Disney CEO Bob Iger says the company is still being “very careful” with developing Star Wars feature films in the wake of Solo‘s soft box office, while Marvel is also getting a rethink in terms of how many sequels characters get.
In an appearance at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Iger was asked an open-ended question about the health of tentpole brands Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and Disney. Iger, who returned to the corner office last November, built his reputation on engineering the acquisitions of those outside companies during his previous stint as CEO.
“I think a lot of all of them — they’re all my babies, in a way,” the exec mused.
With Marvel, he said, “there are 7,000 characters, there are a lot more stories to tell. What we have to look at at Marvel is not necessarily the volume of Marvel stories we’re telling, but how many times we go back to the well on certain characters. Sequels typically work well for us. Do you need a third and a fourth, for instance, or is it time to turn to other characters?”
Iger didn’t get specific, but his comments came less than three weeks after the release of Marvel Cinematic Universe entry Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the third Ant-Man film. It has grossed more than $600 million globally, but drew tepid response from critics and posted a 69% second-weekend drop in the U.S., the steepest by any MCU title to date.
“There’s nothing in any way inherently off in terms of the Marvel brand,” Iger stressed. “I think we just have to look at what characters and stories we’re mining. If you look at the trajectory of Marvel in the next five years, there will be a lot of newness. We’re going to turn back to the Avengers franchise with a whole new set of Avengers, for example.”
As far as Star Wars, Iger said “disappointing” box office returns in 2018 for Solo, one of two stand-alone films integrated among three “saga” installments, “gave us pause” in terms of the feature pipeline. Executives determined that “maybe the cadence was a little too aggressive,” he added. Disney is “still developing Star Wars films,” Iger continued, but “we’re going to make sure when we make one, it’s the right one. So we’re being very careful there.”
Episodic series based on Star Wars mythology, such as The Mandalorian, Andor and several others have been “extremely successful,” the CEO noted.
The main Disney brand, Iger said, remains “very strong, certainly the most powerful brand in family entertainment” 100 years after it was created. The forthcoming live-action version of The Little Mermaid, he said, attests to the potency of Disney. “I think when you see that, it will remind you just how strong the brand is,” he said.