Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Walt Disney Marvel At That

Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics yesterday for USD 4 billion has, unsurprisingly, seen a lot of people get their Spiderman pants in a twist at the prospect of the world's most sugary sweet company taking control of some of the biggest superhero names.

But that's the wrong viewpoint to take. Few companies on Earth have the global marketing reach that Disney does. Fewer still are so well represented across so many media - cartoons, live action shows, movies, comics, toys, computer games, theme parks and every form of merchandising tie-in under the sun.

Marvel can only benefit from having that kind of financial and marketing muscle behind it.

But almost immediately, some sections of the interweb went into overdrive at the prospect of Mickey Mouse joining the X-Men, Spider-Man joining forces with Donald Duck and Goofy facing Hulk.

However, Disney has a history not just with its own core characters, but in branches of popular culture one wouldn't normally associate with Uncle Walt's empire.

Quite aside from Disney's own Pirates of the Carribbean franchise, what a lot of the denizens of the blogosphere appear to have overlooked is that Disney also owns Mirmax Films. A quick scan of the list of films released by Miramax throws up:

Reservoir Dogs (Extended scenes of torture and graphic violence)

Pulp Fiction (Homosexual rape, gimps, violence, drug overdoses and so on)

Trainspotting (Heroin abuse, violence, sex)

Dogma (Alanis Morrissette as God)

The Talented Mr Ripley (Homosexuality, murder)

Bridget Jones's Diary (Sex, and one woman's obsessions with it. Oblique references to anal sex.)

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Non-PC humour of almost every kind)

Gangs of New York (Violence)

Kill Bill (Yet more violence)

Clerks 2 (Bestiality amongst other attractions)

No Country For Old Men (Crazy serial killer cutting a swathe across America)

There Will Be Blood (Probably nothing too objectional, but hardly standard "Disney" fare)

and so on.

Disney hasn't bought Marvel because it wants to publish comics. And it hasn't bought Marvel so it can mess about with comics. If anything, the additional cash behind Marvel may enable it to publish more comics.

Sure, we might see a Pirates of the Caribbean series appear on Marvel in the future. But a Fantastic Four/Minnie Mouse crossover isn't going to be on the cards.

What the deal will enable Marvel to do is keep on doing what it does - publishing the best comics starring the best characters. Batman and The Joker aside, all of the best characters from the two main comic publishing houses are owned by Marvel. And now they have the financial backing to grow further.

But if Disney hasn't bought Marvel for its comics, why do the deal in the first place?

Because it now has access to 70 years of history - from Stan Lee's original Spider-Man and Fantastic Four comics onwards. The movie versions of Spider-Man and X-Men were huge box office smashes, while Fantastic Four and the Hulk have also performed fairly well.

Disney can add its considerable financial and movie muscle to this vast history (once current movie deals for Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk and Fantastic Four expire).

All in all, it seems to be a good deal for both parties.

And if Wolverine does get to make Bambi into venison with those claws?I'd watch that...

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