This past Monday, an official announcement was made that Disney has acquired Marvel Entertainment for approximately $4 billion. That feels…weird.
The knee-jerk reaction to this news is one of heartbreak. For the past couple of decades, Disney has had the reputation for focusing their empire into the ruling class of family-friendly entertainment. It’s been hard to find anything that’s come out of the Magic Kingdom™’s merchandise machine that hasn’t been goofy-grinned cartoon animals or pop star tweens. What will this wholesome gestalt for nuclear family values do with characters like Wolverine, Deadpool, and The Punisher?
If this had happened a few years ago, while Disney was under Michael Eisner, I’d immediately begin mourning. That era saw the acquisition of Jim Henson’s company, which we can now thank for turning the Muppets into an endangered species, teetering on the brink of extinction. Now that Eisner is gone and Pixar’s John Lasseter is Disney’s chief creative officer, we may be able to breath easier in how Marvel will be handled.
Stan Lee has already given the deal his blessing.
In their announcement, Disney assured us that while they will own and take advantage of Marvel’s gigantic catalog of intellectual properties, they’ll let the company manage itself. They noted that Marvel already has a sharp staff and system of operation, so they’ll be left alone to continue doing what they do best. All previous license deals for movies, video games, etc, will be respected and Disney will wait until they’ve expired to reclaim control over them.
This is where I get a little paranoid. The greater sources of Marvel’s income over the past decade have come from movies, video games, and other forms of media. Many of the licenses that are currently in play don’t expire until 2019. It’s suspicious that Disney would jump to acquire a property that they won’t be able to fully capitalize upon for another decade. Especially since there’s no telling how viable the Marvel brand will be in 5-10 years.
I wonder if it wasn’t the brand or the characters that Disney wanted from Marvel as much as something from their infrastructure. Maybe Marvel has other assets that Disney found valuable. Publishing facilities? Business relationships? Creative resources? It’s just a thought.