voice — it sounds a little like Tinker Bell, come to think of it — that says big corporations with valuable, well-established images eventually tend to make all parts of their empire conform to that image.

    That at the very least they eventually reshape all parts of the empire to fit the mothership’s “corporate management style.”

    It’s not that the X-Men or the Hulk will suddenly sprout mouse ears. The dangers are more subtle — maybe a little shift in emphasis toward marketing, a little less creative experimentation, a little less of the irreverence that made Marvel worth $4 billion in the first place. [. . .]

    The simple point, then, is that we don’t only have room for different styles and approaches, we need them.

    If everything is gathered under one umbrella, the only thing that gets better is the corporate bottom line. What we don’t need is the comic/animation world’s version of Microsoft.

  38. RE: All Ages Comics

    Disney movies (the good ones, at least) are all ages. I, a 40-year-old male, former Marvel Zombie, enjoy the BOOM! Kids titles (especially The Muppet Show), as well as Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, Spider-Man Family, Franklin Richards, Wizard of Oz…

    The “all ages” comics that Marvel publishes… yeah, they really are not. (Remember the “cougar” cover of Spider-Man which also featured the Obama story?)

    If Disney comics weren’t all ages, they would not be as popular in Europe. It is not uncommon for parents to read the Disney comics they bought for their children. Don Rosa and many other talented artists do a great job of making the stories interesting on a variety of levels.

    Can Spider-Man be serious and still be all-ages? Certainly. “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” is the best example. The non-code HEW issues are another.

    As for comparing comics and animated cartoons: comics are not movies. Storytelling techniques are different, yet each can retain the spirit of the characters. (Again, I recommend the Muppet Show comic. No guest stars, but still a great read.)

  39. For the sake of brevity, TM1 had the best comment matching my feelings upon waking today (i own no stock though)

    I wonder what this will mean for both the Anaheim Con and SDCC in 2010?…

  40. Tom Spurgeon, you scamp!

  41. I think this is good news.

    If anyone at Disney / Marvel would like to hire me I’m available in 2010.

  42. Fast-tracking isn’t always bad.

    The dealmakers who turned out the first Beatles movie probably had no ideals of making anything but a quick buck off a new singing sensation while it lasted.

    But the movie turned out to be pretty damn good anyway.

    I’d much rather see a Shadowcat movie than another go-round for Wolverine.

  43. Synsidar says:

    Over at the Wall Street Journal, Martin Peers questions the value that Disney will realize from owning Marvel:

    On the face of it, Marvel should be an ideal fit for Disney, with its wide array of assets — film studio, theme parks, cable channels and consumer product business — and long experience exploiting characters. But investors may want to ask what return on investment Disney hopes to achieve from the $4 billion it is paying for Marvel.

    After all, anyone asking that question about Disney’s $7.4 billion purchase of Pixar in 2006 can’t easily get an answer. Not all Pixar movies released since then, such as Ratatouille and Wall-E, have matched the success of earlier movies, although in some cases they’ve had a greater impact in consumer products. [. . .]

    Instead the argument rests on the benefits Disney can draw from squeezing more value from the roster of characters on Marvel’s books. Those include Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Incredible Hulk, as well as thousands of lesser-known figures.

    The problem is Disney’s ability to take control of some of the best-known characters quickly is very limited. Many are already licensed to other companies for use in film, television, DVD animated features, theme parks, publications, and even promotions for other companies.

  44. Isn’t Steve Jobs a major stakeholder in Disney? Is so couldn’t we expect to see more digital comics available via iTunes for the iPhone / iTouch?

    Given that a blockbuster comic nowadays sells just over 100k, imagine how much market penetration and new customer base they would get with being able to put everything on iTunes.

  45. Synsidar says:

    Isn’t Steve Jobs a major stakeholder in Disney?

    Yes, as of June 2009, Jobs had the largest individual stake in Disney, at 7.4 percent. His future health could influence what happens to that stake.

    SRS

  46. I was disappointed to hear Disney analysts characterize this purchase as properties which appeal to boys.

    After all the efforts to recognize that girls & women read comics too, this seems like a huge step backwards.

