Can Marvel 's superheroes rescue Disney?

Universal Studios / AP
Disney wants the Incredible Hulk and his Marvel Entertainment crew to give them a hand. But he has unfinished business with Universal's Islands of Adventure to wrap up first.

Can Spider-Man rescue Mickey Mouse? Yes, but not right away.

In its bid to revive slumping movie revenues, Walt Disney Co. announced Monday it would acquire comic-book icon Marvel Entertainment, the home of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four.

The $4 billion, $50-a-share deal, which still needs approval from Marvel's shareholders, would marry some of the world's best known comic-book figures with Disney's powerful marketing machine.

So Disney enthusiasts can look forward to seeing Spider-Man rubbing elbows with Pluto at Disney World, buying Disney-inspired Incredible Hulk action figures, and, surely, another Iron Man movie. The first one was the second-biggest release of 2008.

"We believe that adding Marvel to Disney's unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation," Disney CEO Robert Iger said in a release announcing the deal.

But he'll have to wait for Marvel's many licensing agreements to expire. Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and their Marvel colleagues currently inhabit Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, 10 miles away from Disney World. The sequel to Iron Man, like its original, is being distributed by rival Viacom. Sony is making the next Spider-Man; News Corp. is distributing the X-Men sequels.

Even superheroes are bound by fine print before they can swoop in to save the day.
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