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Disney & Marvel try to figure how much Hulk is too much Hulk

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Disney & Marvel try to figure how much Hulk is too much Hulk

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What with the enormous success "Marvel's The Avengers" has had so far (This Joss Whedon film is now officially the highest-grossing film in Walt Disney Company history. As of Tuesday,  this Marvel Studios / Paramount Pictures production has racked up $1.19 billion in global ticket sales. Besting Disney's previous record-holder -- "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," which grossed $1.07 billion worldwide back in 2006 -- by more than a hundred million), I think it's important to remember that -- not all that long ago -- there were people who worked with / worked for The Walt Disney Company who didn't have a clue when it came to who these comic book characters were.

By that I mean: I've seen video of a presentation that former Chairman of Disney Consumer Products Andy Mooney made in the Fall of 2009, as he tried to educate the Company's longtime European licensing partners about who the Marvel characters were. And to put things in terms that Mooney hoped that these people would understand, Andy described Spider-Man as being Marvel's equivalent to Mickey Mouse. Iron Man was more like that comic book company's  Donald Duck. And the Hulk ... In terms of popularity, he was kind of like Marvel's answer to Goofy.

Well, if Mooney were giving that same speech again today, he'd probably have to change his batting order. Given the enormous surge in Hulk-related merchandise sales that Disney Consumer Products has seen in the wake of the release of "Marvel's The Avengers."

As Paul Gitter -- Marvel Entertainment's President of Consumer Products for North America -- explained in an article that ran in Forbes magazine on April 30th:

"It's just like you would think - Iron Man and Captain America sell more than Thor," says Gitter. However, The Hulk may soon surpass them all. Marvel executives have been "pleasantly surprised by the phenomenal response" to this green superhero, and expect this fan affinity to further strengthen once ('Marvel's The Avengers' opens in theaters). "His sales are up in a major way."

And once they got wind of those sales, Disney executives immediately began looking for new ways to expand the Hulk brand. Find new & additional ways to get content related to this classic Marvel character out there for consumers.

Copyright Disney / Marvel. All rights reserved

Mind you, the Company already had some Hulk-related projects in the works.  Take -- for example -- "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." This new animated series -- which is being written & produced by Paul Dini, the talent behind "Batman: The Animated Series " and "Ultimate Spider-Man" -- is slated to debut on Disney XD sometimes in 2013. Not to mention that "Hulk" live-action television series which Guillermo Del Toro and Marvel EVP of Television Jeph Loeb have had in development for ABC for the better part of two years now.  That show wasn't ready for the coming television season. But at the Alphabet network's upfronts last week, ABC entertainment president Paul Lee said that he hoped   this "Hulk" TV series would be ready to air on ABC in time for the 2013 - 2014 season.

But given that -- for a lot of folks, anyway -- it was Mark Ruffalo's performance as Dr. Bruce Banner in "Marvel's The Avengers" that finally caused them to care about this character, there are those at Walt Disney Studios who are suggesting that the best / smartest way to make more green off the Big Green Guy is make a stand-alone Hulk movie with that actor. One that could perhaps be released to theaters sometime in 2015.

Now where this gets interesting that Disney officials are actually getting some resistance to this idea from the folks over at Marvel Studios. Largely because they remember what happened the last two times Marvel tried to build a feature film around this comic book character: 2003's "Hulk" and 2008's "The Incredible Hulk." Both of these Universal Pictures releases were ultimately considered to be disappointments, given that neither did really big business at the box office and genuinely struggling to cover their initial production costs.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige

This is why -- when Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was being interviewed by Cinema Blend back on May 1st and was asked flat-out about whether a stand-alone "Hulk" was in the works -- he pooh-poohed the idea, saying that ...

... There are not a lot of plans going forward. The plan was make an Avengers movie where people like yourself came out of it saying, "I love the Hulk!" If we've done that, that is a huge achievement. We have, as you can imagine, many, many options with Mark Ruffalo, so we'll start to figure out when and what that will be. We've announced the 2013 movies, we've announced one of the 2014 movies - the second 2014 movie is not going to be a Hulk movie. So we'll see if and when we can put it together. Frankly, it took a lot of time to get this version of the Hulk. So we're not going to turn around and rush something and undo all that good will.

