Guardians of the Galaxy Stops Summer Slump
By David Mumpower
August 3, 2014
There is a fine line between natural optimism and complete overconfidence. When Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, many critics, including myself, focused upon the negatives. The cast featured a set of largely unknown comic book characters, the story required huge CGI expenses to animate a couple of others, and there were no true tie-ins to the current revenue rainmaker that is the Marvel universe.
While people such as me saw negatives, Marvel and Disney focused upon the positives. The most popular production they have created thus far, The Avengers, excelled in large part due to its team dynamic. For all the success of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America as individual brands, the team climate provides enriched storytelling opportunities. Guardians of the Galaxy is closer in style to that release than the solo projects. In addition, those expensive CGI characters, Groot the living tree and Rocket Raccoon, are child-friendly enough to provide merchandising opportunities.
Most important, the outer space backdrop creates Star Wars-style story options. This aspect creates a tremendous opportunity for Disney, as the company also purchased the Star Wars franchise. In this manner, Guardians of the Galaxy becomes something of a trial run for Star Wars 7. Effectively, Guardians of the Galaxy has just opened to eerily similar numbers as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the number one domestic movie of 2014 to date, while paving the way for the next seminal Disney project. And there should be an educational aspect to this release for Disney.
I am of the opinion that THE most important employee in their company or, at the very least, their movie division is neither Pixar leader John Lasseter nor Frozen/Wreck-It Ralph creator Jennifer Lee. It is Marvel Productions President Kevin Feige. He deftly guided the Marvel Universe through Phase One, and his biggest gamble in Phase Two has just hit the jackpot. Having a single leader for all of the major projects has assured that even as a multitude of writers and directors have taken their turns with Marvel characters, the composite voice has been consistent. Feige has built a level of brand awareness and trust with Marvel that is all but inimitable. For Star Wars to succeed with all of the announced projects, they need similar leadership from a single voice. That role is presumed to be held by Kathleen Kennedy, current president and brand manager of Lucasfilm. She should be picking Feige’s brain at every available opportunity, because what he has achieved with Marvel borders on incomprehensible.
The Iron Man, Captain America and Thor properties combined with The Avengers have grossed $6.83 billion, an average of roughly $855 million per release. And those numbers do not include toy sales and other merchandising opportunities, the way Disney makes most of its money. Best of all, the movies have been universally hailed as great. This is the most important aspect with regards to Guardians of the Galaxy, since that title has been treated like an Avengers property even though there is no true tie-in.