The trend of ever-tightening relationships among the providers of children’s entertainment has moved another step forward with the recently completed alliance that knits together broadcaster Fox Children’s Network (FCN), the Marvel Comics Group and toy maker Toy Biz.
First, FCN and Marvel Comics announced in New York that they had signed a production and distribution agreement that gives FCN exclusive access to the thousands of characters developed by the writers and illustrators at Marvel Comics.
A week later, the Marvel Entertainment Group and Toy Biz announced plans to jointly form Marvel Studios, a company that will help finance and develop live action, as well as animated film and television projects based on Marvel characters.
For its part, FCN has committed to ordering at least four Marvel properties over the next seven years, three of which could be the popular stories Silver Surfer, Captain America and Daredevil. FCN already broadcasts series based on Marvel’s X-Men, which premiered in January 1993, and Spider-Man, which begins its second season this fall.
Marvel and Toy Biz stated that the formation of Marvel Studios will give both companies greater control over film and television projects, even though production will likely continue to be handled by third-party studios or networks.
Marvel and Toy Biz believe that such projects will create greater consumer interest in the Marvel characters and related consumer merchandise, including action figures and other products that Toy Biz can make under its exclusive license with Marvel, the companies said in a joint statement.
Avi Arad, executive producer of X-Men and Spider-Man and a director with Toy Biz, is the creative head of Marvel Studios.
For FCN president Margaret L’esch, the tie-in with Marvel may prove to be a vindication of sorts. At the press conference announcing the deal, she spoke of her frustration, while at Marvel, in trying to bring comic characters to the television screen. (L’esch stepped into the position of president and CEO of Marvel Productions in 1984. In 1990, she became the founding president of FCN.) Now, she says, she hopes to be able to bring the art and storytelling, as well as the character development of comics together with television.
L’esch says that FCN has purchased the TV rights to distribute Marvel characters worldwide for the next 21 years, and while the deal calls for a minimum of four productions over the next seven years, she can see as many as 20 to 30 Marvel characters coming to life on TV.
‘That can be the scope,’ she says. ‘We have a large sandbox in which to play.’