LOS ANGELES -- Nay-sayers would have you believe Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm can only mean one thing: Bambi and Mickey Mouse are sure to appear in future "Star Wars" movies taking up lightsabers against the dark side of the Force.
Not so, say experts who've watched Disney's recent acquisition strategy closely. If anything, The Walt Disney Co. has earned credibility with diehard fans by keeping its fingerprints off important film franchises like those produced by its Marvel Entertainment and Pixar divisions.
"They've been pretty clearly hands-off in terms of letting the creative minds of those companies do what they do best," says Todd Juenger, an analyst with Bernstein Research. "Universally, people think they pulled it off."
Though the Walt Disney Co. built its reputation on squeaky clean family entertainment, its brand today is multifaceted. Disney, of course, started as an animation studio in 1923 with characters such as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Steamboat Willie and Mickey Mouse. Over the years, the company ventured into live action movies, opened theme parks, launched a fleet of cruise ships and debuted shows on TV.
By way of acquisitions over the last few decades, it has ballooned into a company with $40.9 billion in annual revenue and a market value of $88 billion. Disney bought Capital Cities/ABC in 1995 for $19 billion, Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006, Marvel for $4.2 billion in 2009 and this week, it said it will purchase Lucasfilm and the "Star Wars" franchise for $4.05 billion.
The "Star Wars" franchise fills a hole in Disney's live-action portfolio, which suffered an embarrassing $200 million loss on the sci-fi flick "John Carter" earlier this year. The box-office bomb caused an executive shuffle at the studio that brought in former Warner Bros. president Alan Horn, who oversaw the hugely successful runs of "Harry Potter" and "The Dark Knight" movies.