More on The Mouse and the Tin Man

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Transferring ownership of a major brand from corporate entity A to corporate entity B is a meaningless thing. All 21st Century entertainment corporations are invested in selling the same basic heroin. And make no mistake -- Marvel mythology is in the business of pushing opiates to the masses. No clear light can come of this, and I will not go "hoo! hoo!" about this deal like all the other fansite monkeys out there.
- Jeffrey Wells

... It's a mistake to think of Disney as beholden to the G-level Mickey Mouse cartoons of yore. Since becoming a Hollywood megalith in the '80s where formerly it had been basically the niche home of The Love Bug and other kiddie fare, the company's outlook has skewed ever more PG-14, the sweet spot of the film industry, income-wise. (Check out the pregnant teenagers and sex advice regularly doled out on the Disney-owned ABC Family Channel's original programming, and SOUTH PARK last season did a very funny episode about the company marketing sex as anti-sex.) Contrary to voiced expectations today that Disney will "clean up" Marvel content, Marvel content fits seamlessly into the current Disney approach. There's little chance Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck will abandon their G-ratedness anytime soon, but when was the last time Disney did anything with them outside licensing and theme parks?
- Steven Grant
After reflecting a bit more about the investor conference call about the Disney purchase of Marvel, I'm inclined to think that overall this is a good thing for both companies. During the call executives from both companies bandied about words like "synergy", "merchandise", "licenses", "brand" and "intellectual property". What this boils down to is that two very successful media companies decided to pool their resources to make even more gobs of money. Both are very good within particular markets, and both fill in each other's respective gaps: Marvel gives Disney a presence in the male youth market, while Marvel can benefit from Disney's huge international infrastructure. I don't believe that Marvel will simply be swallowed-up by Disney's corporate machinery because Marvel itself is a strong and highly recognizable brand. It's the reason why Disney is so happy with the deal, and they initially will not want to tamper with Marvel's current success. It's within Disney's corporate interests to maintain Marvel's independent brand identity. One thing that could force Disney to become more heavy-handed with Marvel is if most of Marvel's future media projects failed commercially. Otherwise, the money rolling in will keep both companies happy. On the publishing front, if Marvel wants to take advantage of Disney's bookstore presence, they may have to consider creating more bookstore friendly content in addition to their direct market material. However publishing remains a secondary concern next to other media.

What this deal will not necessarily do is alter the stodgy corporate nature of both companies. Disney's acquisition of Pixar bolstered its flagging animation division with fresh intellectual properties. Disney execs were salivating at the addition of Marvel's large collection of characters. However many of those characters are themselves several decades old, including the much touted Iron Man. Marvel has its own difficulties with fashioning new properties. But Disney seems to be okay with the accumulation of existing properties as an acceptable substitute to nurturing new creative ideas for now. This is one reason why even if the deal proves profitable, it leaves me a bit underwhelmed.

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