Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Marvel Comic Heros coming to Disney

I know that everyone has been sounding off on the Disney acquisition of Marvel comics. As a reader of comics, a watcher of movies, and a lover of all things Disney, I hope to offer a unique perspective on the discussion.

I have daughters, so I spend a lot of my time at the parks visiting fur characters and princesses. I have been following the developments of the new Fantasyland with excitement. I have been watching the developments all over the world at other parks and wondering when there will be a similar interest paid here in Florida. With the huge renovation of California Disney (I know everyone says its long overdue), and hearing they are adding three new lands and several attractions at Hong Kong Disney I began to feel that the Florida properties were being allowed to languish. The addition of Nemo was nice, but the way it was implemented in California was great and reminded me so much of the 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. We got Soarin', but it was just a copy of the same ride that had been operating in California for a while. We did get Toy Story Midway Mania at the same time as in California-yipee!

Now we did get Expedition Everest, but to be fair, Animal Kingdom really did need something to bring people to the park. So looking at the Magic Kingdom, I feel that the park is getting tired. The Stitch Show was a bust (it was pretty awful and was very hot to sit through) and now the stage is vacant. We are getting an overhaul of Space Mountain, and no one is too sure what that means. When you look at the difference between Tinkerbell's home in Disneyland and that in Magic Kingdom, I am again left wanting.

So I am super excited about the plans to update Fantasyland. Since Toon Town Carnival never lived up to its excellent big brother in Disneyland, I am happy to see it go with the hopes that the new Fantasyland will more than make up for the difficult to navigate tacked on Mickey's Vacation Home that became Toon Town Carnival.

So what does this have to do with Marvel Comics? Well I predict that Disney, which receives such a large amount of its revenue from theme parks is going to use this liscense to deal with a missing demographic. Boys from 5 to 12 have been very much left out at the parks. Stitch rides and shows have never appealed to this demographic even though Disney keeps pushing. At California Disney they have leaned on the Pixar liscense pretty hard with an entire land dedicated to that end. At Hollywood Studios, Indian Jones, Star Wars, Stunt Shows, and Power Rangers are entertaining, but are tired and are clearly beyond the end of their real attractiveness.

I see a reinvigorated way of connecting with boys in the parks and in media. With all the emphasis on Jonas Brothers, High School Musical, and Hanna Montana, Disney has had trouble finding its place with half of its audience. Many of its animated features have failed to connect with this group and further, films designed to target an older audience, like Pirates have been used as attractions for boys in the parks. Look at the new Pirate Adventure at Magic Kingdom. This is a well executed counterpoint to the Bippoty Boppity Boutique, but it really is a girl attraction in a boy wrapper. (Make-up and dress-up even if it is pirates and zombies is still the realm of girls.)

I think this new license will bring new animated series to Disney Channel, ABC Family, Disney XD. I think we will see new movies in the mold of Pirates but with the new licenses (this could be hit or miss, I'm not sure Disney can be trusted to do a great job with the these licenses). However, I do think that a new section of the Hollywood Studios dedicated to the Marvel licesne would be unbelievable and could be amazing. Moreover I believe that Disney has a chance to really nail this license and demographic in a way that Universal has not been able.

I might be wishful thinking, but hey, I can dream! I mean lets face it, Treasure Planet, Atlantis, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinson's, Brother Bear, Emperors New Groove, and a few Pixar offerings have been unable to find real traction at the parks or with boys age 5 to 12. Only Pixar has had some success here. Maybe King of the Elves will fair better, but in the pipe right now Disney has a slew of girl films (The Princess and the Frog, Tinkerbell's Lost Treasures, and Rapunzel) and Winnie the Pooh. Pixar is hitting the established properties pretty hard with three confirmed sequels coming up. So, I think that this Marvel acquisition could jump start a new direction for an entire missing demographic.

Yeah Disney! Go Spidey!

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