Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Art of Walt Deals-ney

I stand with my friend Chuck Munson on the issue of Disney's pending purchase of Marvel: I just don't get it. The delayed acquisition of the Jim Henson menagerie made sense, after a fashion, in that the Muppets appeal to the same sort of broad-based "family audience" that Disney has always sought to court. (When Disney was slumping in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- at the same time as The Muppet Show was riding high -- Henson might almost be said to have kept the ideal of Disney-style entertainment alive, at least until Disney regained its footing.) But will anyone, anywhere, ever accept the Marvel superheroes as part of the Disney "universe"? Somehow, I can't laugh at the already-proliferating jokes about "Spider-Mickey" and "Hannah Montana joining The Avengers."

"When the elephants fight, the ground gets trampled," the saying goes, but the same might be said of elephants' mating rituals. The folks at Boom! Studios must have taken this news as they would have absorbed a kick in the 'nads. Just when Boom! is about to roll out its new line of "classic-character" Disney comics -- with a daring new approach, to boot -- Disney buys one of the most effective comics producers and distributors of the past half-century. I'd say the chances of a renewal of Boom!'s license just shrank a tad, wouldn't you? The scary thing, of course, is that the one previous cooperative comics-producing venture between Disney and Marvel, back in the mid-1990s, was a financial flop and an aesthetic disaster. The Marvel-Disney DISNEY AFTERNOON title -- which its editor described with a straight face as "a comic Disney can be proud of" -- is almost legendarily awful, and the other M-D titles, while more readable, never really took hold. Granted, Marvel has changed some since then, but the company's established track record in dealing with licensed properties is decidedly mixed, as is its history in the "kids' comics" field (Star Comics, with its shamelessly "Harvey-Lite" approach, immediately comes to mind). Disney's lack of oversight with regards to some of Boom!'s more daring notions suggests that, if it decides to let Marvel take over the "classic" comics license at some future time, it might simply let "The House of Ideas" have carte blanche. Personally, I'd gladly watch a DVD of the collected Stan Lee's Stripperella rather than go through another Marvel-Disney nightmare, especially if it involves Mickey, Donald, Scrooge, and the cream of Disney's crop.

4 comments:

Chuck Munson said...

You have described what I failed to have time to describe and in a manner more eloquent and knowledgable on the Marvel end of the equation than I. I really have still not been able to mull over it and what little time I have spent on it *still* leaves me unable to comprehend most of the logic to this transaction.

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris and Chuck:

Given Disney’s recent history of purifying, “Bland-ifying”, and “Policically-correct-ifying”, I would imagine that there are more MARVEL FANS aghast at this than Disney fans!

Why, even DAREDEVIL is no longer “The Man Without Fear”! Be very afraid, True Believers, Galactus is coming – and he’s wearing Mouse Ears!

Speaking of Galactus… Clearly, this is the way today’s Disney balances the scales tipped by all the “Princess-ing” and “Hanna Montana-ing” of late. Absorbing something that will appeal to boys!

Now, I feel less sad over Gemstone’s collapse – 1990 would repeat itself, as the license would have gone to Disney’s own in-house publisher… Marvel, once it was up, anyway!

Let’s not get too used to BOOM!

Joe.

Mark Arnold said...

It's the ongoing Disney / Warner Bros. rivalry now being extended into the superheroes comics.

Silly Symphonies / Merrie Melodies
Mickey Mouse / Foxy
ABC / WB
Disney Afternoon / Kids WB
Donald Duck / Daffy Duck
Chip 'n' Dale / Mac 'n' Tosh
Disney Stores / Warner Bros. Stores
Disney Movie Club / Warner Archives
Disney Theme Parks / Six Flags

and now
DC / Marvel

It was inevitable...

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

"Clearly, this is the way today’s Disney balances the scales tipped by all the “Princess-ing” and “Hanna Montana-ing” of late. Absorbing something that will appeal to boys!"

But, I thought turning Toon Disney into Disney X-treme (or Disney XP for Windows, or whatever it's called now) was supposed to explicitly address this? Disney evidently decided that, in lieu of creating its own avatars of "boy-friendly" action-adventure AND working hard to make them appealing, it'd just be easier to purchase that which already exists.

"Now, I feel less sad over Gemstone’s collapse – 1990 would repeat itself, as the license would have gone to Disney’s own in-house publisher… Marvel, once it was up, anyway! Let’s not get too used to BOOM!"

And, let's hope that Disney takes enough notice of the comics produced under a Disney-Marvel banner to avoid the lack of quality control that dogged the Marvel-Disney efforts. That's the real question -- to what extent Disney will let Marvel do what it wants to with the license. In this case, personnel (at Marvel) will most definitely be policy.

Chris