Marvel Enterprises has sued the Walt Disney Co. and the ABC Family (formerly Fox Family) channel, claiming it is owed at least $16 million on the cartoons it licensed to Fox Family, which Disney acquired in 2001.
According to Marvel’s suit, filed Thursday in L.A. Superior Court, Disney has harmed Marvel in two ways — by failing to account properly for profits from animated television series “The Incredible Hulk,” “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” and failing to promote them. According to the complaint, Disney claims the cartoons are a money-losing proposition but refuses to provide a proper accounting.
Favors own programs?
Marvel further alleges that Disney so overpaid when it acquired Fox Family for an eye-popping $5.2 billion that it had no money left to develop the Marvel properties; that it improperly continued the sweetheart deals put in place by Fox; and that it has let Marvel properties languish while favoring its own programming.
Marvel attorney Carole Handler said, “This intellectual property is extremely valuable to Marvel, and Marvel intends to see that it is properly compensated for the real value of its property.”
Under a 1992 deal, Marvel agreed to produce animated episodes for Fox Children’s Network. Marvel then entered into an agreement with Saban Entertainment to produce the animated programming. Under a 1996 deal, Fox obtained U.S. distribution rights and Saban acquired worldwide rights. When Disney bought the channel it acquired all distrib rights.
Won’t allow audit
Among its claims, Marvel says Disney has refused to allow Marvel to audit recent records in order to conceal handsome profits made when it repackaged and re-released “Spider-Man” videos to coincide with Sony’s “Spider-Man” feature film release in 2002.
Marvel has been involved in numerous suits over its licensed characters. It recently settled a suit with Sony over control of merchandising for the “Spider-Man” film franchise and “Men in Black.” In a suit, since settled, Fox sued Marvel to stop production of a television show it claimed copied the “X-Men” film.
A Disney spokesman said late Thursday that the company had not yet seen the suit and therefore could not comment.