But that was back on May 1st. Now (slightly more than three weeks later) things have changed. Based largely on the "good will" that Mark Ruffalo's performance as the Hulk has created, that classic Marvel character has seen a huge surge in popularity. Which has got Disney officials wondering how much Hulk is too much Hulk. Would it be overkill to have "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." debut on Disney XD in 2013, a "Hulk" live-action television series premiere on ABC as part of their 2013 - 2014 line-up as well as have a "Hulk" stand-alone film starring Mark Ruffalo bow in theaters sometime in 2015?

Copyright Marvel Films. All rights reserved

And just so you know, this would be in addition to "Marvel's The Avengers 2." Which hasn't been officially announced yet. But given that Disney CEO Bob Iger knew that he'd  invariably get questions about this from investment analysts, as part of his opening remarks for the Company's second quarter earnings conference call back on May 8th, Iger flat-out stated that ...  

... Yes, we are in development on a sequel to Avengers.

The only problem right now is when can "Marvel's The Avengers 2"  be shot? Reassembling this cast for a second go-round is really going to take some doing.

Copyright Marvel Films. All rights reserved

Why For? Well, take Robert Downey Jr. for example. Production of "Iron Man 3" just began yesterday in Wilmington, NC. And once that Shane Black film wraps sometime  later this Summer / early this Fall, Downey has no less than 5 other projects he's tentatively committed to be appearing in between now and the end of 2015. Among them that "Perry Mason" reboot that Robert and his wife & production partner Susan are prepping as a possible starring vehicle for Downey. So carving out a big enough chunk of time for Robert to come back and play Tony Stark in "Marvel's The Avengers 2" sometime between now and early 2016 is going to be a real scheduling challenge.

And given that Disney already has " Iron Man 3" & "Thor 2" scheduled for theatrical release next year, and  "Captain America 2" & the not-officially-announced-yet "Ant-Man" film following in 2014 ... Since "Avengers 2" is looking less & less likely to be a 2015 release now, it only makes sense that Walt Disney Studios might now be turning towards the Hulk. Looking to take advantage of this classic comic book character's sudden surge in popularity to help fill one of those Marvel-related holes in Disney Studios' 2015 release schedule.

And strictly from a business point of view, this decision does kind of sort of make sense. After all, as Bob Iger said in last week's quarterly earnings conference call:

Bob Iger and Chris Hemsworth at the May 2011 premiere
of Paramount Pictures & Marvel's "Thor" at the El Capitan
Theatre. Photo by Kevin Winter/ Getty Images
North America

(Thanks to) the presence of (this) character in ("Marvel's The Avengers") and the performance of the actor, the popularity (of the Hulk) has actually grown significantly. So there's real demand for Hulk product in the marketplace right now.

So why not take advantage of that demand? Make some big green while Marvel's Big Green Guy is still wildly popular? More to the point, when Marvel & Disney hired Mark Ruffalo to play The Hulk's alter-ego, Dr. Bruce Banner, they signed this Academy Award-nominated actor to a multi-picture deal. Which reportedly locked Ruffalo in to play the Hulk in at least six Marvel films.

So with five pictures still left on his contract, it's just good business sense for a publicly held company like Disney  to get Mark back in front of the camera as quickly as possible and then have him recreate his charming performances as Dr. Bruce Banner & the Hulk ... isn't it?

Joss Whedon confers with Mark Ruffalo on the set of "Marvel's The Avengers." Photo by
Zade Rosenthal. Copyright Marvel Studios. All rights reserved

I mean, me personally, I genuinely enjoyed "Marvel's The Avengers." Which is why I'd love to see a sequel to this Joss Whedon film make it to the marketplace as quickly as possible. But that said, I also recognize that part of what made this movie-going experience special was the slow build-up. All of those after-the-credits scenes which were tacked onto "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Iron Man 2," "Captain America: The First Avenger" and "Thor" that then helped build your anticipation for "Marvel's The Avengers." I don't know if it will be possible for Walt Disney Pictures and/or Marvel Studios to replicate that phenomenon as part of their lead-up to "Avengers 2."

And then I have to wonder if Kevin Feige was really onto something when -- in his interview with Cinema Blend -- he talked about  all of the good will which the Hulk is currently enjoying thanks to Mark Ruffalo's  performance in "Marvel's The Avengers." I'd hate to see all of that good will squandered just because Disney executives are eager to cash in on a sudden surge of popularity for this classic comic book character.

So what do you folks think? Is there really such a thing as too much Hulk?

