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Three Years Later: A Look at Disney’s Acquisition of Marvel

Nearly three years ago, Disney fans and comic book geeks alike did double takes as they looked at the latest news: Disney bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. While this was less than Disney spent for PIXAR, there were no previous projects between Disney and Marvel, other than Disney having acquired Stan Lee’s POW Entertainment in 2008. After the success of Marvel’s The Avengers (distributed by Walt Disney Pictures), let’s take a look at who owns the characters and a glimpse at the future:

This purchase did come with a lot of tangled red tape, as the rights to many of the most popular Marvel Characters were spread out across the film distribution universe (not to mention theme-park rights). Currently, 20th Century FOX owns rights to the X-Men universe, Daredevil, Elektra, and Fantastic Four; Sony has hold of Ghost Rider and Spider-Man; and New Line Cinema’s hold on the Blade property and Lionsgate’s rights to The Punisher have reverted back to Marvel.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be difficult to get the rights to any in-park Avengers rides, walk-arounds, etc, at Walt Disney World as Universal and Marvel have signed a long-lasting contract for Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, and Captain America at their Universal Orlando park. However, Universal did allow their contract for Universal Hollywood to lapse, so an attraction or meet-and-greet characters in Disneyland Resort, most likely Disney California Adventure (or perhaps that empty strawberry field down Harbor Blvd) is possible.

Should Disney ever buy-out Marvel’s contract with Universal Orlando, I do have a few ideas for the use of Marvel’s hottest property at the moment: 1) Use the empty Wonders of Life Pavilion in EPCOT’s Future World as a new home to the Stark Expo (could also be housed in Innoventions) 2) A new Marvel-themed area in DHS, with one E-ticket and maybe a stage show or side show (a-la Jedi Training Academy). Those Streets of New York are awfully empty these days… 3) I do not foresee an attraction being added to the Magic Kingdom, because, well, it just wouldn’t fit, unless WDI decides to future-ize Tomorrow Land 4) With the addition of Pandora on hold at the Animal Kingdom, Marvel has a few animal-like heroes that could fit the area.

So, three years later, the purchase of Marvel is just beginning to pay off for Disney. The future is bright for the company, especially as rights for the tent-pole characters come back. In the next two years have The Amazing Spider-Man (Columbia Pictures July 3, 2012), Iron Man 3 (Spring 2013), The Wolverine (20th Century FOX: Summer 2013), Thor 2 (Fall 2013), Captain America 2 (Spring 2014) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Columbia Pictures 2014).

Do you think Disney should buy out Universal soon? Where would you place Marvel Characters in the parks? Which characters should have their own movie?