Why Disney Bought Marvel and Star Wars

With ‘The Lone Ranger’ set to come out in the middle of next week, it started a train of though about why Disney was forced to purchase both Marvel and the rights to Star Wars. They fail at producing blockbuster franchises on their own.

Now, I am sure some will point to the success of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise at the box office as a major win for Disney, and monetarily it definitely was, but as ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ showed, making money does not a good movie make, and Disney has a bit of a track record of this as of late.

In recent years, Disney has tried to take properties from many different genres of entertainment, from video games to books to old film ideas, and launch them as possible money-making franchises.  And aside from ‘Pirates’, none of them have succeeded.

The problem I am having with writing this is the fact that I have enjoyed the majority of the films that Disney has produced during that time period, from ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ to ‘Tron: Legacy’ to ‘John Carter’, so I have found some pleasure from the films and would have more than likely enjoyed additional forays into those worlds.

As a result of their inability to create a steady stream of franchise fare for the theatre, which to be honest is the backbone of the major studios in this day and age, it forced Disney to look to outside sources to bridge that gap.  With the acquisition of Pixar finally happening in 2006, Disney was able to leverage that move into a significant boost for their animated feature film department which saw a decline in the quality of films produced around the turn of millennium.

As a result of this acquisition, Disney has seen a sharp turnaround in the quality of animated features, up to and including 2010’s ‘Tangled’ which highlighted the fact that they could look at outside companies as a way to increase their overall box office successes.

What this led to was Disney looking at up and coming studios with the possibility of having success on the franchise level, and this led Disney directly to Marvel Studios in particular, and Marvel Entertainment as a whole.

Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment at the end of 2009 on the strength of 2008’s ‘Iron Man’ and 2010’s upcoming ‘Iron Man 2’ and the prospect of the paycheck that would be 2012’s ‘The Avengers’.  A previous deal allowed Paramount to have their logo on the last two Marvel films in ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Iron Man 3’ but these two movies, the first produced fully since Disney purchases Marvel, currently sit at third and fifth in box office receipts worldwide in unadjusted sales, which tells you the value of just what Disney purchased here.

As a result of this, Disney also took a long look starting in 2011 at purchasing LucasFilm from George Lucas to gain access to the profitable ‘Star Wars’ franchise.  While not securing the rights to the first six episodes of the ‘Star Wars’ saga yet, the purchase of LucasFilm enables Disney to produce films that further the saga and standalone’s that would enhance the universe, all of which will draw large crowds to the theatre.

Who knows for sure if this was a long term plan of Disney’s, to purchase Marvel and LucasFilm, or if this is a direct result of past failures to launch monetarily successful film franchises, but what it has done is create an atmosphere where Disney, in 2015, will be producing films for three of the most successful movie franchises of all time: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’, ‘The Avengers 2’ and ‘Star Wars Episode VII’.  While there is an outside chance this could be overload on general audiences, for the serious movie fan, this could be the best summer ever.

Wether any of this will mean a successful run for ‘The Lone Ranger’ in the theatre or not remains to be seen, but it does mean that Disney is hoping that they can learn how to build franchises with these acquisitions, and who knows, we may yet see a ‘Tron’ trilogy come to  fruition as well.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

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