Rumor Mill: Disney to buy Hasbro?! My thoughts.


Hot on the heels of Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm Ltd. (and thus all things Star Wars), the rumor mill is churning again. This time MTV Geek News has set off the rumor that Hasbro has now been targeted by Disney as its next purchase. It is very important as you read this to remember that at this time this deal/sale is only a RUMOR! No formal announcements have gone out as of Monday evening (November 5th). It's possible by this time tomorrow this could be a done deal, but for now it's only speculation based on rumors.

What fascinates me about this deal is that I hadn't considered it a possibility, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. Ever since Disney purchased Pixar and Marvel in 2006 and 2009 respectively, they have clearly been on a mission to become more of an entertainment juggernaut than they already were. Their recent Lucasfilm Ltd. acquisition continued this trend.

Now, before we go into Hasbro speculation, let's look at what's come out of the House of Mouse ever since they took over Pixar and Marvel. With Pixar, they've pretty much remained their own company, with their own creative voice. Under Disney, Pixar has created spectacular (and successful) films such as "Up" and "Wall-E". Not every film has been an amazing blockbuster, but they all managed to keep their own "voice" and are hardly examples of the formulaic "Disney Princess" cartoon films.

Under Disney, Marvel has managed to put out the much lauded Avengers cartoon series and on the film front, they've had hits like "X-Men First Class" and "The Avengers". I grant they've had some less successful films such as "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance". It was also under Disney's ownership that Marvel continued the mission of pushing a series of super-hero films that would culminate in the "Avengers" movie, a plan they could have easily derailed if they wanted to interfere and "mess things up" as many fans believe they want to.

However, Disney isn't just about the brands they've purchased. They are an internationally known powerhouse. Disneyworld attracts millions of people annually and their films have reach way beyond North America. They're such a known brand that "Transformers" and Disney characters have already crossed over with the "Disney Label" figures from a couple years back, but these were only sold in Japan showing Disney's reach literally reaches from North America to Asia. If you want a strong company behind your brand, you could do a lot worse than a powerhouse like Disney.

Even without looking at Disney's purchased properties, there is one "Geek friendly" example of a risk they're willing to take with one of their oldest properties: Tron. The original "Tron" was released in 1982 and was never a huge success. However, over the years it gained an amazing fan base and would pop up now and then in the form of memorabilia and even a sequel video game. Then, over two decades after the first film's release, they decided to proceed with a new film, a sequel no less titled "Tron Legacy". The relative success of this film can be argued. It made money, but not quite as much as Disney had hoped. Still, even making the film was extraordinary, and the viral marketing campaign behind it was incredible in scope spanning almost a year before the film opened and involving everything from a replica of "Flynn's Arcade" (a major set piece in the film) at San Diego Comic-Con and online viral marketing sites leading to scavenger hunts and trailer screenings months before the film opened. This shows Disney is willing to make huge financial investments to back properties that may not be a "sure thing".

So what could this mean for Transformers? Well, let's remember again that this is all rumor right now. Here's what I see happening if this sale actually happens:

  • IDW will no longer publish the "Transformers" comic books. Instead, Marvel Comics will take over, bringing the title back to where it began.
  • The Hub will change in some way, shape or form. It could close down, folding the current Hasbro based shows (including "Transformers Prime", "My Little Pony" and "Rescue Bots") into Disney XD channel.
  • Crossovers between Marvel, Star Wars and Transformers could happen even more often than they do now.
  • The live action "Transformers" film series could get "rebooted" with a new continuity.
  • Disney could look to turn Botcon into a much larger scale convention, perhaps folding in other Hasbro brands and Disney brands into the mix.

All this is speculation on my part of course, but either way you look at it the odds of Disney simply leaving everything exactly the way it is now is highly unlikely. They'll most likely want "Transformers" to be more of a unified brand without so many disparate elements (mind you, I love the disparate elements). If history repeats itself however, no matter what Disney does with the brand, they'll throw a lot of effort (and money) into it, and that could be a good thing!

Is there a potential downside to all this? Sure. Disney's record isn't perfect (but what studio's record is?). They could easily take over the brand and spend years totally messing it up before figuring out what to do to make it successful. I would hope that any attempt at managing the "Transformers" brand on Disney's part would mean taking a very careful look at what has worked for the brand (exciting toys, dynamic design, excellent stories, amazing characters etc.) and celebrating those aspects while respecting the heritage of the brand. They literally have a small army of people between Takara Tomy and Hasbro who have decades of history with the line and can provide creative guidance.

There's really no conclusion to this piece. This is all speculation and rumor right now, but I like to be optimistic and I think there is definite potential for something good here, but time will tell...