So, Disney has bought Marvel, but - with both companies claiming that current licensing deals will stay in place - what does this actually mean for both companies (besides awesome comics like this)? We consider some facts.
It should be pointed out that, right now, no-one really seems to have a clear idea of what'll happen next. For one thing, the sale isn't even expected to be completed until the end of the year, shareholders and antitrust oversight approval pending, and for another, if Joe Quesada is to be believed, maybe there'll be no obvious change:
Everybody take a deep breath, all your favorite comics remain unchanged and [Marvel editor] Tom Brevoort remains grouchy.
So what do both companies actually get from this buyout? Marvel, for their part, go from being the fourth biggest worldwide entertainment brand to being part of the biggest, with all the distribution and licensing perks that come with that. Disney, as the official press release states, get access to Marvel's IP - which arguably gives them the potential to own the tween/teen male market in the same way that they currently own the female market with the Princesses brand, High School Musical and its like, and pop moppets like the Jonas Brothers. They also get Marvel Studios, which had been considered one of the most successful independent movie studios of recent years. Except... it's not necessarily as simple as all of that.
Here are existing licensing deals that Marvel has in place, that Disney said yesterday they would honor, and which place all of this outside of Disney's control (for now):
Marvel's current distribution deal with Paramount (Viacom-owned) covers the next five Marvel pictures including Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America (2011), The Avengers (2012) and Iron Man 3 (2012/2013). Paramount confirmed the films to be produced under their Marvel agreement. These films would all flow thru to Paramount's new pay TV network EPIX, however, all new properties beyond these would likely flow through Disney's output partner (currently Starz).
X-Men property has been licensed to 20th Century Fox (News Corp. owned) while Spider-Man has been licensed to Sony, which seems to have plans for the next three installments.
It appears that Universal Studios maintains geographical rights to Marvel IP for as long as they have Marvel-related rides/attractions at the park (unclear if this also includes merchandise that exists within its parks today). In other words, Walt Disney World in Orlando is unlikely to see a Spiderman/Hulk themed attraction for the foreseeable future. The following excerpt comes from Universal City Development Partners' (owner of Universal Studios Orlando) 10-K: "We have geographical exclusivity east of the Mississippi River with regard to the specific Marvel characters we utilize. The license for the Marvel properties does not prohibit its assignment and is for the duration of our use of attractions themed around Marvel characters."
THQ: Multi-year deal signed in May 2008 for Marvel Super Hero Squad.
Activision: Deal signed Nov 2005 and goes through 2017 for Spider Man and X-Men
Sega: Multi-year deal signed in April 2007 for Captain America, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man
Hasbro 10K: "Subsequent to December 28, 2008, the Company entered into an agreement with Marvel that resulted in the extension of the current agreement from the end of 2011 through the end of 2017."
Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke has the list of characters specifically licensed for Universal's theme parks:
For starters, here's the main list of licensed characters at Marvel Island inside Universal Orlando's Islands Of Adventure (provided me by Universal): Spider-Man (also attraction), Dr. Doom (also attraction), Hulk (also attraction), Storm (also attraction), Captain America, Cyclops, Green Goblin, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, "and lots more if you include stores and dining," a Uni exec tells me.
Paramount tells me Iron Man and Thor also are included.
According to other sources, here are the characters by Attractions, Walk Around, and Shop:
Attractions (Characters licensed for the attraction use, but not necessarily for walk-around. Some in the attractions list are also licensed for walk-around, but not all.): Spider-Man, Doc Oc, Scream, Electro, Hydro-Man, Hobgoblin, J. Jonah Jameson, Hulk/Bruce Banner, Dr. Doom, Fantastic Four (as a group, not individually), Storm, Magneto, Professor X.
Walk around and/or Shop: Green Goblin, Cyclops, Rogue, Wolverine, Fantastic 4 (restaurant / walk around), Captain America (restaurant / walk around), Kingpin (shop / walk around), Merch (shop)
So no movies until 2013, no toys until 2017, and no theme parks or videogames for the big name characters in the foreseeable future, either. What does Disney actually get for their $4 billion right now? Maybe television and comics? Former Marvel editor-in-chief and Disney Adventures creator Marv Wolfman thinks so, even if he's not too hopeful about that whole "comics" thing:
Publishing. Well, that's the big one, isn't it? At least for us. Actually, only for us. The big ones in reality are movies, TV and video games. One major video game hit can make more money than 95% of all movies. But let's talk comics. What division will that fall under? Publishing? Movies? Consumer Products? Something else? What happens to Marvel Comics will depend on which Disney company it falls under and as of 1:30PM, I don't know the answer to that.
With this level of uncertainty, it's no surprise that some feel that Disney paid too much for what they're actually getting (although others feel just the opposite).
There are other questions still left to be answered: What happens to Disney's existing comic deals with Boom! Studios and their own Kingdom Comics line? Will Disney and/or Marvel look for alternate distribution for their comics, and if so, are we looking at another Heroes World situation? With all this talk of Marvel's 5000-strong character base, does Disney really believe that there are multiple Iron Man-scale successes in there - and what happens when superheroes fall out of fashion? All of these will, undoubtedly, be answered at some point in the near future, but for now, as the dust settles, the most important question may end up being: Is it all worth it?