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Comic Explosion: Disney Buys Marvel Entertainment

Wayne Friedman
August 31, 2009

Making a dramatic move to broaden its products/characters for more of an older boy/teen audience, Walt Disney has agreed to acquire Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in stock and cash.

Marvel is the home of such high-profile, major comic-book characters as Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America and Fantastic Four. Disney will acquire Marvel Entertainment, taking control of more than 5,000 Marvel characters. The deal gives Marvel shareholders $30 a share in cash plus about three-quarters in Disney shares for each Marvel share they own.

This would be Disney's boldest and biggest move since buying up Pixar Animation Studios in 2006 for $7.4 billion. The computer animation company has had an unprecedented string of theatrical hits -- all of which has helped Disney expand to a broad range of audiences.

Pixar shifted Disney's emphasis, which traditionally relied on many animated and other entertainment properties catering to young girls/ teen girls. For example, Pixar's "Cars," the movie franchise, was a major hit for young boys.

The Marvel deal goes much further. Marvel's characters -- especially Iron Man, Spider-Man and X-Men -- have been major box-office theatrical sellers, giving Disney the audiences it has been seeking for some time.

"Now, Disney has properties to appeal for kids as they get older," says Gareb Shamus, CEO of Wizard Entertainment, which owns Wizard magazine.

On the television front, for example, TV analysts say Disney Channel has been highly successful with the "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana" franchises, especially in targeting young girls/teen girls. Only recently has Disney moved to push more into boys/teen properties with its Jetix-brand programming, which runs on Toon Disney channel. Marvel brands could find their way to these platforms.

Good news for Disney is that Marvel has been successful in creating younger, more kid-friendly, Disney-like characters for Iron Man and Spider-Man, says Shamus. Disney is already a powerhouse when it comes to licensing and merchandising. Having more powerful boy properties only adds to Disney's strength, he says.

Shamus adds that Disney has been successful in leveraging its toy licensees to help market its brands -- especially with its major Mattel toy licensee. Hasbro has been Marvel Entertainment's key toy licensee for its products. "Now they are going to get Hasbro leverage," he says.

Because of Marvel properties' attraction for young boys/men, Shamus says more marketing possibilities could occur with ESPN sports TV shows, for example, which also target young men.






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