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That Darn Marvel Contract – What Rights Does Universal and Disney Own

Discussion in 'Columns' started by Joe, May 7, 2016.

  1. quinnmac000

    quinnmac000 Veteran Member

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    False...as long as Dr Doom still roams the park and they continue meet and greets with Xmen they are fine.
     
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  2. AnotherDayAnother$

    AnotherDayAnother$ Newcomer

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    Those could certainly be construed as incidental elements as per the very verbiage of the original contract.

     
  3. scott_walker

    scott_walker Premium Member

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    This makes you wonder how different things would be if Comcast had bought Universal a couple of years earlier and decided to buy Marvel to ease the theme park rights.
     
  4. fryoj

    fryoj Veteran Member

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    Actually, the contract specifically says that if a character is only being used as a costumed character it has to be more than an incidental part of marketing to continue to be used. If they get rid of the ride, to keep Doom, they'd have to feature him in marketing. That's unlikely.


    "Any character who is only used as a costume character will not be considered to be “being used by MCA” unless it appears as more than an incidental element in MCA’s marketing."

    Edit: realized that's pretty much what the new poster said already.

    If Universal bought Marvel, we likely don't have the same MCU we have now and Marvel isn't as hot of a property.
     
  5. Brian G.

    Brian G. Staff Member Administrator

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    Ehhhh..... the MCU Phase 1 was already pretty much set and Iron Man blew up the Box Office before Disney got involved.
     
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  6. quinnmac000

    quinnmac000 Veteran Member

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    already covered.

    They already are used in marketing for event planning.
     
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  7. Mad Dog

    Mad Dog Premium Member

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    Yes, they generally squeeze in a large number of Marvel characters whenever they do advertisement containing MSHI and it's attractions, etc. They especially show that short parade of characters often, and marketing is probably the reason.
     
  8. scott_walker

    scott_walker Premium Member

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    For a character to be featured within the land, how would this work with an Iron Man ride being made?

    That's my thinking. Iron Man and Hulk had already been released along with Thor, Captain America, Iron Man 2 and Avengers well into production by the time Disney showed up.
     
  9. Paulio

    Paulio Rookie

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    Even if Dr. Doom and Storm attractions are taken out, the Fantastic Four still has its restaurant in form of a 3d/4d cardboard painting, so the contract still applies as well, and X-Men too as well since you have Professor Xavier on the top of the building near the Captain America fast-food place. Namor can't be used by Disney World as well since his character is displayed at the restrooms outside.

    MCU already started before the House of Mouse bought the comic-book company in 2009. Marvel had distribution deals with Paramount and Universal in regards to Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America and the Incredible Hulk movies respectively. In fact, Iron Man I and II, Hulk, Captain America: First Avenger, and Thor were largely successfully critically and financially. If Universal bought Marvel, MCU would have turned out differently in terms of tones. We might not have every humor being placed in each and every second of the MCU, and Comcast, being the largest American media congratulate in the world, would throw large amount of money into the universe. We might not get 2 to 3 movies per year, but I think with Comcast, it would be no big deal as long they put out some good stuff in the movies. It would also add Universal's legacy of starting the cinematic universe since it was the first major studio to start one with the Monsters the 1930s-1950s. After all, Universal has USA Network, Bravo, and Sci-Fi, and most of the Marvel TV shows would be aired in these networks. Universal would likely to have an R-rated MCU movie based upon the characters that aren't too kid-friendly. Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure would definitely be expanded and Super Nintendo World would likely only to happen at USF and USJ since USH might need a change of expansion at the Lower Lot by adding a Marvel-themed area dedicated to MCU. We would still have likely to have a Spider-Man ride at Universal Studios Hollywood instead of stuck in the two locations of Orlando and Japan.
     
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  10. fryoj

    fryoj Veteran Member

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    I'd argue that the FF and X men characters in that ad were only used as incidental. Removing the characters from that ad changes nothing about the ad. Especially when you remove the rides they are associated with. The ads would have to feature FF or X men characters.

    Only IM1 and Hulk were released. Thor and CA were still two years off and neither had started production. While we would have an MCU, it would likely not be the MCU we have now.
     
  11. scott_walker

    scott_walker Premium Member

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    Thor was been written with Mathew Vaughn attached to direct in late 2007, Captain America was announced shortly after the first Iron Man plus the MCU was established with the post credit scene during Iron Man.



