Disney corporation buys out marvel comics

Eric Van Allen

     In a surprise move at the end of August, the Walt Disney Company announced that it was going to buy one of the largest comic distributors in the world, Marvel Comics. At $4 billion, the company will be sold for full asking price. Because of this, Disney now owns the rights to many superhero favorites, including Spiderman, the X-Men and the Hulk. Besides use of the characters, Disney also acquired the right to deny rival companies use of the Marvel superheroes, a very strategic move on Disney’s part.

     This announcement is slightly reminiscent of a previous buy-out announced by Disney where in 2006, they bought out Pixar Animation Studios for a hefty $7.4 billion. Similar to the Pixar acquisition, this will provide Disney with many profitable rights, and while the benefits aren’t reported to be immediate, stock experts predict that Disney will see the profits of the merger to roll in by the 2012 fiscal year.

     While this may seem a bit scary for fans of the masked superheroes, Disney has made a promise to keep the original design and direction of characters. Disney Corp. is also keeping Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter in charge of Marvel to ensure this happens. So, luckily for fans of the dark heroes like Iron Man and the Hulk, none of these characters will be teaching young children how to spell “cat” anytime soon.

     The merger isn’t immediate, as many issues about the full rights of Marvel characters and brands are now coming to the surface. Marvel had previously made a deal with Universal to allow the exclusive use of its characters in Universal theme parks and attractions, leading to the Incredible Hulk Coaster and other rides in Universal Orlando. Disney has announced that they intend to honor these rights, but will also be receiving the profits from the attractions that would have normally gone into Marvel’s pockets.

     While Disney has gained the rights to create Marvel attractions now, it has stated that no superhero rides will be built in their Orlando attractions. Instead, Disney CFO Tom Staggs has said that Disney will be looking at building Marvel-themed rides in its other theme parks around the world.

     Besides roller coasters, many movie studios also held claim to the use of the Marvel characters before the Disney buy-out. The Sony Corporation owns the rights to the Spiderman franchise, and already has a May 2011 release slated for Spiderman 4. 20th Century Fox also owns movie rights to a large stable of Marvel superheroes, such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Since these contracts guarantee rights “in perpetuity”, they will only lose their rights when they stop making movies for their said franchises. Paramount Pictures also has a five-movie contract with Marvel. The first of these will be Iron Man 2, which will be releasing in May of 2010.

     Disney has stated that they will honor these studio agreements as well and, at expiration of these licenses, will possibly extend any profitable ones.

     Many speculate that the purchase of Marvel was due to Disney’s recent loss at the box offices. While movies like Up! were a moderate success, they had trouble competing with the blockbuster epics like Star Trek and Transformers. Disney itself has stated that they intend to use this merger as a method to re-acquaint themselves with the males of this generation (Disney has already made  great investments in appealing to females with princess movies and TV shows). Disney CEO Robert Iger describes the Marvel heroes as “right in the wheelhouse for boys”. Marvel TV shows are already shown on the Disney XD channel intended for young boys. Hopefully with the edgier addition of heroes like Wolverine, it will provide a pleasant alternative to Hannah Montana for many young boys.

     While movie-goers may not see Mickey and Spidey teaming up to fight the Green Goblin and Ursula anytime soon, this sudden purchase may yield significant profits for both companies. Stock market experts are already predicting a rise in Disney stock, a healthy change for the company after reporting a significant amount of debt. So until the dust settles and the companies begin working on integrating the two franchises, dreams of Spiderman hanging from the Magic Kingdom castle and the Silver Surfer circling Space Mountain will have to satisfy for now.