Thursday, September 3, 2009

Brand Confusion/Collusion...

When Bob Iger decided to buy Marvel, he did so with a long view of the company's characters, but that doesn't mean the Mouse isn't going to have opportunities to hurry up the process...

There are a lot of agreements that Marvel has made over the last decade that Disney is going to have to deal with. Some of those decisions were good and others were made during a period of bankruptcy when the company needed cash; resulting in agreements that Mighty Marvel would later regret.

The Spider-Man agreement is one of those that I'm sure Marvel, and now Disney would rather have not been made. There was even a legal dispute a while back with Marvel suing Sony for the compensation that it felt it was owed from the huge blockbuster the first movie became. Sony Pictures and Sam Raimi deserve a great deal of respect for what they did in the first and second film... but the Suits got greedy with part 3. I'm sure Spidey is the Holy Grail of this acquisition and Iger and his lawyers are going to watching Sony very closely. And Sony knows this, so I think they're going to be very cautious dealing with this property. With the recent announcements of a planning for a "Spider-Man 5" and "Spider-Man 6," it's going to be a while before the Spider goes to his new home in Burbank. If each movie takes about 3 to four years to make, expect the first chance at the character to be a decade away.

The same could be said for "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four" and "Daredevil" could be as well, but I can tell you there are going to be lawyers upon lawyers looking over this for the next decade. And I will bet you there will be a lawsuit over at least one of these properties withing the next four or five years. Disney will be looking for any wiggle room inside those contracts. Before this deal was signed, I'm sure Disney had knowledge that some of these contracts wouldn't last till the expiration date.

But this is dealing with the film rights to these characters. The television rights to those characters aren't included. So you think the company won't be planning on television series based on Peter Parker, Matt Murdock, Reed Richards and Wolvie? I bet ABC has some form of a show on within two years. Maybe it'll be something to dampen Fox's "X-Men: First Class." Perhaps a "New Mutants" television show following a new class of Professor Xavier's students. Maybe a show following Daredevil? That right there might dilute the competitions desire for a sequel if characters they're planning on investing millions of dollars in are seen weekly on television. Who knows? I'm sure over the next year or so, the Suits at Disney and Marvel will go over all these characters to determine what will be the first property to get a television show or movie.

The deal that Marvel has with Paramount will end around 2012/2013 as that will be when the fifth and final film is to be delivered. I'm sure Paramount would love for it to continue afterwards, but to think that Disney would extend this agreement is highly unlikely. Why not have the next films have your logo on the front of them? Disney will want to create a brand awareness that Marvel is now Disney and it won't help keeping the Paramount logo in front of it. As of right now, the agreement for distribution includes the films: "Iron Man 2," "Thor," "Captain America," "The Avengers," and one last film, possibly "Iron Man 3." But after that, any sequel to Captain America or Thor will have Cinderella's castle in front of it... got to start getting those young males caught up in the Disney mindshare. Cause this is what that 4 billion is after... the young boy audience. Disney practically owns the girls, they've just never been able to pull in most of the opposite side of adolescence. This is the attempt to get those boys buying Disney products, seeing Disney films and visiting Disney theme parks.

Theme parks? Yes, eventually. Again, it's complicated, but there is opportunity here. Now, I know some Disney fans are groaning at the thought of Snow White posing for pictures with the Incredible Hulk. I too would find that situation unpalatable. I don't see Marvel characters in Disneyland because Fantasyland is the closest thing to being able to display them, and men in tights don't really work there. But they would work great at "Disney's Hollywood Studios," "Walt Disney Studios" or even "Disney's California Adventure." I mean, there are like at least two stages are dormant over in the Hollywood Back Lot area. When it becomes Hollywoodland in a couple year, who knows? Maybe the Muppets building that was to house a Narnia attraction will instead be filled with an Iron Man attraction? Or maybe Disney will hold off on that here in California and wait for those contracts to expire, because by then the Second Gate will be fixed (hopefully). A Third Gate could be in the planning. I know I've always thought a Disney Villain theme park (Dark Kingdom/Shadowlands) would be best, and my choice, but all these Marvel characters could be put into their own park over in the former strawberry field.

