Disney, Marvel, Tokyopop, Kodansha, ADV – and more

ADV , anime, comics, Disney, Kodansha, manga, Marvel, Tokyopop

So the Geekonomy has gone bugnuts crazy the last week.  Let's count the ways it changed:

  • Disney bought Marvel, giving them thousands of properties, control
    of more pop culture icons, and an endless parade of bad cartoons of
    Wolverine/Mickey Mouse fusions.
  • Kodansha is ending its licensing deal with Tokyopop.
  • ADV seems to be transferring it's properties to a holding company, making it sound like they're basically dead.

And I was worried about the Everything Wars.

First of all, let me state I DO NOT see this as part of the
Everything Wars – those are battles over technology and access.  THis
is what I've called the Secondary area of the Everything Wars – content.

there's a lot to chew over.  So in this analysis, let me do the chewing
– and figure out what it means for you in your career.

Here's my take:

  • Disney needs to expand their market to more male consumers.  Marvel fits the deal guaranteed (if they do it right).
  • Disney has the ability to exploit any property nationally or internationally (and Marvel has some international reach)
  • Marvel has done well with its films (though its sounding like that may be at an end).
  • Disney's next 2D animated movie sounds very troubled.

This is a good deal for Disney overall, and I think it's OK for
Marvel.  Disney gets what it wants with less risks than more exotic
attempts or in-house attempts.  Businesswise, it's a good deal.

Is it a guaranteed winner?  No:

  • Disney now has to manage a lot of properties and decide what to do
    with them. Said properties may appeal to their needed demographic, but
    the question is can they manage this so they don't mess it up.
  • Will Disney be able to let Marvel basically run itself or will they
    take a more forceful hand?  If necessary, can they understand Marvel
    well enough?  My concerns here are that Marvel's movies sound like
    they're not going as well (complaints of Iron Man 2 being lame, Thor
    seems to be constantly changing), and a big flop could be a disaster. 
    If there is a problem with Marvel' s current endeavors, and Disney gets
    more forceful, it could be done wrong.
  • There's a huge amount of properties in Disney's hands, so which
    ones do they go with?  I theorize they may bring back Power Pack for
    instance, but I'm not sure what properties get massive, profitable
    buy-in (without massive synergy).  Disney, in short, could wiff this.

So I'm not sure.  Oh, it won't be a destructive diaster for either,
but it could be painful and not put anyone ahead – and in the case of
major property issues and mishandling, it could mean the two companies
were better off not having done this.

Career wise:

  • Disney is, as always, a viable employer.  Right now, I have my
    doubts on Marvel – if they were your guaranteed #1 must-have employer,
    get a #2 and a #3 just in case.
  • I very much wonder what will happen to people freelancing for and
    with Marvel right now.  I don't KNOW, so if that's your gig, do some
  • Things will get interesting inside of Disney as they try and manage
    this.  If Disney, comics, etc. are your target job markets, you'll want
    to watch this the next two years.
  • If Disney does a lot of new ventures with Marvel properties, don't
    count on them all succeeding – so if you end up working on one, keep
    aware of your situation and any impending problems.

Well, this one is
easier: Tokopop is going to loose a lot of properties and if they make
it it will have to be with other titles.  I would be very wary of any
job with tokyopop, deal with tokyopop, etc.  They should not be on the
top of your potential employment list or even freelance list just out
of sheer caution (unless you think it's worth playing contrarian or
that they may be open to a new proposal or deal, which in that case,
hey, go for it).

Kodansha, to me, is obviously gearing up to cut
out the middlemen and make further inroads into the American market. 
For this they need recognized properties (and Tokyopop of course got
them to us so we got to like them), and they've got the ones Tokyopop
had, they have old ones they can bring here.

Kodansha is an OLD
company – it is a century old.  It is the largest publisher in Japan. 
They have relations with a lot of other companies (including Disney,
but I don't think there's any big connections relevant to the other
Disney news).  They want new income streams (competing with
Shogakukan). They know what they're doing.

So I think this is part of their further push into the American and other markets.  There's no big mystery here.

for the market as a whole?  I think this is an obvious signal that
Japanese companies, in the age of globalization, don't need middlemen. 
They have a country in a recession, they want to make more money, and
some of them are very, very good at it – and they know property
synergy.  They have a waiting market in North America and other areas. 
They're going to go for it, and probably do well.

What does it mean for you career-wise?

  • In the anime/manga market I think the middlemen are in trouble. 
    They'll need to switch to more original properties, providing more
    services, moving to a consulting model, getting acquired, etc.  If
    you're looking at this job market, assess your job prospects and
    company prospects carefully.
  • Consider work with these global companies – why not apply to Viz,
    Kodansha, etc.?  They're doing to need people in North America.
  • I get the impression Japanese companies may have some synergy with
    American companies (Disney, TW, etc.) but appear to be wanting to do
    most of it on their own.  I don't expect any Marvel-Disney style deals.
  • Media is global.  Yes, we know that, but this seriously drives it
    home – and how global changes affect areas of media in all sorts of
    ways that impact you.

A lot of ADV's situation is a bit odd – latest I
can determine is that yes, many properties and some parts were sold
off.  THey were sold OFF to companies that include ones created by one
of ADV's senior vice presidents.  I sense a lot of internal polticis
and economics we're not privy to.

Watch what happens with the following companies that were involved in the sale:

  •  Sentai Filmworks
  •  Seraphim Studios
  •  AEsir Holdings, LLC
  •  Valkyrie Media Partners, LLC
  •  SXION 23, LLC

I could see a new company emerging from this, some other deals, etc.  I just DO NOT know.

the other hand, if you were hoping to break into Anime Voice acting or
businesses, this just made a large chunk of the future of many
properties and a company very unsure. Start broadening your approaches
and looking elsewhere.

interests me about all of this is that we had seismic geekonomic shifts
occur within 3 days of each other, three involving huge companies, two
involving Japanese properties.

I don't think this is conspiracy
or the start of something even bigger.  I think it's a reflection of
changes (and of course, end-of-quarter economics) in media industries. 
Companies want to expand and survive, things are going very global, and
it's often easier to use existing markets than try and build your own
presence in them.

This also tells me media companies still feel
they're viable in these tough times (and as I've noted, some are highly
efficient), but need to expand or consolidate as needed.

Final thoughts for geekonomic careers related to media, comics, anime, etc. in light of all this change:

  • Work with source companies, not middlemen, unless the middlemen are
    VERY good at what they do or fit well into the economic picture.
  • I'm not sure where original work will fit into company plans. 
    There seems to be more of a consolidation going on (this could of
    course lead to opportunities as people get sick of the same old same
  • This isn't over.  Events like these tend to prod other companies
    (Time Warner?  Shogakukan?) to engage in their own plays for market,
    properties, etc.  This may affect you.
  • The internet and distribution methods still are a wildcard in a lot
    of this.  Companies can easily find – or mess up – new audiences this
  • Japanese companies clearly have a major and growing interest in the
    NA market – but I question its value if the NA economy takes another
    hit.  Still, it seems viable to them even with that risk.

Whew.  Analysis over.  So let's see what happens next.

– Steven Savage