Is Disney the new Google?

Disney has in the past censored Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" so will it tone down darker characters such as Wolverine?

disneyIt 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:
Iron Man
Fantastic Four

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?

8 Replies to “Is Disney the new Google?”

  • 1) The Comics Code Authority is a non-issue. They don’t carry any weight in today’s market. I don’t think even Wal-Mart pays attention to whether the comics in their stores have the CCA’s seal of approval.

    2) Playing down the darker characters (and Marvel has much much darker than Wolverine) and story lines is an open question.

    Another question is whether Marvel will be allowed to lose money. Part of rival DC’s ability to develop new characters/product and build audience over time is because of Warner Brothers’ deep pockets. Marvel traditionally hasn’t had that luxury.

    The real advantage to Disney is that comics are similar to storyboards and cheaper to produce than movies. It’s a great medium to road test concepts in the market place and work out bugs before investing millions in bringing the concept to more expensive mediums like movies.

    • Ed,

      Thank you for the comment, it is a fair comment that one of the largets retailers in the world doesnt enforce CCA approval but im sure they will be happy having a more family friendly parent company watching Marvel.

      I know there are a number of anti-hero characters such as the Punisher, so I hope Frank Castle doesnt have to retire or give up to start charity work anytime soon. I agree that the investment Warner has made in the DC franchise such as Superman/Batman has paid off very well, you can see that even they have taken their characters back to darker more emotional levels with the recent “Dark Knight”.

      I wouldnt mind if Disney spent $20-50 million on smaller more frequent movie/tv productions, following along the lines of the SyFy channel.

  • When Disney bought Square Enix, they created Kingdom Hearts where Goofy and Mickey interact with Final Fantasy characters…

  • Interesting for a variety of reasons. Disney has traditionally been about the ‘girl’ in the family, with a lot of emphasis put on characters and scenarios that appeal more to young girls than boys. And yes I know there are lots of exceptions to this, including the fabulous ‘Cars’, but the girl is key. This acquisition allows them to broaden their appeal not only to the ‘boy’ but also to older family members with fond memories of comics.

    Online allows regular mashups and interactions between characters and I am sure this will happen frequently with the Marvel characterset.

    • Dax,

      Thanks for the comment i didnt even think to cover the basics of Disney’s focus the appeal to boys & girls in this article. I know that the addition of Marvel will allow for more older members of the family to be reached combined with the retro aspect of comics is something that can still generate a lot of interest.

      I agree the mashups can provide some interesting interactions between characters but my hope is that they dont overkill it.

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