Disney, which has long fought against the expansion of casinos in Florida, is bringing to an end some licensing deals that have been viewed as hypocritical to that anti-gambling stance: slot machines, online slots and lottery tickets featuring Marvel and Star Wars characters.
The New York Times reports the announcement, made over the weekend, comes as the Florida legislature again prepares to address whether Las Vegas-style casino resorts should be permitted to open in the state. The Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista attracts 52.5 million visitors annually; the entertainment giant argues that gambling hurts the state’s family-friendly brand.
Although Disney is so opposed to gambling that it doesn’t even casinos on its cruise ships — that’s an oddity in the industry — Marvel continued to sign slot machine agreements after it was purchased by the corporation in 2009 for $4.6 billion. But a Marvel spokeswoman told The Times the last deal was made two years ago, and the company has “discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney.” Those that remain will be allowed to expire.
Marvel heroes like Iron Man and the Avengers have appeared on scratch-off lottery tickets in several states, but the company said there are no active licensing deals.
A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World attributed the lag to the complexities of aligning corporate policies following a merger.
Director J.J. Abrams will undoubtedly receive a lot of unsolicited advice about Star Wars: Episode VII, on which hangs the future of the blockbuster franchise and the hopes and dreams of countless fans, but none will likely be as succinct and stylishly rendered as “Dear J.J. Abrams” (or, “4 Rules to Make Star Wars Great Again”).
Produced by Prescott Harvey with the creative agency Sincerely, Truman, this love letter to A Galaxy Far, Far Away manages to capture much of what made the first three films so special, why the others were so … well, terrible, with just four rules. However, there was at least one more that didn’t end up in the video.
Disney has a lot riding on Disney Infinity, the upcoming video game that will allow players to mix and match characters from different properties — for instance, Captain Jack Sparrow and Mr. Incredible — using collectible figures and a special scanner. The media giant’s fledgling Disney Interactive Studios has reportedly spent more than $100 million on development, even as the division laid off more than 500 employees and suffered $1.41 billion in losses from other ventures.
To free up resources for Disney Infinity, which seems like an all-or-nothing situation, The Wall Street Journal contends Disney also stopped production on an Iron Man video game that was planned to be released this year, and passed on chance to produce Star Wars video games following its $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm.
The doors open in just an hour on the D23 Expo, the official Disney fan gathering held through Sunday in Anaheim, California. Tickets for Saturday are sold out.
While much of the event, of course, caters to Disney devotees — theme-park fans, serious collectors and cinephiles alike — we should expect a decent amount of news that reaches beyond the Magic Kingdom. For instance, today there’s a presentation featuring many of the voice actors from Marvel’s animated television series, and a signing with the producer and director of Big Hero 6, Walt Disney Animation’s first adaptation of a Marvel comic. That movie, based on the characters created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, is getting a promotional push at the event, which features a Big Hero 6 display (above, courtesy of ComingSoon).
As Licensing Expo 2013 gets under way today in Las Vegas, Variety reports that with first Marvel and now Lucasfilm beneath its umbrella, Disney is poised to expand its domination of the entertainment licensing market. Last year, the media conglomerate generated $39.4 billion in retail licensing, and claimed a staggering 80 percent market share.
Once again the world’s largest licensor, Disney now boasts six of the Top 10 franchises, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association: Disney Princess (No. 1), Star Wars (No. 2), Winnie the Pooh (No. 3), Cars (No. 4), Mickey & Friends (No. 6) and Toy Story (No. 8). Disney Fairies comes in at No. 11, trailed at No. 16 by Spider-Man.
Patton Oswalt’s hilarious eight-minute Star Wars filibuster for Parks and Recreation is already legendary, earning the adoration of nerds everywhere, and even spawning a movie poster. But if you have trouble comprehending his his frenetic vision for a Star Wars/Marvel Universe crossover, don’t worry: animator Isaac Moore has you covered.
Using Oswalt’s own words, and Amy Poehler’s occasional interruptions, Moore brings the pitch to life in appropriately quirky fashion, with a blend of movie stills, comic art, stock photography and lord only knows what else.
Business | Marvel parent Disney is expected to begin layoffs in the coming weeks as part of a planned reorganization that follows a company-wide review of operations. The film studio is believed to undergo the deepest cuts, specifically in marketing, home entertainment and production.
The news arrives a little more than five months after Disney announced its $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm; earlier this week, word spread the media giant has closed LucasArts, the video-game subsidiary of Lucasfilm, and axed 150 employees. According to Variety, Disney executives told each division to ensure “that staff levels are in line with the company’s needs in a changing marketplace, particularly in divisions affected by shifts in new media and technologies.” The film division will bear the brunt of the layoffs in large part because of Disney’s increasing reliance on Pixar (purchased in 2006 for $7.4 billion), Marvel (purchased in 2009 for $4 billion) and, soon, Lucasfilm. [Variety]
In what Lucasfilm and Dark Horse call “the biggest event in the history of Star Wars comics,” the publisher revealed over the weekend at WonderCon it will adapt George Lucas’ rough-draft original screenplay for the 1977 blockbuster.
Debuting in September, the eight-issue miniseries will be written by LucasBooks Executive Editor J.W. Rinzler and drawn by Mike Mayhew.
