You Can’t Help But “Marvel” Over Disney’s Latest
Comic book fans are
reeling over news that the Walt Disney Company has
purchased Marvel Comics for $4 billion. For fans of the hundreds -- even
thousands -- of Marvel characters, they worry their storylines will become more
reflective of Chip ‘n Dale as opposed to the darker fare that often comes with
the comic book genre.
The deal is highly
intricate. Virtually every major studio in Hollywood is currently producing new
movies based on Marvel characters.
Spider-Man lives at Sony, and
Fantastic Four and
X-Men have all found homes at Fox. And while Marvel has self-financed
recent films like
Iron Man and the latest
Incredible Hulk, Paramount has been acting as the distributor for those
leaves all of these existing relationships in tact -- at least for the time
being. According to industry trade journal Variety, Sony, Paramount and
Fox will continue to hold claim to these lucrative properties that have been
developed for the big screen. In addition, Marvel characters that currently
adorn Universal’s theme parks (Spider-man, Wolverine and other prominent X-Men,
the Hulk and Captain America) will continue to do so.
So what does that
leave Disney? Lots.
Marvel’s stable of
characters are chock full of people mass audiences haven’t ever met. But ask any
comic collector and they will tell you there is still much there to work with.
Never heard of Sleepwalker? Micromax? A quick search on the Internet will reveal
the legions that are waiting to appear on screens, t-shirts, plastic figures and
anything else able to be adorned with a licensed image. And you can be sure they
will be taking up residence in a Disney theme park in the near future.
aficionados worry that Disney princesses will begin showing up in X-Men
plots, those who enjoy Disney Studios’ usually family-friendly entertainment
brands also have reason to worry. Over the past few years Disney appears to have
more fully embraced the idea of being a company that appeals to family
audiences. Not long ago, they announced they would only produce a couple of
PG-13 films each year under their Touchstone label. Is this about to change?
Even with the more
lenient PG-rating we’ve seen of late, I can’t imagine how most Marvel characters
will fit into this classification without watering down many plot elements. And
if these new Marvel movies are released with a PG-13 rating, will they be under
the Touchstone or Disney brand? Or will they be solely labeled as a Marvel
Disney chief Robert Iger says Marvel fans have no need to worry because the
studio has no plans to “rebrand Marvel as Disney” and that Marvel’s current CEO
will continue to run the company. The article also recognizes a quick audit of
current Disney characters reveals a definite trend toward young girls with many
princess and fairy products and states Disney’s main reason for purchasing the
comic giant is to help “target an audience of younger boys more aggressively
across multiple platforms.”
promise of not Disney-fying Marvel together with the intent of selling these new
properties to six-year-old boys (assuming they are after the same very young
ages they are reaching toward with their princess and fairy titles) is
definitely concerning. While I appreciate the mature, and sometimes thought
provoking themes, found in movies like
Spider-man, these are hardly equivalent to the
Disney Princess Enchanted Tales DVDs that show up on my desk.
Disney will need to
walk a very fine line once it begins playing with its newly purchased toys. I
truly hope they will continue to recognize the lucrative market they have
available to them with parents who have put their trust in their company’s
products and that they won’t stoop to marketing age-inappropriate characters to
our youngest children who are already living in a violence-saturated world.
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
Click here to comment on this column