It’s difficult to say exactly what this means, as it will be years before any of us know for sure, but I imagine it’ll be a little like if the New York Yankees bought the LA Lakers. Two dynasties, behemoths of their game, but disparate, coming together to dominate as one.
Reactions to the merger have been similar. On the surface, the partnership seems counterintuitive. Conan O’Brien has already debuted jokes showing pictures of “The Incredible Duck,” “Gooferine,” and “Thingerella,” but I think it makes a bit more sense than that. Countering my first comparison, this isn’t like asking ballers to take up bats.
While Disney has a legacy and a market (the kiddies), their relevancy is to be debated, at least in terms of their dynastic character. It’s been a long time since Mickey paid the mortgage at the House of Mouse. When was the last time anyone watched a Disney cartoon? While it disappoints me that both Disney and WB don’t try their hand anymore at some of their classic characters, was Mickey even ever that funny to begin with?
Disney has been fighting a battle this decade for appeal and have found it in Pirates of the Caribbean and High School Musical, speaking to different demos. But even their main export, family friendly but transcendent classics, has been outsourced to Pixar. While the Disney empire on the whole is in no state of disarray (they do own Miramax, ABC and ESPN, after all), it’s the magic part of the Kingdom that needed some insurance. It’s the power of teen buying-power that Disney craves, and superherodom speaks to both of those.
While this decade has been swell for Pirates and Zac Efron, those won’t live forever…or rather, they won’t stay young. On the other side of the coin, we have the superhero genre — one that proved viable again in July of 2000 with Bryan Singer’s X-Men, and super-powered itself after 9/11 and beyond, as these heroes have mirrored the light and darkness of an era. In 2002, Spider-Man mounted a then-unthinkable 114 million-dollar opening weekend, which has only been eclipsed since by Spider-Man 3, The Dark Knight and, yes, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
Imagine a scenario in which, instead of Disney having gone one for four on that list of films, they went three for four. That’s the aim, and within the next decade, Scrooge McDuck’s pool of gold coins should grow fathoms deeper.
But it was actually Pixar’s John Lasseter, and Disney runner defacto, who proposed this union with Marvel. And it’s Pixar’s union with Disney that Marvel hopes to emulate. Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada tweeted after the deal: “If you’re familiar with the Disney/Pixar relationship, then you’ll understand why this is a new dawn for Marvel and the comics industry.” And Marvel legend, as well as creator of everything from the X-Men to Spidey to the Fantastic Four, Stan Lee released a statement saying the match is “one made in heaven,” as well as this tidbit: “Just imagine — with this deal, Marvel gives Disney a library of literally hundreds of unique and colourful characters that have the potential to make great, high-concept movies and long-lasting franchises, and nobody knows how to play in that ballpark better than Disney.”
And let it be known Disney paid 4 billion (yes, recession sufferers, that is billion) dollars to play in this park, but what will the merger actually mean, besides men in Hulk suits in the Disney parks? Besides Wolverine the rollercoaster? While there is sure to be some immediate impact in those respects, I don’t think Disney will see their money really come back to them for sometime.
Consider the following: Paramount already has dibs on release for and has actually already produced Iron Man II and will distribute at least Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, all of which are years away. 20th Century Fox has a deal that gives them film rights to Daredevil, The Fantastic Four and X-Men, as long as they keep producing films for them. In fact, Fox has already countered the Disney announcement by announcing a “reboot” of Fantastic Four.
I’m sorry — did you just sigh out of exhaustion? Yes, why do we need an F4 reboot? Couldn’t Fox have just gotten it right the first two times around? And besides getting it right, who even cares about another Four flick? I’m saying heroes were the fad of this decade. Whether they have hairy Hobbit feet, a lightning scar on their forehead, or retractable indestructible metal claws, the fantastical has been the favourite. But is the market saturated? Maybe not yet, but if Fox keeps churning out crappy hero flicks just to stay in competition, and the hero slate is already filled until almost mid next decade, people might be onto a new thing by then…like, I dunno, public health care?
What I’m saying is, in our current climate, it sure does feel a long way away, doesn’t it? And it’s difficult to tell how viable these properties will be for Disney by then, at least in the film business. Then again, a few years isn’t actually that long of a time. Hey, remember when Michael Vick was in jail?!
There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that this deal will not just be profitable for Disney but creatively successful for Marvel. In the short-term, I expect to — or hope to — see Pixar-Marvel team-ups (at least to DVD), better Saturday morning cartoon versions for the kiddies, and whatever untapped or open hero property for film Disney can muster (Johnny Depp as Plastic Man anyone?). But in twenty years, when everything old is new again, I’m betting Disney’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine starring one of Jon and Kate’s grown boys and a super hot Suri Cruise will be oodles better than the one we just got. And if Disney-Pixar is still operating with the same quality and integrity as it is today, Suri and Spawn JonKate (I don’t know any of their kids’ names) won’t even star. It’s in those hopes that this deal even happened.