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Behind the Kirby Heirs Lawsuit against Disney/Marvel

When the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment, they acquired a lot more more than just the 5,000 characters in Marvel’s stable, they also found a slate of lawsuits hiding under that  rock. Not only will Disney likely end up suing some of the other studios who have the movie rights for some of those characters, but the creators of the characters are starting to pursue something called ‘creator rights.’

It’s a bit complicated, but the New York Times put its crack squad on it and now there’s a really good look at all the various factions and the legal issues. This case, and the inevitable appeals, will drag on for years. But it could end up costing Disney billions in potential revenue if the Kirby heirs get the rights to decide who makes movies using the Kirby characters.

Gotta keep a close eye on this one.

3 thoughts on “Behind the Kirby Heirs Lawsuit against Disney/Marvel”

  1. Well, this is what happens when Disney decides to just purchase existing “Intellectual Properties” instead of creating and developing their own. In my opinion, Disney has no business owning Marvel comics or The Muppets. Neither should they ever have had licensing deals with outside entities such as Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles. I far preferred Disney when it was still “Walt Disney Productions”, involved in producing their own films, TV and having created just three theme parks. As soon as Eisner and his gang took over in 1984 and changed the corporate name to “The Walt Disney Company”, it has led to all manner of dubious partnerships with outsiders instead of keeping everything wholly created within the studio. Just look at the mess that was created by Disney joining forces with Spielberg’s Amblin to produce “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. I know firsthand from having worked at Disney during that period that there was a very tenuous association right from the beginning, with both parties having to okay all tie-in merchandise and collateral material featuring Roger and seldom agreeing on anything. The end result was a parting of ways several years later, leaving Roger Rabbit and friends in legal limbo.

    So, yeah, I’m not at all sympathetic to Disney’s current dilemma regarding Marvel. If this wrongheaded purchase comes around to bite them on their collective corporate butt, Bob Iger and his fellow Disney execs will have richly deserved it.

  2. ^ I agree with you to an extent, when you say Disney would be better off developing their own intellectual properties. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t partner with (or purchase) existing properties that enhance the branding of both. For instance, Disney, the Muppets, and Pixar all seem to me like a match made in heaven – all reinforce the Disney characteristics of quality stories, appealing characters, and family-friendly content. Marvel, on the other hand, does not mesh nearly as seamlessly with the Disney image, and it is also the first property acquisition that has ticked off many people on both sides of the transaction (Disney and Marvel fans alike). Couple this with the fact that Marvel was already one of the world’s largest and most recognized media companies, and you find yourself with some very messy situations, like the one featured here in this article.

  3. NOW the Kirby heirs want some legacy payment, yet years ago when Jack was alive, he had to toss tons of original artwork when Marvel moved buildings. I know because a friend (who works in Hollywood as a movie pupeteer) and now has probably the most complete collection of Kirby’s work around (and must be worth at least hundreds of thousands), but lots of it was lost forever.

    I don’t think they stand to gain anything since Kirby’s creations were clearly “work for hire” unlike Bob Kane or Shuster & Siegel (Batman and Superman creators).

    As for Disney, I think under the present board of directors and their synergy and hands-off policies, they’re doing a good job of leaving Pixar and Marvel to work on their own. As long as there’s no return to the Eisner era, and they turn out quality work, it’s a win-win.

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