Friday, June 28, 2019

If I Were Disney CEO Part 43 - Further Acquisitions

For the last entry in the If I Were Disney CEO series before the conclusion, I wanted to turn a focus to additional companies and assets that I believe Disney should acquire to add to their stable.  Of late,  Disney has seemed to be on a purchasing spree with ABC/Cap Cities, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Fox.  These acquisitions have all either stemmed from an existing partnership or filled a whole in Disney's perceived reach.

The acquisitions below fall into different categories.  First, a certain set springs from a naturally occurring partnership that could only be strengthened by bringing the partner company in house.  The next set is comprised of individual assets that need to be acquired in order to fully monetize an existing Disney property.  Finally,  there are a handful of resort adjacent experiences that should be acquired to round out particular parks and resorts.

Natural Partnerships:
  • The Jim Henson Company - This is the deal that should have been reached by Eisner when the Muppets were acquired, but there were too many missteps along the way.  This would seem to be mutually beneficial to both the Muppets and to the Jim Henson Company.  The Muppets have suffered from not having a creative lead and Brian and Lisa Henson would be excellent fits.  The Jim Henson Company has struggled to establish an identity apart from their most successful creations.  The two parts should be reunited under the Disney umbrella, to allow for full utilization.  Disney now would even have a branch for the more adult humor projects of the Jim Henson Company through 20th Century Fox.  True, this deal would not include the Sesame Street characters, but it is needed.
  • Studio Ghibli - The Japanese masters of hand drawn animation.  As addressed in the post on Walt Disney Feature Animation, I believe that Disney should be unmatched in all forms of animation, and to that goal, having an anime studio would be a great asset.  Ghibli is the undisputed king of anime film and Disney has had a previous partnership thanks to Pixar's appreciation of Miyazaki.  This arrangement would provide Ghibli an international distribution arm and would give Disney access to incredible content for the Tokyo parks.  A match made in heaven.
  • Aardman Animatnion - Under similar reasoning as Studio Ghibli, Disney needs a stop-motion animation arm.  Aardman carries very unique sensibilities and very British sensibilities, which would be beneficial in continuing to foster the international company that Disney has become.  Laika would also be a good fit here, but they have much stronger ties to Universal.  Aardman has always been and fought to be independent and it's that streak that sealed their choice for me.
  • MGM - It's no secret that the once great MGM has been struggling in recent years.  And while this deal is not as sweet as it could have been in years past thanks to the sale of its pre-1986 assets, it is still fairly impressive with the post-1986 library, the United Artists Library, and the Orion library.  In particular, this would get access to the Bond, Rocky, and Robocop franchises.    It would also restore the possibility of the Disney MGM Studios branding.  With 20th Century Fox added to the stable, this is not as important of an acquisition, but a possibility nonetheless. 
  • Feld Entertainment - Feld Entertainment is the producer of the Disney on Ice and Disney Arena shows.  That alone would be reason to bring this in house.  But the real reason I would seek to acquire Feld is the Barnum and Bailey Circus.  I know the circus has stopped touring, but the cache of the name recognition of this circus, tied into the the themed areas that Disney makes famous like Main Street, would make this a no brainer.  Imagine being able to have an official Barnum and Bailey Circus off Main Street.  Or to combine production styles to have Lion King Broadway style puppets to represent the animals in the historic shows, with the aerialists, gymnasts, and other entertainers in the current circus.  
  • Hasbro - This is a combination of Hasbro already having the major Disney licenses like Marvel, Star Wars, etc.  and Hasbro being home to some classic properties that were classic Marvel comics.  GI Joe, Transformers, and ROM Space Knight all had classic runs as Marvel Comics and have never quite reached that success in subsequent runs.  As we've seen with Star Wars and Conan, it's been good when these properties come back home to Marvel.  This would be a great synergy to achieve this and would also provide great additional fodder for future Toy Story movies.

Individual Assets for full monetization:
  • Roger Rabbit - Currently the rights to this are shared with Amblin and Steven Spielberg, such that any future development requires Spielberg's sign off and approval.  Roger could be a great character to reintroduce, but Disney needs full control.  I would trade Spielberg the rights to his films made under the Dreamworks SKG/Disney Partnership in exchange for the Rabbit.  Perhaps then the sequel could get made using The Stooge as an inspiration for an Oswald/Roger pairing.
  • The Rocketeer - Dave Stevens character made a great 1990s Disney film, but has fallen into beloved obscurity due to Stevens untimely death.   While there have been subsequent comic adaptations by a host of great artists and writers, the Rocketeer has never quite soared to the heights that he could.  I would love to see Disney get control of this character to be able to explore the sequels that have been suggested both in film and television.
  • Dick Tracy - Another interesting movie from the 1990s whose sequel has languished in development hell.  The comic has continued, but even that has had the rights tied up forever.  I would have Disney work through the necessary untangling to see the classic detective in yellow brought under their stable.  Potential for a Marvel comic and further development in film and television, particularly with the great color aesthetic the Beatty film established.
  • Conan - While the comic has come home to Marvel, I'd like to see the rights fully utilized by the company.  This one is about making sure Conan is always a Marvel comic.  Further, the three properties above (Rocketeer, Dick Tracy, and Conan) would all make good pulp properties for development under Lucasfilm for television and film projects.  

Resort Adjacent Experiences:
  • Sports Teams around Anaheim - Disney previously owned the Anaheim Ducks and the Anaheim Angels.  Given the proximity to the Disneyland Resort, the Anaheim Angels made a large amount of sense.  With the Disneyland resort nearly completely locked into its current size and almost at full build out, rounding out the resort experience is going to take partnerships.  Arts and entertainment is easy to add - Downtown Disney has previously had live music opportunities and a movie theater.  A theater for live performance would be easy to add.  Sporting would require alternate arrangements.  Reinvesting in those previous properties as well as seeking to add perhaps one of the Los Angeles basketball and soccer teams with a new, Anaheim located stadium would seem to provide lots of opportunities to attract and keep tourists at the Disneyland resort longer.  Further, should a baseball team like the Anaheim Angels be acquired, perhaps Disney could arrange it so that their spring training is at the Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World, to replace the leaving Atlanta Braves.  If not the suggestion for Disney World would be to acquire a minor league ball team that could play a fuller season at the Walt Disney World complex.
  • Properties along Harbor in Anaheim - I know this is already happening, but Disney needs as much real estate along Harbor adjacent to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure as possible.  If Disney wants to be able to create a real resort bubble in California, it needs as much of this land as it can acquire.
  • Mears Transportation - Mears is an Orlando based bus and taxi service that has expanded into several United States markets.  Mears has had a long standing relationship with the Walt Disney Company and has operated the Magical Express buses for the Walt Disney World Resort since their inception.  As Walt Disney World begins to grow and to truly develop the infrastructure needed to manage their city down there in Florida, it may be beneficial to have a master transportation company running the buses around the property.  Further, their connections in many other United States markets would be beneficial for the potential third Disney resort and Regional based entertainment.  It would be an increase in liability, but worth exploring.The list below is not exclusive, but is a fairly comprehensive list of the remaining assets I would see to acquire.  The rest of Disney's future would lie in its inherent ability to create.
This list is not exclusive, but fairly comprehensive in terms of my recommendations for further acquisitions.  After this list is completed, it would be time to focus on internal development.

Up next in the series - finally, a conclusion

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