    The MCU might not have been developed or fully planned but the foundations were there.

    Nobody can say how different it would have been only that there surely would have been differences but I imagine all the key players would still be there.
     
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  12. Paulio

    Paulio Rookie

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    They already started planning these movies before 2009 so it wouldn't make a difference. Once MCU started, the foundations are already there and it's greatly too impossible to ignore. Who knows what would happen had NBCUniversal/Comcast acquired Marvel Entertainment. But it wouldn't be as controversial as Disney's acquisition, and they would have likely heavily invest into the MCU seeing how profitable superhero movies generally are. The tone would have been different and would be more violent than Disney's MCU. They would also be making an R-rated MCU movie as well rather than limiting it for kids.

    Not just within the film industry, but also theme parks. Universal Studios Hollywood would likely to get Spider-Man and Marvel-themed area and Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure would have been revamped or expanded. Universal Studios Singapore would also gotten a Marvel-themed area instead of DreamWorks, and several parts such as the San Francisco area in Japan would have been taken down for a Hulk-like ride.
     
  13. Brian G.

    Brian G. Staff Member Administrator

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    I wouldn't be going that far, either.

    Regardless, move on from the topic.
     
  14. AnotherDayAnother$

    AnotherDayAnother$ Newcomer

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    Let's take a look at section IV.b.A.1.i which is where the specifics are given.

    Let's break that paragraph down.

    Pretty straightforward, no other theme park can use the characters being used by MCA at the time the license was granted.

    For a character to be considered used by MCA
    1) That character, or another character in its family, is used as more than an incidental element of an attraction, is presented as a costumed character or is more than incidental element of the theming of a retail or food facility
    2) If a character or another character of its family is an element in any MCA marketing during the previous year

    Both 1 AND true have to happen for the character to be considered in use

    This seems to contradict point 1 above, but it doesn't. It specifies that MCA can't just have a costumed character and keep other parks from using it, unless the character appears as more than an incidental element in MCA's marketing.

    The ambiguity of the language in the contract works in Universal's favor most of the time, but in this case it would work against it. What is "incidental element"? I think the youtube ad video posted above where you have half a second of wolverine would be considered incidental elements by most people, including a jury if it came down to that. You drive down I4 or kirkman road and you see Hulk and Spiderman plastered all over the place in big ads. Those are the only two Marvel rides I would consider being elements of Universal's marketing. Even when you go to the stores, the vast majority of merchandise are Avengers or Spiderman family. I don't think there's one non Avengers or Spiderman toy in the Universal store at the MCO airport.

    As I pointed in my post and another poster pointed out, FF would probably still be off-limits because of Cafe 4 (though if I were advising Disney, I would try to fight that battle and reach a deal, off court, as Cafe 4 sucks and is not the "highest standard of theme park industry" as specified in another part of the contract). And then you have a poster saying Namor or XMen post Storm ride removal won't be allowed to be used by Disney because they are represented by a cardboard or paintings in the park. I don't know if Namor is part of any other families, but those are the epitome of "incidental elements".

    If Universal removes those two rides (and I would advise them against doing so), they would do so under the understanding that they may lose those 2 families East of the Mississippi for good. X-Men being a near certain loss. If Marvel was still an independent company, with a 10-15B marketcap (probably what it's worth today), then I could see CMCSA bullying them and getting whatever they wanted, but going up against a company with roughly the same market cap is a different story.

    Regarding the purchase of Marvel, no one wanted to buy them in the 90s when they could have gotten them for $250MM, no one wanted to get them when Disney got them for 4B. Disney got heavily criticized when they bought them too. It was not seen as a good purchase at the time.
     
  15. Joe

    Joe aka TestTrack321 Staff Member Moderator

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    Firstly, welcome to the forums.

    Brian and I worked together on the article and have listened to your comments and questions. We are not attorneys and did our best roughly 18 months ago to address the contract. There were lots of false information and assumptions floating around and Brian wanted to write one catch all piece that we can direct readers to.

    At the time of writing many people either assumed Disney would be getting the rights back, that Universal had their hands tied by Disney for any changes being made to the land, Universal couldn’t add new rides, there were secret meetings between the two parties, and way way more. This article was designed to lay out each point as best we could and address them.

    The points brought up the past few days are good ones and we just don’t have the answers to them. Outside of the contract myself and others believe the one constant this whole time: Disney’s insistence they are not going to be getting back the rights at WDW and Comcast’s insistence the rights are not up for negotiation.
     
