×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Disney Set to Dominate as it Unleashes Full Power of Pixar, Marvel and ‘Star Wars’

Walt Disney Chairman Bob Iger has shown a willingness to write big checks, plunking down nearly $16 billion to purchase Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. This marks the first year these big bets will result in such a nuclear-powered slate that the other Hollywood players are scrambling to replenish their own arsenals. In the process, the movie industry has transformed into a business dominated by one superpower, a handful of favored states and a few rogue nations.

The Burbank studio’s upcoming 2015 movie lineup features a new “Star Wars” picture from Lucasfilm; two offerings from Marvel, a sequel to “The Avengers” and an “Ant-Man” entry; a pair of films from Pixar, “Inside Out” and “The Good Dinosaur”; plus Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” with George Clooney, from Disney’s own movie unit.

Forget the Magic Kingdom. This is how a cinematic empire is built. “Disney is the new high-water mark with brands,” says Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott. “It puts them through their various distribution networks — from TV to merchandising to licensing — and the studio is the birthplace for all of that.”

Disney has itself always been a brand of undisputed power. Its name conjures up images of a smiling Mickey Mouse and wistful fairy princesses. But the company has deftly expanded its list of hot properties to appeal not just to families with children, but to fanboys as well.

“Disney has become something aspirational for other studios,” says Matthew Harrigan, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities. “You can’t replicate what they’re doing.”

That doesn’t mean its rivals can’t try. Warner Bros. is borrowing liberally from the Disney/Marvel model by launching a series of interlocking superhero films based on its DC Comics properties, while Sony has announced that it views its upcoming “Ghostbusters” reboot as the first step toward crafting a “shared universe” encompassing TV shows and merchandising that’s pegged to the proton-pack-wielding ectoplasm-fighters. At the same time, Hollywood players are in a mad rush to snap up anything with a whiff of franchise to it, ranging from anime series to Stephen King novels.

That puts pressure on Disney, especially regarding costumed crime fighters. The coming years will see a superhero onslaught, as Warners prepares to field one to two comicbook movies a year, and Fox keeps churning out films based on licensed Marvel properties, such as “The Fantastic Four” and “X-Men.”

“On the comic side, soon you’re going to have a crowded slate,” notes Wible. “Studios may need to be more flexible in order to ease up on the congestion.”

That could mean Disney will be forced to become more lenient in its licensing terms, instead of strictly enforcing rules that mandate other studios that buy rights to films based on Marvel’s comicbook heroes, for instance, produce them within a certain time frame, or risk having those rights revert back to Marvel. Or it could necessitate collaboration along the lines of the studio’s recent partnership with Sony on its forthcoming “Spider-Man” reboot.

Any way you look at it, it’s an enviable universe to play in.

More Film

  • Daniel Craig

    Daniel Craig to Undergo Ankle Surgery After 'Bond 25' Injury

    Daniel Craig will undergo ankle surgery after sustaining an injury while filming “Bond 25.” “Daniel Craig will be undergoing minor ankle surgery resulting from an injury sustained during filming in Jamaica,” the franchise’s official Twitter account posted. “Production will continue whilst Craig is rehabilitating for two weeks post-surgery. The film remains on track for the [...]

  • Oh Mercy

    Cannes Film Review: 'Oh Mercy'

    It takes more than just watching “Oh Mercy” to understand exactly why Arnaud Desplechin was drawn to the subject matter of his latest movie, a reasonably engrossing police procedural with roots in a 2008 TV documentary. Something of an unexpected detour in the veteran director’s weighty career, the film combines multiple strands to paint a [...]

  • Spielberg's Amblin Chief Jeff Small on

    Listen: Spielberg's Amblin Chief on Making 'Movies in the Middle'

    With the sequel “A Dog’s Journey” now in theaters, Amblin Partners continues to find ways to release the kind of films that aren’t typical of what dominates American multiplexes these days. An follow-up to the 2017 surprise hit “A Dog’s Purpose,” “Journey” is just another example of the cinematic strategy evident at Amblin, the production [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    French Animation 'I Lost My Body' Tops Cannes Critics' Week Winners

    “I Lost My Body,” a dark French animated film from writer-director Jérémy Clapin, has come up trumps in this year’s Critics’ Week program at the Cannes Film Festival, taking the strand’s top honor, the Nespresso Grand Prize. The film, which follows a young man’s severed hand as it struggles to be reunited with its own, [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Talent Agents Blast Verve Agreement With Writers Guild

    The lead negotiator for Hollywood’s talent agencies has again blasted the Writers Guild and its recent agreement with the Verve agency — and cautioned other agencies against following suit. Verve defected from the major agencies on May 16 when it became the first sizable Hollywood talent agency to sign the WGA’s Code of Conduct. That [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content