V EXCLUSIVE: Will Disney Sanitize Marvel’s Universe?

Movies & TV

Jermaine Hall | September 3, 2009 - 8:51 pm

Sometime Monday morning, the animation equivalent of Jay-Z signing Nas to Def Jam, went down.

The 86-year-old Walt Disney Company announced they were acquiring Marvel Comics…for $4 billie.

The takeover became a hot search on the net. Animation critics are waiting to see what this all means. Stan Lee, the chairman emeritus of Marvel Entertainment, is happy about the move.

“Everything that Disney does, they do well,” he told Forbes on Tuesday. “They are the best marketing company on the face of the earth and will market the hell out of these characters.”

“I’m not completely sure it was a wise purchase,” Marv Wolfman, former Marvel Comics Editor in Chief and former “Disney Adventures” editor, told the Los Angeles Times. “But Disney is in the branding/franchise business and the Marvel brand is one of the largest in the world.”

The big question is what’s really going to happen to the comic book characters that are inherently evil and several killing sprees away from G-Ratings? Is Marvel about to become kid-tested, mother-approved? Will Pluto and Wolverine be pitching pet products on Disney billboards?

On the most basic level, there isn’t anything wrong with collabos. Justin Timberlake, a product of Nickelodean’s Mickey Mouse Club, has joined forces with everyone from T.I. to 50 Cent. Justin got his street cred kicked up a few notches, and clubbers found another reason to report to the dance floor. But what happens when hood goes pop for long-term profit?

“I look at it like Disney doing smart business,” DJ Drama, a diehard Marvel Comics fan, says. “Marvel Comics is an entity, and I don’t see how [the Disney acquisition] could be the death of Marvel. Disney owns ABC, so it’s not like Disney has no understanding of running a company that’s not family-oriented. $4 billion is a lot of money…I’m sure some long conversations had to been going on.”

Indeed there were. According to the New York Times, Disney reached out to Marvel “several” months ago. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time: Marvel was trying to figure out how to leave a deeper print in the film world.
“In the movie department, Marvel is a baby compared to Disney,” Drama says. “When it comes to movies, Disney ain’t no punk.”

“Punk” or not, reporters who heard the news via press release and Twitter, have already revealed their skepticism. “Mickey Mouse is bringing in some muscle,” one reporter said. “Spider-Man and crew seem just like the superhero rescue crew Disney needs,” another wrote, in reference to Disney’s reported 26 percent drop in third-quarter profits this year.

But, who knows? Maybe Disney will practice the “separate but equal” laws of marketing. Like most of the kids who’ve grown up following the 5,000-plus superheroes, Drama, 30,is giddily “hoping for the best.”

“I don’t want to see the flagship company of comic books go down,” he says. “I would love to one day go to Disney World and let my daughter get on a Mickey Mouse ride, while I hop on an Iron Man ride.” — Linda Hobbs