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  16. Paulio

    Paulio Rookie

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    Cafe 4 is a highest standard of a theme park because it's stay true to the story's F4 theming and the building is really clean regardless of your opinion on the cafe. It's not supposed to be a first-class like you're in some 4 star hotel. It's a restaurant designed to serve fast food and drinks for convenient guests and is not any different than the Galactic Grill at Disneyland. Even if the Storm and Dr. Doom rides are removed, Cafe 4 still has the F4 and the clause does include characters--villains or side characters or allies--related to such heroes in their own universes. Namor is his own universe though, as he has no affiliation with anyone, but he still appears in 2d/3d painting, making it unusable for Disney World.

    A lot of people in 2009 (and to some of the extent, now) criticized Disney because its theming of kid-friendly stuff conflicts with the mature and teenage-attitude and edginess tones of the Marvel Comics. While most of its assertion are untrue given how MCU are today, MCU movies feels so light-hearted, too humorous, and kid-friendlish despite keeping a PG-13 rating, so some of the assertions from the purchase came true. It's true that Marvel wasn't seen as a big thing in the 1990s despite its popular characters and no studio has made a Marvel movie that was generally appealing to the audience in the time era. It wasn't until Marvel movies started becoming popular in the 2000s that many studios were willing to invest or buy out the superhero IP. However, other studios have their own franchises and things and such didn't have the time to buy Marvel Entertainment. Disney apparently had no history of affiliation with Marvel whatsoever until 2009, where at least Universal does with DreamWorks Animation given the fact DreamWorks is situated at Universal City, California, as well as its attractions at Universal Studios parks around the world for almost a decade prior to Universal's purchase of Dreamworks Animation.

    From the topic, it's about the alternate scenario where instead of Disney, Marvel is the subsidiary division of NBCUniversal instead. Now, you say yourself that MCU might not be where it is today if it weren't for Disney and its seemingless unlimited amount of money. However, Comcast is the biggest American media company in the world and would have thrown large amount of budget and time into the MCU. Who knows how the MCU occurred years afterwards, but that doesn't mean Comcast isn't willing to invest into the universe.
     
  17. AnotherDayAnother$

    AnotherDayAnother$ Newcomer

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    Thank you for the welcome. I'm not sure why you quoted that particular piece, but your post is welcome. I'm mainly interested in the legal aspects of the contract, not in Disney or Comcast's executive feelings or fans' feelings.

    I'm not going to argue subjective feelings here. Once can certainly make the case that Cafe 4 is a subpar restaurant and not of the "highest standards", which - if Universal were to remove Dr. Doom's ride - is where I would advice Disney to pursue to get an off the court settlement or get Universal to improve the restaurant. I also did say FF would possibly be off limits due to Cafe 4. X-Men (post ride removal) and Namor are pretty much incidental elements in the park. You can argue about a 2D/3D painting counting for "being in use by MCA", but it's a pretty hard argument based on the language of the contract, which I broke down above. I'm willing to bet most people will find that will make the characters in those families not in use by MCA (Namor being the case now, if that character is his own lore and "family"). Hence why I would not advice Universal to get rid of Storm's ride.

    A lot of stockholders questioned why Disney would spend 4B dollars in a capital and stock exchange for an unproven company with a lot of tied up contracts. It had little to do with what you are claiming and more to do with the best use of capital and return for investors. If Disney could buy New Line for $1B and have hits like IT and Anabelle year in and year out, no stockholder would care about the images of those movies not lining up with Disney's image as long as they kept the labels separate like they did with Miramax. Also, M&A has nothing to do with "studios have their own franchises and things and such didn't have the time to buy Marvel Entertainment". I don't think you know what you're talking about.

    You are confusing me for another poster who made the claim on your last paragraph. For my 2 cents though, I consider CMCSA a media, telecommunication, and technology company, which would make them far from being the biggest American company in that sector. They are about 20% bigger than DIS today in market cap, which I think is the point you were trying to make.

    I will digress from this topic though, unfortunately I couldn't get the answer I was looking for and I don't want to further engage in arguments on hypothetical situations that may never happen. I thank the authors for making the article, as it is a good read, albeit with some gaps.
     
  18. Brian G.

    Brian G. Staff Member Administrator

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    K. Time to move on.
     

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