  47. Alan Coil says:

    Commentary from David Hinckley of the New York Daily News:

    “But Marvel has always stood for something else. Where the Disney characters have over some 80 years been the comic establishment, the Marvel folks have been the outsiders, the round pegs in a world of square holes, the spider webs in a world of brooms.”

    Oh, equine manure! Marvel has been the juggernaut of the comics world for most of the last 4 decades. Somebody get this guy a cure for over-written melodrama.

  48. Disney buying Marvel could only mean one thing. Miley Cyrus staring in a Dazzler movie.

  49. The Beat says:

    I’d get behind that Dazzler movie!

  50. Rafael Kayanan says:

    Pixar take on Kirby Fantastic Four! No Marvel live action film has been able to express Kirby’s form language on the big screen. How about: A Disney ride where you sit in the Fantasti-Car as it zips thru the Neg Zone escaping the clutches of Annihilus, trail the Silver Surfer around a giant five story tall Galactus building his machine on top of the Baxter Building, into the realm of the Inhumans, Namor leaping out the waters of the Atlantic and back into the depths of the city to battle the Mole Man. Kinda like how Disney built that cool Sesame Street and…and… what?

  51. I am rather surprised at the number of people jumping to “Quesada getting fired.” Yeah, people though Didio was on the outs, what, last year? Look how that turned out.

    I think this “Joe gets fired” is more wishful thinking of people who hate the guy than people looking at the reality. You do not spend four billion if you think the top brass is doing it wrong. I would suspect that for awhile things will run pretty much the same. Disney produces plenty of family “unfriendly” film and television. I see no reason to assume they are going to be different with Marvel.

  52. “[Disney] rule the pink world with their princesses, but have had a historic weakness with older boys that they’ve tried to bridge…”

    Outside the United States, Mickey and Donald (and Uncle Scrooge) are the strong brand for older boys.
    Their domestic devolution into a preschool brand is arguably the outstanding legacy of the pre-Eisner era at Disney, though more recent regimes have unfortunately done very little to change the status quo—at this point, perhaps because most current staff grew up at a time when the brand had already been kiddiefied.

  53. Kameran says:

    I like a lot of disney movies. I am a Die hard Marvel fan. I think either you of two things will happen either we will see more Marvel Cartoons on Disney XD or we will see Marvel ruined with a playhouse disney Spiderman. Please Disney DO NOT RUIN MARVEL

  54. Disney says:

    “Please Disney DO NOT RUIN MARVEL.”

    Well, okay. Because you said please.

  55. Pablo Escobar says:

    I hope Disney doesn’t mess around too much with Marvel, like in this funny parody of the situation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrAwJzda69I

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] Marvel just bought Disney. I am still on deadline so I don’t have much to add, but after this experience, I am laughing my fool head off. Lots of news at The Beat. And more here. Arlene Harris shared her thoughts. [...]

  2. [...] Update: Further analysis and discussion at Comics Worth Reading, The Beat, Robot 6 and Comics Should Be Good. And it looks like Bleeding Cool is barely holding up under the strain of the buzz. [...]

  3. [...] Ich bin sehr gespannt, was die Tage noch alles passiert. Für alle die sich nun Fragen, was Disney mit der Übernahme wohl bezwecken will, ein paar nette Impressionen von Heidi MacDonald (The Beat): Quick thoughts off the top of my head: [...]

  4. [...] THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Disney buys Marvel — Analysis [...]

  5. [...] Following up on yesterday’s news that Disney would be purchasing Marvel Entertainment: Here’s the link to Disney’s webcast announcing the deal, and here’s Tom Spurgeon’s summary of and commentary on same; ICv2.com has extensive commentary (one, two and three), as do Heidi MacDonald and Rich Johnston; Nick Nadel offers a quick history of Marvel corporate ownership; and I’m linking to Warren Ellis for the hell of it. [...]

  6. [...] 62 Disney buys Marvel — Analysis [...]

  7. [...] understanding why Disney was hot for Marvel, even with movie deals in place, is what Heidi mentions here in her first bullet/section [...]

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