6 Things You Should Know About Disney Buying Marvel

By  · Published on August 31st, 2009

As you probably know by now, the big entertainment news of the day is The Walt Disney Company buying Marvel Entertainment. Shortly after the $4 billion dollar deal was announced, a shareholder conference call was held to explain some of the details. If you didn’t have a chance to sit through the call yourself, don’t worry, as we’ve got you covered. Below you will find our quick guide to what is going on – based on the information we have in front of us.

1. Disney has an “If it ain’t broke…” viewpoint toward Marvel Studios. Walt Disney President Bob Iger said specifically that Disney will have an “if it ain’t broke…” attitude when it comes to the future of Marvel films. All of the creative control – including use of 3D, which characters will get movies, etc – will remain in the hands of the people who know the Marvel Universe best: the people at Marvel. Sure, this might change down the road, but the initial sentiment is that Disney does not intend to come in and take control of Marvel’s creative world.

2. All previous deals are still in place. Paramount is still going to distribute up to five more Marvel Studios films, including Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. The also could still distribute an Ant-Man movie. As well, there are still existing deals in which other studios hold the cinematic rights to certain characters. Those are not changing. So Spider-Man is staying at Sony, X-Men is staying with Fox, and so on. Disney intends to bring those characters back in-house at some point, but there’s no indication that it will be happening anytime soon.

3. John Lasseter has met with Marvel about a Pixar team-up. Executives stated that not only has John Lasseter, the man behind Pixar and now Disney Animation, already met with the folks at Marvel, but that they were also so excited that they had to be told to calm down. The meaning here is simple: something is brewing between Marvel and Pixar, and there’s no way that can be a bad thing.

4. Disney is a brand machine. From a film marketing standpoint – and for that matter, a brand marketing standpoint – Disney is a powerhouse. Pirate of the Caribbean, the films of Pixar and all the way down to television with shows such as Lost via their ownership of ABC, Disney knows how to sell a brand. And selling the Marvel brand means more Marvel fans, more recognition in the mainstream and for those of us keeping score, more money down the road to make Marvel movies.

5. Disney backing means Marvel budgets. Disney is a smart company. During the conference call they said, in effect, that their goal is to shine a brighter light on Marvel. Which likely means marketing dollars, added funding for development and (hopefully) increased marketshare. With big Daddy Disney backing them up financially, Marvel will be able to operate at a higher level. Assuming creative control stays the same (which appears to be the case), Marvel fans can only count on more of what they love from their favorite brand.

6. A lot of details are yet to be hashed out. One very important thing to keep in mind is that there will be a great gestation period here. Marvel Entertainment has a lot of existing deals – theme parks, movie distribution, etc. – and all of those contract will be honored by Disney. It will take them a long time to reign in the Marvel Universe and obtain full creative control.

As you can see, there are good intentions all around – Disney doesn’t want to screw up their $4 billion dollar purchase, so its likely that they will let the highly profitable Marvel Studios do their thing. The questions don’t arise until far down the line, when Disney begins to take back the rights to Marvel characters. How will they handle these franchises? How many movies will they release per year? All of these questions are yet to be answered, and may not be answered for a long time. At this point, all we can say is that this deal appears to be a good one for Marvel.

Update: Paramount Pictures had the following to say via press release today:

“Paramount Pictures has enjoyed a productive and fruitful relationship with Marvel Studios from the start of our distribution agreement in 2005,” the statement began. “So much so, we announced a five-picture slate distribution deal last year which includes worldwide distribution rights for upcoming films: Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, Avengers, and Iron Man 3. This distribution deal will be unaffected by today’s transaction. We look forward to continuing to work with Marvel and, with today’s announcement, to working with Disney to replicate the incredible success of Iron Man on all our future collaborative projects.”

Looks like all is well in the love triangle of Marvel/Paramount/Disney. All three have nothing to lose and everything to gain by seeing Marvel’s movies churn out a profit, so I would suspect that they will all play nice until the contract is up.

What do you think about Disney buying Marvel Entertainment?

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)