But this doesn't include the agreement Marvel has with Disney's only true theme park rival, Universal Studios. There are agreements with Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Japan that have to be addressed with this merger. Universal Studios Hollywood ended there relationship with Marvel a while ago, so there's no problem there. As for any other place overseas, Universal has no other agreements for Marvel characters. One interesting thing is Marvel was planning a theme park in Dubai that was to be part of Dubailand. Will the Mouse try and get out of this agreement or will they use this as Disney's first beachhead in the Middle East? Much to be sorted out over the next few years. But as for Universal's deal, the Spider-Man Ride will stay for a while, but Disney will stay on them to the letter and make it very difficult for USF to do anything beyond what they've already done. A decade from now, the wear and tear of all those guest and the advancement in technology may make the attraction appear as dated as Star Tours. That would buy Disney an out. Another option is a straight buy out. Perhaps Uni would be willing for the Mouse to pay for the cost of the ride? That might give them the incentive to take the technology already there and retheme it, simply taking away the Spider-Man theming and using Disney's buy out money to change the ride. I can tell you the first thing to go will be the walk-around characters. Maybe not this year, but slowly they'll be fazed out. The eateries and such in the Florida theme park will probably go next. Eventually, all that could be left five or six years from now would be Spidey ride and the Hulk attraction. And that one could easily be rethemed in a small amount of time. My guess would be a decade from now as the Web-Slinger ride slowly fades from the park, Disney will be announcing a fabulous new addition to Walt Disney World's DHS. But that's speculation for now. We've got a long time to speculate over this.

But no matter what, a decade from now the Super-Hero/Theme Park/Disney Pictures typography will have changed greatly, just not completely. The idea of buying a Jack Sparrow figure or a Spider-Man action figure will bring to mind an image of Mickey Mouse to kids being born today. You and I will remember a time when that didn't exist. Those kids will live in a time when all of that is not only possible, but actual. Now, if we can just get the Mouse to work on a strategy for owning all those Darth Vader and Indiana Jones action figures. Oh wait, most kids at the parks already view them as a part of Disney.

Now, if only Iger would complete the circle on that one and finish the job with one more merger...


Bob and Rob Professional American Writers said...

I just wanted to take a second to say how impressive your writing is. Not only is the content great, but your discipline and dedication to the blog is beyond impressive! Keep it up, Bob

PirateGuy 815 said...

I agree with what Bob said. And your not overly critical or overly nice to Disneyland. That makes for I good blog.

And. I agree Honor, Disney needs to squire Lucas Film. Then seriously, what's left in Hollywood for Disney not to own?

Gary Kurtz said...

Here's why Lucasfilm will never be owned by Disney: Lucas is very protective about his properties which is the whole reason why he rebuked Hollywood and moved his company to the Presidio. Lucas wants absolute control and doesn't have to answer to anyone, especially to Iger or the Disney board of directors. Lucas has created his own empire. He's not about to (pardon the pun) join forces.

Jack Dawson said...

He's already joined forces with the Gary. He signed an agreement that keeps them in the parks almost in perpetuity. He's also mentioned that if he couldn't do a ride on them then Disney is the only other one he could imagine doing it. He's already talked of moving away from Star Wars, this lets him do so and know that it's with the only company he'd trust it to.

And I'm sure many people were saying Marvel would never agree to be bought by Disney.

Gary Kurtz said...

Lucasfilm "licenses" its brand out. Disney pays "LFL" a residual percentage of the profits. In other words, LFL has control over the property and distribution as the sole "licensor."

SaveMarvel said...

