“Marvel does seem like it’s running pretty independently and staying pretty close to its roots,” said Janney Capital Markets analyst Tony Wible.
Disney’s recent acquisitions have also filled gaps in its creative portfolio. CEO Bob Iger has said the company’s $7.4 billion purchase of Pixar in 2006 was partly an investment in talent and a way to “grow and improve Disney animation.” The deal brought John Lasseter, a former Disneyland employee, back into the fold as its chief creative officer of both Disney and Pixar’s animation studios.
The purchase of Marvel helped Disney add characters that would resonate with boys at a time when the company was becoming known more for princesses, fairies and its fictional teenage rock star Hannah Montana.
The “Star Wars” franchise fills a hole in Disney’s live-action portfolio, which suffered an embarrassing $200 million loss on the sci-fi flick “John Carter” earlier this year. The box-office bomb caused an executive shuffle at the studio that brought in former Warner Bros. president Alan Horn, who oversaw the hugely successful runs of “Harry Potter” and “The Dark Knight” movies.
It’s in Disney’s best interest to maintain the integrity of film franchises that come with a built-in fan base. Disney chief Iger has said the plan is for “Star Wars” live-action movies to replace others that may be in development, and to keep its production slate at a modest seven to 10 movies per year.
“I think Disney’s intention is that it just doesn’t want to get in the way of a great asset,” said Morningstar analyst Michael Corty.
In a conference call explaining the acquisition, Iger told analysts that “Disney respects and understands, probably better than just about anyone else, the importance of iconic characters and what it takes to protect and leverage them effectively.”
When “Star Wars Episode 7” hits theaters in 2015, millions of fans will surely hold Iger to his word.