Disney's Marvel acquisition makes for awkward situation in Universal licensing

Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009 10:25 AM | Contributed by Jeff

While the Walt Disney Co.'s $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment Inc. does not pose a near-term threat to the future of Universal Orlando's popular Marvel-themed attractions, it could still create headaches for the resort. In taking over Marvel, Disney will inherit the theme-park licensing contract Marvel has with Universal — along with all of the rights contained within it. As a result, Disney is poised to gain veto power over some of Universal's marketing materials, audit rights over some of its finances, and more.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 10:54 AM

Pretty interesting article. The good news is Universal will keep the Marvel stuff, the bad news is no Marvel stuff at Disney World.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 11:07 AM

Finally an article with a little more meat to it. Pretty intersting stuff, especially the character marketing side of things. I have a feeling some serious negotiations will be taking place once the aquisition is complete.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 11:20 AM

I doubt that Universal has any incentive to negotiate anything. Let it stand as is.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 1:09 PM

The one thing I was curious about, was whether or not there was an end date on the current licensing agreement. The article did say, "The contract allows Universal to continue using the Marvel trademarks for as long as the attractions are in operation." But, does that mean it's an open ended contract?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 1:13 PM

Sounds like it. Marvel would have to do some negotiating to build something new, but as long as the currently standing rides are up, the contract (and its requirements on merchandising and marketing) stays up as well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 1:18 PM

"Pretty interesting article. The good news is Universal will keep the Marvel stuff, the bad news is no Marvel stuff at Disney World."

I woulden't really call that "bad news".

Marvel in a Disney park, would stick out like a sore thumb.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 1:20 PM

They can put in Marvel attractions, just nothing based on characters Universal already has.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 1:33 PM

Jason - that's not how I read it. It sounds like any park east of the Mississippi is precluded from using ANY marvel characters. Its not just limited to the ones which are already used at Universal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 2:07 PM

I doubt that Universal has any incentive to negotiate anything. Let it stand as is.

My thinking is that Disney will now want to lessen the public's association of those characters with that park, and would want to remove the marketing stipulation for perhaps a smaller piece of licensing action. And Universal might be game for sitting down now that Disney is holding the cards.

Then again, Universal would probably want to continue marketing the characters to drive park traffic, at least until Disney starts building Marvel attractions. So you do have a good point.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 2:30 PM

I'm not sure why Disney would want to change it. Universal has to do X amount of marketing per year and then pays Marvel (Disney) Y amount in royalties based on the sales. Basically, Disney invests absolutely nothing and gets a chunk of money for it. On top of that they have veto power to block anything they deem unsuitable. Disney will also be able to, I would imagine, stick Marvel based merchandise into all the Disney Store's accross the country as well.

And this doesn't really change anything for Universal either. Disney can't put attractions based on Marvel characters into their Florida parks and the numbers aren't changing regarding marketing royalties. The only thing that changes is the name on the "Pay to the Order of" line on the royalty check.

This of course completely ignores the fact that the theming and royalties pale in comparison to the value of Marvel Studios. That alone (and this is just my own uneducated guess) is worth at least half of the 4 billion price tag, if not closer to 75%.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 4:25 PM

Juggalotus said:
Jason - that's not how I read it.

From the article: "It also ensures that no other theme park east of the Mississippi River, including Walt Disney World, can develop attractions based on the same characters."

When I see the words same characters, I guess you could be right. But, I think it's a little vague. I think "Same Characters" could also mean the characters they already have rides themed to. I could go either way on the interpretation.

Last edited by Jason Hammond, Wednesday, September 2, 2009 4:25 PM
Wednesday, September 2, 2009 4:31 PM


CF could snag a licence on some Marvel charcters for Knotts, WoF, and GAm in San Fran.

SF could do the same for MM too.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 5:32 PM

Im not sure they can use the Fantastic Four or Iron Man even if there is a narrow reading of only characters which have rides on them, you see Iron Man can be seen on a billboard and you can clearly see the Baxter Building as you ascend in Spiderman.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 9:09 PM

Hopman, I don't think Disney would be interested in that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 9:52 PM

I doubt it.

Cedarfair does not even want to pony up for nick.

Thursday, September 3, 2009 3:30 PM

Jason - I guess I read it as meaning all Marvel characters, but I can see where it could be interpreted as meaning just the ones Universal currently uses. Of course, we're "arguing" over the language used by a reporter, which may or may not be based in fact.

Thursday, September 3, 2009 6:52 PM

Are you insinuating that reports don't always get their facts straight, very often take things out of context and exaggerate whenever possible? If not, it's ok. Because, I just did. ;)

Friday, September 4, 2009 8:49 AM

Well, being a DC Fanboy myself, the only thing I see is a loss of competition. Disney doesn't seem the company that is capable of keeping Marvel as a big player in the comic industry. Disney was built on a rich tradition of animation, but not of the likes of X-Men, Fanstastic Four and the like. Maybe this is Disney's attempt to graduate their branding to something that appeals to a bit older of a market. Anyway I look at it, I just hope that this doesn't mean disaster for the comics themselves, or that we will see animated series toned down to be less violent.

Friday, September 4, 2009 11:24 AM

How are you even connecting those dots? You've heard of Touchstone, Dimension and Miramax, right? (Actually, didn't Dimension spin off and is owned by the Weinsteins now?) If you're suggesting that everything under Mickey's umbrella gets toned down, I don't think you really understand how much Disney has their hand in already. There's no incentive to change the comic business, as it's the foundation for buying the company and its diversifying effects on their portfolio in the first place.


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