Let’s be honest, today’s news that Walt Disney was acquiring Marvel is hardly likely to inspire cheers among anyone except shareholders. If you’re a fan of comic book movies, you probably see this as a death knell for some of the great hero movies of the last few years, including Iron Man, Spider-Man, and even X-Men.
Truth be told, it’s hard to look at this with any hope because Disney is simply not seen as the studio they once were. Whether it’s a misconception or not, the company is best known today for spitting out direct-to-DVD titles for the kids, endless family-oriented sequels, and films like Beverly Hills Chihuahua, or Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds.
Honestly, at first glance I was disappointed because I simply don’t trust Disney any more. Until recently Disney was a profound company in many ways, making films that captured people’s imaginations. Just since I was a kid I can think of dozens of great films, like Tron, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Aside from Tron though, which is a bit of a hybrid, the list is thick with cartoons, and the best ones from the last decade are actually all from their subsidiary, Pixar.
So what hope is there that Disney will make a serious go with properties owned by Marvel? I’m still not certain there’s a lot of hope, but there is some. More than enough, in fact, and if we are very lucky it could work out to be the best thing that could possibly have happened to Marvel.
Here are just a few great things to consider when thinking about the future of Marvel under the thumb of the House of Mouse:
The first good news is that there are a lot of pre-existing film deals for characters like Iron Man, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four, and many others. That means that it could potentially be a few years, at least, before Disney gets full control of their stable of characters and titles. It also means that films you have been eagerly awaiting will likely still happen with their current studios. (I’m thinking Spider-Man 4 in particular.)
There is simply no better example of the positives of working with Disney than the entire Pixar deal. Pixar has made Oscar-winning films that have taken the box office by storm, and the company is completely owned by Disney. Some of Pixar’s top brass also hold positions within Disney. This suggests, as do a number of quotes from the studio today, that Disney will allow Marvel to do their own thing, as long as it’s not running the company into the ground. They may even be able to foster some growth and creativity if Pixar staff were somehow involved in Marvel projects.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Look no further than Johnny Depp starring as the rum-swilling pirate Captain Jack Sparrow and you’ll see that Disney has been involved with at least three great blockbusters films that were action-packed and not at all what you might label as an obvious mouse by-product. Think of the possibilities if Disney were to back a Marvel project as extensively as they backed the Pirates franchise?
Look back over the years of products Disney has put out, particularly over the last decade, and you’re going to see a lot of things that girls love: talking animals, cute animated toys, Hannah freaking Montana, and the Jonas Brothers. With this deal Disney will finally have something to sell to a different audience, and that could mean extending the development of Marvel products, which obviously means you could see more of your favorite characters. There’s an obvious downside to this as well, in terms of over-marketing, which Disney is majorly guilty of, but I’m still going to count this as a positive for now.
Lastly, this one goes back to quotes from Walt Disney president Bob Iger today, who basically said that their idea moving forward is to follow the creed, “if it ain’t broke…” don’t screw it up. Disney has nothing to gain from leaping in and messing with well-established characters who have already proven themselves critically and at the box office. On the flip side, maybe this means they can find a way to revive the Wolverine and X-Men franchises after those last two horrific films…
All of this said, I’m still going to be cautious about singing my complete praise for this deal. When the bottom line is money, things can go very wrong, and Disney has many miles to go before they’re vindicated. All I can hope is that being a fan counts for something, and Disney actually respects the history and the incredible characters and stories that they have just bought into.