Nerd Factor: Compartments of the Disneyverse

Dr. Mike Robinson, LC Communication Studies Professor~

Captain America, Elsa and Darth Vader are standing in a big box retail store.  It sounds like the beginning to a joke, but it’s actually a promotional poster from the end of an aisle in Target. The image was designed to draw customers over to the kids’ t-shirt section, where many potential purchases awaited them.

One day, I looked at the picture and realized something important—that team-up could actually happen.

In one sense, any team-up can happen. Children do not really care about the corporate origins of their favorite characters. In the imaginative world of play, anything is possible.

In my house this morning, Spider-Man and several of his amazing friends united to fight the cat from “Secret Life of Pets” and a giant construction-paper man that my son had made in school to learn about English units of fluid measurement, who was somehow also a gigantic Deathstroke the Terminator.

The grown-up equivalent of that is fanfiction, where all sorts of mixing and matching occurs in ways both creatively playful and sometimes surprisingly adult.

Officially though, any team-up between characters from separate universes is an exercise of intense legal wrangling.

Back in the 1970s, Godzilla made his way across the country, fighting various parts of the Marvel Universe like SHIELD, the Fantastic Four and even the Avengers. This happened because Marvel made a deal with the Japanese company Toei that allowed each company to share the other’s characters.

Over in Japan, that led to, among other things, the wonderfully far-out “Supaidaman” series, where Spidey used a giant leopard robot to battle the evil forces of Professor Monster. These crossovers ended when the rights to the deal ended.

Of course, media conglomerates do not have to worry about such issues because the rights are typically shared within the same corporate family.

Disney purchased Marvel back in 2009 and acquired Lucasfilm for roughly the same amount of money in 2012. This brought all of their characters under the same roof at the House of Mouse.

The implications are fascinating. For example, fans have speculated that Princess Leia is now among the vaunted ranks of the Disney Princesses. As Jane Foster now wields the mighty hammer Mjolnir in the Marvel Comics Universe, the same could be said of Thor.

In the face of all these possibilities, Disney has shown remarkable restraint. There are more Marvel items available in Disney stories. Marvel Comics has done a series of “Star Wars” comics.

Yet there have been no stories mixing up all of these worlds. The Target poster had three
separate color backgrounds behind the characters, mimicking by accident or design the walls that once separated these characters from one another.

The mind boggles at the possibilities of what could happen. Captain America and Indiana Jones really should punch Nazis together once. Perhaps they even could stop the villains from acquiring Miss Price’s magical bed knob?

Since “Star Wars” took place a long time ago, the Guardians of the Galaxy might find the remains of the long-lost Millennium Falcon. What mysteries would the ancient R2-D2 droid reveal upon reactivation?

With her icy powers, Elsa is clearly one of the first mutants and would no doubt draw the
attention of Mister Sinister or Apocalypse.

If none of this convinces you of the potential here, allow me one last pitch—Darth Vader wants the Infinity Gauntlet. . .