There's a lot of potential, but Disney has to proceed with care. Not sure if the Disney name should be on any Marvel movies or television shows especially if they want to maintain the teenage boy audience. In theme parks, California Adventure would be a good fit, but it is already getting a Pixar fix. A whole new separate land needs to be created and that will take more than a decade after the Pixar projects are finished. They would have to use characters not already in Universal IOA to avoid brand confusion. To do this, I recommend X-Men. Or Disney can rush a new Marvel movie. However, why not just turn the operation into licensing. Disney cannot possibly exploit the Marvel properties to its full potential. Let other studios spend the cash and take the risk. Disney could exploit any popular movies in its theme parks and merchandising instead and it seems that is more lucrative.

swatsi said...

Re: X-Men tv series.

If Disney\ABC have rights to X-TV series.. They could\should beat Fox to the punch and develop X-Men: First Class, based on the actual comic series.
Possibly Smallville like (i.e. the no tights\flights idealology).
Fox haven't the 'rights' to the name of the series, so unless they get busy thats up for grabs.

Me love some Cyke-Jean-Warr-Bobby-Beast action!!

swatsi said...

agree with a lot of what SaveMarvel is saying re. licensing.

Only thing that needs to happen is Marvel Studios needs creative control over their properties.

Chaddy said...


"Disney cannot possibly exploit the Marvel properties to its full potential."

No. What you should be saying, SaveMarvel, is that NO ONE ELSE can exploit the Marvel intellectual/creative properties the way Disney can. There's not one other entertainment company in the world that has the reach that Disney does. But if you mean to say that Marvel's catalog is so vast that Disney ALONE cannot manage to leverage it adequately, that remains to be seen.

Let's see... Disney has TV stations, movie and animation studios, themeparks, publishing and merchandising deals that include everything from t-shirts to coloring books and now, even fruit! (Yes Disney branded fruit is on sale at grocery stores across the country) And Disney does all of this in as many countries as any of their competitors.

What I'm getting at is that I don't think Disney paid 4 billion to liscense their shiney new property (with it's long legacy and legion of fans) out to their competitors.

Doopey said...


You keep going on about Lucasfilm, but I just don't see it ever happening. Lucas has no incentive to sell to Disney. Disney offers nothing he can't already have, and he would have to give up the one thing he values more than anything else -- Complete and Total Control. As I've commented before, if Disney and Lucasfilm really wanted to work together, "Clone Wars" would be anchoring DisneyXD right now but instead it's pulling big ratings on Cartoon Network.

But I agree with you that properly positioning the Marvel brand will be a unique challenge. I discuss it quite a bit on my new blog as well(

SaveMarvel said...

"What you should be saying, SaveMarvel, is that NO ONE ELSE can exploit the Marvel intellectual/creative properties the way Disney can."


Well, yes and no. Disney has a way of dropping the ball when they lose interest. They certainly lost interest with their own animation brand and allowed Pixar to take the helm. Marvel might be allowed to languish if not carefully prodded along. And certainly, with failure or two, Disney could get cold feet.

Disney marketing is powerful. Their distribution network is beyond anyone else, but it doesn't work all the time. Disney can fail and with all the stuff Disney has, something has to give.


"But if you mean to say that Marvel's catalog is so vast that Disney ALONE cannot manage to leverage it adequately, that remains to be seen."

Not quite what I'm saying, but it has elements of what I'm saying. Disney CAN leverage to its full potential by licensing because Disney cannot possibly produce all the content to its fullest potential. Creatively, Disney sucks at live action movies. Just look at PofC 2 and 3 despite the great box office returns. I can't wait to miss PofC4.

Anonymous said...

I could see a Marvel Universe theme park coming to WDW once the legal issues are settled. They have the land to do a Marvel theme park right, unlike California. However, they could build a smaller park in CA.

henryt93 said...

TV wise, they could definitely have 2-3 new Marvel animated shows on DisneyXD by this time next year if they rushed them. Other than collecting on licensing, that seems to me to be the quickest way to use the Marvel characters. It seems almost like DisneyXD was created in anticipation of the buyout.

PS: I voted for your blog in the WDW Daily News Web Awards!

Hostile17 said...

