Whoa, I think we’re having a mini “10 days that changed the world here,” as the changes put in place by the 2009 upheavals at both DC and Marvel have now evolved to their next logical steps. On Friday we reported that DC president Diane Nelson has been given WB Consumer Products to run, along with interactive and DC Entertainment, making her a very powerful exec at WB. And now, via Kim Masters and Matthew Belloni, news that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige will now report directly to Disney chairman Alan Horn instead of Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, Marvel’s notoriously difficult and penny pinching head. The move, as reported, is not a reward, or a restructuring just to move things around: it’s directly to get Ike out of Feige’s hair. Given Feige’s massive success at Disney with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s a well deserved rescue.
However, Feige had to leave the rest of the Marvel empire behind: TV—headed by Jeph Loeb—publishing, animation and interactive will all continue to report to Ike.
So if you’re wondering if the Fantastic Four and the X-men can now appear in comics and on lucnhooxes again—Ike had forbidden any expansion of their universes due to Fox owning the movie rights—the answer is probably no. And indeed, one wonders what retribution Perlmutter might exact on the movie end of things.
But let’s back up a bit. According to the story that broke in THR, the move came after Feige complained directly to Horn and Disney’s top guy Bob Iger, and went down last week.
“Marvel Studios is taking the next logical step in its integration with The Walt Disney Studios, joining Pixar and Lucasfilm in centralizing many of its film-related functions in Burbank, with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and co-president Louis D’Esposito continuing to lead the Marvel Studios team reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn,” a Disney spokesperson tells THR in a statement.
[snip] The shift also evidences the tricky executive politics that Iger must manage as a result of assembling several freestanding feifdoms under the Disney banner over the past decade. Pixar Animation Studios, Lucasfilm and Marvel have been key acquisitions that brought with them valuable intellectual property assets and creative expertise. But each silo is overseen by powerful executives such as animation gurus John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, producer Kathleen Kennedy and Perlmutter and Feige, respectively, all of whom have tremendous influence within their corner of the Disney empire.
[snip] “Everybody knows Ike is difficult,” says one source close to the company. “This has been a long time coming. Kevin has grown his entire career under Ike and now it just makes sense.”
Film reporter Devin Faraci offers some more Kremlinology with some hair raising details.
For Feige this has to be a huge relief – every story I have ever heard about Perlmutter has reiterated how difficult he is, how mercurial he is and how hard he is to keep happy. High level people at Marvel have told me that Perlmutter is exactly the level of rich where he can and will make decisions that seem crazy to everyone else, and more than one Marvel staffer has told me that they thought the biggest threat facing Marvel Studios was Ike capriciously firing Feige.
Perlmutter is famously cheap – Marvel’s press junkets have been catered by Subway in the past – and has been known to get involved on all levels, from blockading diversity in Marvel’s on-screen superheroes to getting the girlfriends of his billionaire pals roles in Marvel movies. I know that Feige has been deeply frustrated working under Perlmutter, and that for many Marvel staffers part of the job was making sure Ike didn’t randomly torch the whole thing.
While Perlmutter is known to be equally cheap, vengeful and reclusive, as we’ve reported here in the past, he managed to make his mark on Disney by bringing some of his cost cutting measures to Disney Consumer Products, where his rock ’em sock ’em managing style also led to lawsuits over dismissals said to be based on race. Among the stories we’ve heard over the years, is that the dismantling of Lucasfilms after Disney purchased it was partly because of Ike—Bob Iger didn’t want to make the same mistake twice and leave a powerful gadfly buzzing around.
Now that Feige has been set free what will happen? Will he stop hemming and hawing when people ask about diversity in Marvel films? Will he hire more notable filmmakers and give them some leeway in making movies? Will Joss Whedon come back to the fold after being worked to death on his contract? Will Marvel movies break out of the fairly rigid house style they’ve shown? And what will Ike do in retaliation?
Speculating a bit more, Kevin Feige’s ascension to the Disney hierarchy puts him into a good spot to come a legit heir to that throne…or another major movie studio. As for Ike, he’s a robust 72 and seemingly has no interest whatsoever in retiring. He’ll be around a long time to come.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.