Marvel’s Movie Opportunity May Be Bigger Than Any of Us Knows

“Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn reveals more details about Marvel’s movie rights.

Feb 25, 2014 at 6:38AM

When Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) spent $4 billion to acquire Marvel in 2009, it did so knowing that new Marvel movies would operate in a limited universe. Four years later, the boundaries are shifting. Fool contributor Tim Beyers explains the changes in the following video.

Originally, Marvel was barred from using characters considered part of the "Fantastic Four," "Spider-Man," and "X-Men" families of heroes and villains. Thus, if a character originated in "Fantastic Four" or a related comic book, Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) would own the movie rights to said character. Fox had similar control over the X-Men, while Sony had rights to the Spider-Man universe. Or at least that's how it seemed.

Now, thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy,  we're finding that the lines are blurred. Lee Pace's Ronan the Accuser first appeared in "Fantastic Four," yet apparently had enough tussles with The Avengers to quality as partially owned by Marvel and Disney. He'll appear as the primary antagonist in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Conversely,  the Badoon -- a well-known antagonist for the Guardians in the comics -- isn't Marvel property. Director James Gunn confirmed as much earlier this week in an interview with Kevin Pereira of the Pointless Podcast. He also confirmed that Disney has partial rights to the Skrulls, while the Guardians will spend time facing off against the insectoid aliens known as the Sakaaran.

Why not the Badoon? Tim theorizes that their first appearance, in 1968's "Silver Surfer" #1, makes them too closely aligned with the "Fantastic Four" family of characters. So be it. Even if the Badoon are off-limits it's become increasingly clear that Marvel Studios' access to Marvel Comics characters isn't nearly so limited as we once might have believed.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. What character do you want to see in a Marvel movie? Please watch the video to get Tim's full take and then leave a comment to let us know where you stand, and whether you would buy, sell, or short Disney stock at current prices.

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Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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