NOTE: I’ll be updating this as needed during a currently ongoing conference call.

This morning Disney announced its plan to buy Marvel Entertainment for 4 billion dollars.

Yes, Disney is buying Marvel.

What does this mean? Fuck if I know. It probably means that Marvel’s movie financing plan just got bigger. A bunch bigger. I assume that the current distribution deal that Marvel has with Paramount stays intact, but once that’s over, Marvel movies will likely be distributed by Disney. That’s gotta sting Paramount – first they lost Dreamworks to Disney and now Marvel.

Disney’s making big moves lately, the aforementioned Dreamworks deal being just one aspect. The company has restructured their animation division and Pixar is more of an important element. This looks like the beginning of a period of Disney domination in the geek arts.

Will Marvel be impacted? I doubt Disney is going to stick their fingers in the Marvel Comics Universe. The company has been interested in entertainment that reaches wider, all-ages audiences, so I also doubt they’ll try to make all Marvel movies PG or something.

UPDATE 7:25: All current Marvel deals should stay in place – ie, Fantastic Four remain at Fox, Spider-Man lives at Sony.

UPDATE 7:30: No shock, but Disney expects to bring the characters home when the deals are done, as the third party deals are not as sweet in this new paradigm.

UPDATE 7:35: Disney expects to be able to exploit Marvel characters more broadly and more deeply, but they think that the people at Marvel are already doing a great job with that and are the experts on how to make that work. Read that as: Disney isn’t going to be telling Marvel to get cracking on a Power Pack movie.

UPDATE 7:38: Expect more Marvel stuff on Disney XD Channel.

UPDATE 7:40: Disney may keep some Marvel video game licenses at other companies, depending on what works best.

UPDATE 7:40: More 3D in Marvel films? It’s up to the creative types.

UPDATE 7:40: Disney would like over time to become the sole distributor of Marvel films, but they must keep in the Paramount deal, legally.

UPDATE 7:42: Marvel and Pixar? John Lasseter and Marvel honchos recently met and got so excited the suits had to tell them to calm down, the deal wasn’t done yet. There is DEFINITELY Marvel/Pixar stuff brewing right now.

UPDATE 7:44: Who will call the shots on unproduced, upcoming Marvel films? ‘No one knows the Marvel characters and stories better than the folks at Marvel.’

UPDATE 7:45: ‘If ain’t broke…’ says Bob Iger.

UPDATE 7:49: Paramount deal has about five more pictures.

UPDATE 7:51: Disney doesn’t see a reason to move Marvel Studios from Manhattan Beach.

UPDATE 7:55: Paraphrase: The goal here isn’t to remake Marvel in the image of Disney, but to shine a brighter light on Marvel.

UPDATE 8:02: My thoughts on it all.

This is good for Marvel, hands down. Well, Marvel as a business entity. This is a bonanza for ancillary products and tie-ins; the Marvel characters are about to become almost as ubiquitous as the Disney characters. Lots of money will be made.

As I said earlier, I doubt this impacts Marvel Comics. As long as they turn enough of a profit (or avoid accruing huge losses) to justify their existence as a property generator, they will exist unmolested. It’s like DC and Time Warner – it’s rare that Time Warner pays any attention to what’s happening in the DC Comics Universe.

But movies? This is where I get worried. And not for content. I think Disney will let Marvel Studios make their movies their way. But the big problem for DC characters at Warner Bros is that the studio will only distribute so many DC movies a year. The way that Marvel was set up before the deal, they could strike distribution deals with different studios, ensuring a large stream of film content. Will Disney be happy to put out three or more Marvel movies a year? Kevin Feige is definitely thinking about releasing a Marvel movie a quarter in the near future – and maybe even more than that – but will Disney get behind that? This is my biggest question.

So Paramount has them for five more films – Iron Man 2, Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, The Avengers and maybe Ant-Man. After that it’s all Disney, except for Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men and related characters and Daredevil. Don’t hold your breath for those properties to come home anytime soon – now that Disney owns Marvel the studios would ask huge amounts to sell them back, and the deals will not be expiring in the near future.

Where now? It’s going to be an interesting couple of months. I’m sure Marvel Studios will be flooded with press calls – I hope a statement gets issued from Feige soon.

There’s a conference call about this deal in a couple of minutes; I’ll be listening in and will return with any new details. In the meantime, here’s some language from the press release:

“This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with
Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of
entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the
value of creative properties across multiple platforms and
territories,” said Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive
Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “Ike Perlmutter and his team have
done an impressive job of nurturing these properties and have created
significant value. We are pleased to bring this talent and these great
assets to Disney.”

“We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of
brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and
value creation,” Iger said.

“Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of
characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and
licensing businesses,” said Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s Chief Executive
Officer. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon
its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s
tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including
its more than 5,000 Marvel characters. Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the
Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney’s global lines of
business to build and further integrate Marvel’s properties.