Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Does Disney's Acquisition Of Marvel Mean For Fans?

In a move as massive and dramatic as anything that could have been imagined by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby or even Walt himself, Disney agreed to purchase Marvel Entertainment on Monday (August 31) in a deal worth $4 billion.

As our very own Splash Page has been chronicling since the minute the deal went down, the news of these two entertainment titans joining forces Avengers-style has been rippling across Hollywood and the Internet. But once you're finished dropping your jaw and scratching your head over the partnership, you might be wondering where things go from here for Spider-Man, Mickey Mouse, Captain America and Captain Jack Sparrow.

At first, pop-culture-devouring fans of both entities probably won't notice the difference. But long term, what are the positive and negative consequences of the move? Here are a few theories:

Spidey-Land? Obviously, the key part of the deal for Disney was its acquisition of 5,000 Marvel characters ranging from the iconic (Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Incredible Hulk) to the obscure (the Shroud, Powerhouse, Wyatt Wingfoot) to the under-exploited (Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange). And while the Mouse House won't confirm any plans to have men in tights running around Disneyland, it doesn't take a genius to read the writing on the wall: Marvel has failed at past attempts to invade the theme-park realm, Disney is desperately trying to lure tourists in to places like California Adventure, and few things are as hot right now as superhero movies. Put it all together, and it seems likely that we'll someday see the separate yet united universes of Disney and Marvel coexisting at a park near you.

Will it make the bad movies better? In a perfect world, the "Fantastic Four" movies should have been live-action versions of "The Incredibles." Now, Disney CEO Robert Iger is talking about how the Pixar and Marvel brain trusts have already begun having meetings about potential projects. Most of the Marvel missteps we've seen in recent years have been the result of filmmakers and studios attempting to keep one toe in both the dark world of the geeks and the lighter realm of its intended demographic — an art that Disney/Pixar has perfected in recent years. Although many damaged franchises (F4, "Ghost Rider," "Daredevil") continue to reside with third-party studios, look for Marvel/Disney to work hard on getting them back and hopefully restoring them to the formula that made them comic book hits in the first place.

Will it make the good movies worse? The short answer? Maybe. Marvel exploded over the past few years because of its newfound independence, making movies like "The Incredible Hulk" and "Iron Man" exactly how they wanted to. Now they'll have to answer to a larger company known for its desire to avoid controversy and its history of clashing with independent-minded filmmakers. The good news is that Marvel will have bigger budgets at its disposal to make Iron Man fly — but the downside could be higher expectations to make the films less edgy and more mainstream.

Crossovers? Remember how cool it was when Roger Rabbit brought together Daffy and Donald Ducks? Such eye-popping moments in pop culture are few and far between because of copyright issues, but this deal makes a massive family of many entities we'd never otherwise see together. Jack Sparrow meeting Wolverine? Thor encountering the Chesire Cat? Robert Downey Jr. appearing as Tony Stark in some future incarnation of "The Muppet Show"? At this point, both Marvel and Disney are free to dream about these and other endless possibilities — and ultimately, that freedom is the sort of thing that could create the next generation of Lee, Kirby and Disney disciples.

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