It was annouced today that Walt Disney Co would buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. This makes it the largest purchase since Pixar Animation Studios in 2006. This purchase opens up a potential gold mine for Disney films with upto 5000 lesser-known characters and story lines that can be introduced to the world.
While it does allow them access to a number of recognised characters such as:
The match allows disney to broaden its reach and potential expand the total amount of DVD sales possible. The question is how this will affect licensing fees with long term distribution deals with Disney competitors. This control of content brings Disney back towards its previous position as a media powerhouse and closer to matching Google’s aggressive behaviour of purchasing key technology/licenses.
Disney seems to be leading the charge to make their content available on every leading platform possible with distribution deals with iTunes, YouTube, NetFlix & potentially Hulu. The interesting point will be how Disney will respond to the strong fan community that associate with comics and events such as ComicCon. There is a lot of discussions across fan-pages in the past of how “fair use” is used to use images such as logos and book covers as part of a “fan club” but will the legal team at Disney treat these fan pages as terrorists?
But it is possible that Disney will respond better to industry groups such as the Comics Code Authority who seek to set a code of ethics standards about what particular story lines comics can feature. Many of these topics seem to mirror Disney’s family friendly story lines, but are often not consistent to Marvel story lines.
Some of the many film companies that will be affected by the purchase include:
- Sony Entertainment
- 20th Century Fox
- Paramount Pictures
The biggest issue will Disney allow some of the darker characters and story lines to make it too the silver screen. Disney has in the past censored Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911″ so will it tone down darker characters such as Wolverine? Will future Marvel productions feature happy endings and singing teapots?