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  • In the minority, but I didn't care for Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, I found him one note. I would have preferred Norton reprise his role. I did however like the Hulk and how he interacted with the other Avengers, so I'm hoping Disney doesn't over due it with all the versions, a cartoon on Disney XD is fine. But of all the Marvel characters, why would ABC want to create a show around the Hulk? Just the special effects alone throws the budget threw the roof. They have Once Upon A Time which is a great great show, but has awful visuals, if they move forward with the Hulk I hope they do him justice.

    And I don't think Downey's work on other films will be too much of an imposition on Avengers 2. I thought he wasn't on set that much because someone else could sub in and be in the Iron Man suit. Oh, and I'm glad A2 won't come in 2015, it just seems too soon and I want them to take their time building up new characters.

  • Simple equation for a Hulk TV show...

    Dexter + Bixby Hulk = PERFECT

    Get the right actor and watch every episode of both those shows for reference. Can't miss.

  • being a  hulk fan way back like every other character or movie franchise sooner or later one can reach too much and kill the thing run it into the ground. for disney needs to be careful with the hulk that they do not do so much that fans soon get tired of him and make it so any more things done with the hulk winds up making the character worn out .

  • I'm excited about a Hulk cartoon because I have enjoyed the Hulk in the Avengers cartoon and (especially) in the Superhero Squad cartoon, BUT I agree 110% with Kevin Feige. Please don't make another Hulk movie. The other two were awful. I was talking to someone the other day about the Hulk and we both agreed that what made Hulk work in the Avengers was we got to see "Hulk smash" and a little bit of Bruce Banner, without the rest of the other boring stuff. I'm not sure that ANYONE can make a Hulk movie work.

  • Would love to see a limited 13-15 episode HULK live action series....even less episodes if that is the only way to get RUFFALO.  He was great as HULK.  Have the series begin JAN 2014, give it time to create good buzz, then move from there.

  • I definitely want to see more Ruffalo as the Hulk.  But don't rush it.  For Avengers, the Hulk's role was pretty simple.  A stand-alone Hulk film should show the character in more depth.

    Also would like Marvel to do a non-superpowers S.H.I.E.L.D. movie with Nick Fury, Hawkeye, and Black Widow.

  • I'd like to see Super Hero live action shorts before other movies... or even smaller stories of the individual characters in a collection of shorts.

  • Jedited hit the nail on the head, I don't think that anyone can make a purely Hulk film and make it interesting all the way through.  People went to see the two underperforming Hulk films just to see Hulk smash something.

  • There have been so many hulk movies, but all of them origin stories, and mostly failed ones at that.  I personally enjoyed The Incredible Hulk, and Edward Norton, so if another Hulk movie was in the talks, PLEASE move on from the origin story!  We all know it!  Do something new, like the Planet Hulk storyline, or create something similar that's all new.

  • I like the last picture.  It looks like Joss Whedon made the movie all by himself, along with the help of Iron Man's robotic arm with personality on camera.

  • I wish Disney can concentrate on making Disney movies, and not concentrate on cashing in on the well-known creations of others.

    These days, it is hard for me to tell the difference from Disney films and films from "other" studios.

  • I agree james they need Edward Norton to return for a Incredible Hulk 2 and New Hulk TV series next year too which will related together as the same film that means they may end up getting the same cast.

  • I ve heard that producer Gale Anne Hurd said that she wants to make a Incredible Hulk 2 and Norton is sign on. Said Hurd in MTV in October 24,2008.

  • I think Jedited covered it.  What made the Hulk work in Avengers was the fact that he was part of ensemble.  You didn't have to put up with Banner's existentialism for an hour and a half to get 20 minutes of Hulk.  That's the thing with Hulk - Banner is boring.  HULK is fun.  

    Personally, my fave interpretation of Hulk has been on the new Avengers cartoon on DXD.  He's the perfect blend of all my fave Hulk qualities.  And I'm quite happy to see little-to-no Banner

  • I agree with the majority - Hulk is good as part of an ensemble cast and that may be the best thing for him.  Also, what is nice about Avengers is that the team doesn't have to always be the same.  Another build up to the next Avengers would work with a couple of new Avengers introduced.

    Tom - Disney OWNS Marvel thus Marvel's creations. You don't drop a chunk of dough and not do something with what you bought.  What do you expect Disney to do?  Drop all of Marvel's creations up to the time they purchased Marvel?  Disney bought Marvel for those creations and sure better make the most of them for our entertainment pleasure.

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