The Mouse and the Masks

Can Marvel remain true to its fan base under new corporate overlords?

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The unexpected announcement that Disney would be acquiring Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion continues to reverberate around the Internet. Will Disney's new acquisition prompt a Renaissance within the struggling giant of entertainment? Its most recent hits--Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure--fit in perfectly at Comic Con, after all. Or, will it herald the decline of Marvel?

  • Simply Marvelous  Several commentators are in agreement that Marvel is the big winner. "The deal rewards Marvel’s success in leveraging its characters in extremely successful comic book movie franchises with the financial heft of a major corporation," says Andrew Nusca at Smart Planet. Meanwhile, over at Daily Finance, Jonathan Berr points out that Marvel's box office windfalls have been spread around by the kind of profit-sharing required for a company of its size. Now, Disney can provide that service.
  • Saving the Wonderful World  In addition to gaining access to Marvel's vault of some 5,000 characters, Disney's market-share will allow the company to extend the company's moneymakers further into the most lucrative part of the entertainment industry: tie-ins, including everything from videogames to theme-park rides (and even whole theme-parks). Mary Weliage of Tech Republic senses a "Mickey/Spidey mashup" on the horizon. Can a new Kingdom Hearts be far behind?
  • A Dastardly Plot  Not everyone is greeting the news with open arms. Over at, blogger Elisabeth Rappe voices her skepticism: "What is it going to mean for the [Marvel] films when a behemoth like Disney takes control? Family friendly, mythology-be-damned, direct-to-DVD-offerings? Or will it just mean a lot more Slurpee cups and action figures? Time will tell, but something tells me the future of the Marvel cinematic universe might have become a little less bright." Macleans agrees: "One thing's for sure, If Spider-Man thought Mr. Jameson was a tough boss, wait until he tries working for the Mouse."
Update, 5:32 p.m. Financial writers and comic book reporters are now saying that the the deal was made with the primary intention of expanding Disney's appeal to to young males, the decade's most coveted demographic. As Nicholas Carlson of Silicon Alley Insider offers:

Between Hannah Montana, High School Musical, and Hilary Duff, Disney has had no problem getting little girls to cajole their parents into spend lots of money on movies, merchandise and music. But boys -- who spend about $50 billion each year -- only make up 40% of the Disney Channel's audience, and the company hasn't had a merchandise hit among boys since Pixar's Cars in 2006.

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