Lucas’ original version, called The Star Wars, featured elements that found their way, in substantially altered form, into ground-breaking movie franchise: “lazer swords,” Jedi Annikin Starkiller, General Luke Skywalker, an alien Han Solo, and evil Sith Knights.
“I’m not sure where I first read about The Star Wars—it was years and years ago — but the idea of Luke Skywalker being an older Jedi General, and Han Solo being a six-foot-tall lizard, turned my Star Wars fan brain on its side,” longtime Star Wars editor Randy Stradley said in a statement. “I always assumed this would be one of those stories that would be ‘lost to history,’ so getting to work on bringing it to life is kinda like a dream come true.”
Business | Marvel parent The Walt Disney Co., which just purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, reportedly has begun an internal cost-cutting review that could include layoffs in its studio and other divisions. The cutbacks are believed to focus on jobs that are no longer needed because of technological advancements and redundancies created by the acquisition of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. Disney has made a series of staff cutbacks over the past couple of years, beginning in January 2011 with 200 jobs in its interactive division; Marvel trimmed about a dozen positions in October 2011. [Yahoo! Finance]
Publishing | Robert Stanley Martin takes a new look at Jim Shooter’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Marvel. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
Ah, the cruel end to Shakespeare’s seven ages of man, from Jacque’s “All the world’s a stage” monologue in As You Like It: “Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”. The painter Jason Bard Yarmosky seems to have come to a similar conclusion about the links between the very old and the very young, populating his canvasses with a cast of the elderly (his main models being his own grandparents) dressed in the paraphernalia of childhood: cowboy-and-Indian gear, ballet tutus and superhero costumes. Consider it a little glimpse into the retirement homes of the future, populated by the cosplayers of today. More from Yarmosky’s “Elder Kinder” series below, as well as work by Sho Murase, James Hance and others.
Legal | The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today on whether a negotiated 2001 deal DC Comics should prevent the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel from reclaiming his portion of the rights to the Man of Steel under a provision of U.S. copyright law. A federal judge determined in 2008 and 2009 that the writer’s heirs had successfully recaptured the copyright, asserting that because the 2001 agreement hadn’t been formalized, there was no deal. The appeals court is also set to review a ruling allowing DC to sue Marc Toberoff, who represents both the Siegel family and the estate of his collaborator Joe Shuster, for interfering with its agreements with the heirs. [Business Week]
Creators | Collaborators Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher talk about the latest Valiant relaunch, Shadowman. [USA Today]
Creators | John Ostrander, who writes several Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, gives his take on Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. [ComicMix]
Since The Walt Disney Company announced Tuesday it will acquire Lucasfilm, fans and pundits have pondered what the deal will mean for both the Star Wars franchise and the House of Mouse. But now the Dark Lord of the Sith has weighed in, responding to the all-important (and, frankly, inevitable) question, “Now that you’re part of the Disney family … what will you do next?” Watch the Disney Parks video below.
So anything interesting happen yesterday? Oh, yes, that’s right. Even the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy wasn’t enough to delay the big announcement any longer: Star Wars is now the newest crown jewel of the House of Mouse. The announcement was made a day after plans were revealed to merge two of the world’s biggest book publishers, Random House and Penguin. The two events, while occurring independent of each other, have all sorts of implications both specific and more broad.
Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm started a lot of people talking, and considering the legacy of Star Wars, it’s only natural. With George Lucas out as director and Star Wars transitioning into something akin to the James Bond franchise, don’t get your hopes up for a return to the sensibilities of the original Star Wars movie. The word “family” was used six times to describe the space opera in the press release and subsequent statements, sending a strong signal that what we’ve gotten most recently is what we’ll get for the foreseeable future. Kathleen Kennedy was hand-picked by Lucas to succeed him as head of Lucasfilm and brand manager of Star Wars. Between her and Lucas’ role as creative consultant, they’ll ensure Star Wars retains something for the kids, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, except for when it manifests itself in the form of Jar Jar Binks and other cartoon aliens with vaguely racist accents. In addition to the two- to three-year cycle of Star Wars films, there are plans for a TV presence and an expanded presence at Disney theme parks.
You know that it’s possibly time to abandon all hope when one of the first thoughts you have when reading the news that Lucasfilm has been purchased by Disney is “But what will that mean for Brian Wood’s new Star Wars series from Dark Horse?”
George Lucas is partnering with Nerdist Industries for “Course of the Force,” a 136-mile lightsaber relay beginning July 7 in Santa Monica and ending July 11 at Comic-Con International in San Diego to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It will be officially announced tonight on NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
The brainchild of Nerdist’s Peter Levin and Chris Hardwick, Variety reports the Star Wars-themed event will feature 500 participants walking or running quarter-mile legs, passing a Lucasfilm-produced “Course of the Force” lightsaber rather than the traditional torch or baton. Octagon and Machinima are co-producing the relay.
Participants are encouraged to come dressed in their best Star Wars or pop culture-themed running gear — Drew Carey and Jim Gaffigan have already committed to wearing costumes — for a chance to win prizes along the route. The conclusion of the relay in San Diego in the hours before Comic-Con’s Preview Night will be marked by a party and live podcast at the Balboa Theater.
All proceeds, generated through sponsorships, will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. For more information, or to register for the relay, visit the “Course of the Force” website.