The news has broken that Disney is going to be acquiring Marvel Entertainment, so what does that mean? Obviously it means that in the short term, Disney will lose money on the deal. An acquisition of this size usually means a negative hit to the purchaser. Furthermore, the various film franchises will remain with their current studios in the short-term as well: 20th Century Fox has the X-Men, Sony has Spider-Man and Paramount has Iron Man. So, why do this and why now?
There are many similarities between the two companies which bodes well for a combined future. Both companies were founding members of their industries, both exist to tell compelling stories, both have grown to become industry leaders over the decades and both had times wandering the wilderness with seemingly aimless zeal.
The Walt Disney Co.
Walt and Roy started the company together and built an amazing company that lead several industries, as well as created a couple of others, in their pursuit of quality family entertainment. From animated cartoons and feature films to licensing and theme park development, the Walt Disney Co. had a hand in every aspect of entertainment available to the consuming public.
After Walt passed away in 1966, there was a nearly 2-decade long ennui that almost paralyzed the Disney company. The films created during those times were enjoyable, but hardly the classics that had been de rigeur during Walt’s life. The company had very little direction from the top and ultimately became a takeover target in the early 1980’s.
Thankfully, the takeover as proposed did not take place and the Disney Co. had a renaissance that has continued, with some hiccoughs along the way, through today. The current CEO, Robert Iger, has done an admirable job and has mended fences that previous executives had seemingly destroyed.
Marvel Comics began life as Timely Publications in 1939. Over the years the company grew and their name evolved with the vagaries of the industry, but it ultimately became one of the big two comic book publishers known to most people(DC being the other).
Like Disney, there was a driving force behind the Silver Age of comic books and his name is Stan Lee. From the very first official Marvel Comic book published in 1961 through the bulk of that decade almost every story was written by Stan Lee. His drive and the stable of talented people working during that era created one of the most creative teams ever assembled for creative development.
In the late 80’s through the 90’s Marvel couldn’t piece together the 40 years of venerable storytelling to create a film franchise to save its life. These mis-directed efforts contributed to the company filing for bankruptcy in the mid-90’s. The ridiculous practice of new series after new series in order to continue selling #1 labeled comics, a devotion to the non-sport trading card business also helped and ultimately Marvel sought that protection.
Over the past decade or so, however, Marvel has become a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Putting out spectacular blockbusters like Spider-Man and the more recent Iron Man has revived interest in the Marvel Universe and all its characters.
Fast forward a few years and we now have to vigorous content and media companies offering a series of hits and the time has become ripe for this acquisition. With the success of the Disney Fairies for girls, Disney has been trying to harness the interests of boys and create some successes in that market. Even going so far as to hire researchers to find out what makes these boys tick.
It is an accepted principle that comic books are by and large a boys thing. For right or wrong, very few girls venture into that hobby so it may seem natural that Disney would want to capture their attention – and do so with characters, mythologies and story-lines they are already connected with.
Disney is focused on the long-term growth of their businesses and this is obviously one component in that plan – capturing the boys market.
We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation.
Robert Iger, CEO The Walt Disney Co.
So what does that mean? No one knows for sure today, but if I were head of a video game company I would be accepting any calls from Bob Iger – he seems to have the checkbook open and his pen at the ready.
Wrapping it up
I am very excited by the prospect of opportunities that this acquisition brings to both companies. I am interested to see what this means for Universal Studios and the current lands occupied by, soon to be, Disney properties. I would imagine we will see some great animated series coming to DisneyXD. I would also expect to see a new stable of video games and MMOs.
This is all just speculation at this point, but I am still very excited by the possibilities this brings to two of my favorite diversions: Disney, Marvel Comics.