I can absolutely see them doing a "Smallville" style show on Peter Parker at Midtown High...Except on this show he could actually BE SPIDER-MAN (as opposed to the "no flights/no tights" ruling over on Smallville). Throw in our favorite Spidey supporting cast (Flash, MJ, Gwen, Harry, JJJ, Aunt May) and a villian of the week using all the classics (Doc Ock, Electro, the Goblins, Venom) and you've got a awesome Serial experience, just like Comics! They could even use Bendis' Ultimate Spidey as a roadmap to storylines and characters.

noremac and roads less traveled said...

Marvel at DCA, WDWDHS, DLP & TDL would be good places to at least start, then third and fifth gates perhaps, especially if the Dubai park goes ahead, wash & repeat ya'll. Maybe OLC could get in on the deal too and provide some cash or some other private equity firm(s) since they seem to be the only ones with the cash these days, Blackstone is building more parks through Merlin Entertainment - wouldn't that just make for strange bedfellows. It depends on how the deal was structured. Most of the parks in Dubailand I think were going to all be licensed with the family run government over there paying for everything so who knows, most of everything has been put in temp to perm limbo. Spidey, Hulk and friends could also be an easy way to do away with Tomorrowland. Thereby eliminating the need to stay ahead of "the future and all the promises it holds", which has only been how hard for them to try and keep up with. We'll never get our Discovery Bay now dern it. Professor X's school could be the new exterior to Space Mountain and the ride would be the Danger Room, X-Jet or some other Purveyor Of Wonderment. Uni Orl Isl of Adventure & Uni Studios Japan can re-do the Spiderman ride into a clone of the Transformers from Hollywood & Singapore since it's using most of the same tech and that's why Orlando wasn't getting one; and as Honor mentioned re-theming the rest would be easy enough. It could become 'HASBRO Island' with GI Joe too and some other toys since HASBRO is taking over the Discovery Kids channel - it bought 50% and I'm sure would enjoy the co-branding synergy. I can see it now Rise of Cobra the Musical and an FAO Schwartz. IoA has Harry Potter next year; we don't need stinkin marvels & mutants no more, there be wizards here! It won't happen right away, but I think both sides will find ways to git er done soon enough, they'll both want to git rid of the confusion. As fer George and his lil fiefdom, think long term, do his kids want to deal with it or look for the cash-out after GL's force moves on, Jim Henson's Muppets anyone. And we thought the selling-out of SW is bad now, holy cow can you just imagine ... jinxies. It's not unprecedented that Iger will let an operation run itself independently in the bay area now. Lucas ain't no spring chicken no mo, wonder what his Will and the structure of his corporation looks like. Why did he move most the businesses off Skywalker Ranch anyway. Is he getting into the wine business. Hhhmmm. Do we even want to ponder the ramifications of Spielberg's agreement to have Disney distribute Dreamwork's films and his consulting contract with Universal Creative up next year for renewal or a major payment which he gets even before the banks get paid on outstanding loans. Universal Orlando is mortgaged up to its eyeballs and needs to be refinanced next year and they're really hoping Steve is willing to negotiate and not bail to Imagineering. Could you even comprehend what Steven, John Lasseter & Stan Lee could do together, Excelsior! It takes the meaning of a first look deal to a whole nutter level. It could be a perfect storm for UO, better batten down the hatches and call the money peeps & shysters now. In Hollywood it's all about relationships and who knows whom and gets along with whom and Bobby Iger sure seems to have it in spades. Shazam!

Anonymous said...

Dude, have you ever heard of paragraphs?

Anonymous said...

Stan Lee written Spider-man movie is in development by Disney!! To be announced soon!!

Disney have found loopholes to get all their properties back from Fox and Sony and Universal!!

If IOA don't take out Marvel Island Disney Is going to sue them!! They will take over control of that land if Universal don't remove it!!

Disney have Universal, Sony and Fox OWNED!!

Hong Kong Fool-E said...

Who is this idiot? He's posted in comments for the past three articles? Go F yourself, you friggin' moron!

Go bother some other website. May I suggest the one you use to pleasure yourself nightly.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Now, if Disney can just buy back Amblin's half of the rights to the Roger Rabbit franchise, then things will be even more alright with the world again.