Mickey the $4 Billion Mutant
The unthinkable just happened. The Walt Disney Co. snatched up Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in a 60% cash and 40% stock transaction, a deal so huge that it stunned Wall Street, instantly putting Disney in the “superhero” business overnight. This move gives Disney access (and control) of Marvel’s most popular characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Iron Man. Plans to use these characters on rides at its theme park and in a variety of consumer products, will be limited only by any existing agreements approved before the merger.
So what does this deal mean for the Marvel Universe, and fans like us? The fear here, of course, is that Disney will try to, well, “Disney-fy” the Marvel properties (Disney has a huge reputation for executive meddling). However, Disney head Robert Iger denies this claim: “The goal here is not to rebrand Marvel as Disney,” Iger said. Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter and Marvel Studios exec Avi Arad will remain in place.
Any of the previous motion picture deals Marvel made with other studios will remain intact, at least until they expire. (Currently, major Marvel franchises are farmed out to several different studios: Spider-Man at Columbia/Sony, Iron Man and other Avengers at Paramount, X-Men at Fox, and so on.) New franchises, and franchises continuing beyond existing deals, will likely be under the Disney/Marvel name.
Some deals will remain intact: Spider-Man’s deal at Sony, for example, is open-ended, with three more films on the way under the Columbia name, and Paramount still has a deal to release five more Marvel films, starting with Iron Man 2.
The deal, is easily worth billions for Disney, since they’ll be able to exploit Marvel’s library of more than 5,000 characters into movies, TV shows, Internet properties, theme park attractions, video games, toys, licensed merchandise and, of course, comic books. (Here again there are limitations: certain characters, including Spider-Man, are licensed to Universal Orlando, and will stay there.) And it’s good news for Marvel, which can use Disney’s muscle to become a bigger presence outside the U.S.
The deal, says Marvel icon Stan Lee, “gives Disney a library of literally hundreds of unique and colorful characters that have the potential to make great, high-concept movies and long-lasting franchises — and nobody knows how to play in that ballpark better than Disney.”