On August 31, 2009, nearly a year after Iron Man put Marvel Studios on the map, Disney made the shocking announcement that it had acquired Marvel Entertainment for a whopping $4 billion. With the purchase, Disney had acquired a brand that featured a library of over 5000 characters that they planned to use to better target the young male demographic. And the timing couldn't be more perfect as evidenced by this summer's success story in The Avengers and its $1.5 billion haul from the worldwide box office.
Fast forward three years and Disney is at it again, taking the world by storm last week by announcing they had purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas for just over $4 billion. Sound familiar? For the same price as Marvel, Disney now owned Star Wars with similar historical brand appeal and merchandising/multimedia potential. So, what's next for Disney and their conquest to re-earn the boys market? Hasbro.
Only six days after the Star Wars deal - which is still the buzz topic in the industry - MTV has the scoop that Disney is now in early (yet reportedly serious) talks with the executives at Hasbro with the goal of adding them under the House of the Mouse. It took six months for the Disney-Lucasfilm deal to come together but they claim a Hasbro-related announcement could come at any time should things progress quickly.
What that means is that in addition to owning the superheroes and supervillains of the Marvel library, and the Jedi Knights and Sith from the vast Star Wars fiction, Disney could one day add Transformers and G.I. Joe to the mix, and hence, would employ an even stronger grip on the Disney's sought-after young male demographic, especially when it comes to the merchandising side of the business, specifically toys.
It's an absolute no-brainer for Disney to make this move, should the rumor prove true. The Transformers and G.I. Joes already share space with the now-owned-by-Disney properties, from Transformers and G.I. Joe comics (there's even a New Avengers/Transformers crossover series), to Hasbro toys for all of the above. Hasbro not only makes Star Wars and Marvel action figures (there are Star Wars Transformers toys - see below) but it owns the respective board game licenses as well.
For us, the big question surrounds the film, television and video game entertainment implications from such a deal. 14 months after Disney purchased Marvel, they bought the distribution rights to The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount, the same studio which distributes the G.I. Joe and Transformers films. Would Disney then have to purchase rights for further sequels? Would they greenlight their own reboots of these key franchises? Would they move the related animated TV series to their own networks a la the Clone Wars?
If Disney is ready to spend big on expanding their brands and bolster their global entertainment strategies, we also wonder how far they'd be willing to go to reacquire key Marvel properties including Spider-Man from Sony Pictures and the X-Men/Fantastic Four from Twentieth Century Fox. Only time will tell how far this MONOPOLY will expand.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
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