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This year marks a decade since Walt Disney Studios acquired Marvel Studios. And it would be an understatement to say the House of Mouse is happy with its decision 10 years later, especially considering Avengers: Endgame has become the highest-grossing movie ever. But imagine if Disney and Marvel collaborated on movies earlier? Turns out, it could have happened.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has revealed that before he took on the top position, then-CEO Michael Eisner and other Disney executives considered acquiring Marvel. In his words:
This wasn’t the first time Marvel has been on Disney’s radar. Early in my time working for Michael [Eisner], I attended a staff lunch in which he floated the idea of acquiring them. A handful of executives around the table objected. Marvel was too edgy, they said. It would tarnish the Disney brand. There was an assumption at the time — internally, and among members of the board — that Disney was a single, monolithic brand, and all of our businesses existed beneath the Disney umbrella. I sensed Michael knew better, but any negative reaction to the brand, or suggestion that it wasn’t being managed well, he took personally.
Bob Iger told the story in his new memoir “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company” (via ComicBook). It’s crazy that at one time, the idea of bringing Marvel into the Disney family was seen as “too edgy” by the studio! It’s now the studio’s crowning achievement, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is soon expanding into Phase Four, on the upcoming Disney+ platform and as a land in Disney’s California Adventure with the recently announced Avengers Campus coming next summer.
Michael Eisner was the CEO to Disney from 1984 to 2005, the longest chairman of the company to date without in Disney in his last name. He can be credited with leading a revitalization of the brand with Renissance Era hits such as Little Mermaid, Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, along with launching Hollywood Pictures, a division that produced adult projects for the studio such as The Rock and G.I. Jane.
His successor has really shook things up by acquiring a number of studios, starting with Pixar in 2006 and then Marvel in 2009. Shortly after Iron Man impressed with $585 global earnings, Disney acquired the studio for $4.24 billion and helped Kevin Feige carry out his 23-film cinematic universe plans. Marvel films have since made over $18 billion worldwide. Feige also credits the studio’s contributions to marketing and distribution with aiding in the franchise's success.
Disney Studios also bought Star Wars and Indiana Jones’ studio Lucasfilm in 2012 and Fox earlier this year while Bob Iger has been CEO. The House of Mouse has quickly gone from studio to empire under Iger’s reign, with 2019 being the ultimate boast of the studio’s power. Disney owns five of the top six grossing films of the year, each of which has surpassed $1 billion at the global box office.
Three of those movies are Marvel Studios releases. If acquiring the comic book movie studio was an “edgy” move, that’s some sharp bags of cash to say the least!