Genius Brands International Inc. has made a move into licensing the likeness of the late comic book legend Stan Lee to Marvel Entertainment.
The Beverly Hills distributor of children’s media and merchandise through its joint venture with Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. signed a 20-year agreement with Marvel, owned by The Walt Disney Co., in Burbank, to allow it to use Lee’s name, voice, likeness and signature in movies and television projects, as well as use images, existing footage and existing audio recordings featuring Lee, who died in 2018.
The deal included exclusive rights to use Lee’s name, voice, likeness and signature in theme parks, water parks, cruise lines and in-park merchandise for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, according to a May 18 release from Genius Brands.
Andy Heyward, chief executive of Genius Brands, said the company is proud to be the stewards of the incredibly valuable rights to Lee’s intellectual property brand.
“There is no better place than Marvel and Disney where Stan should be for his movies and theme park experiences,” Heyward said in a statement. “As we enter the centennial year of Stan’s birthday, Dec. 28, 2022, we are thrilled to see his memory and legacy will continue to delight fans through this new long-term agreement with Marvel.”
In a letter to Genius Brands shareholders on May 19, Heyward said he believes this is a transformational transaction for Genius Brands for several reasons.
“In addition to the license fees from Marvel and ongoing merchandise royalties from Disney, this deal ensures that Stan Lee will remain a fixture in the Marvel universe and Disney theme park experiences for at least the next 20 years,” Heyward said in the letter.
Through digital technologies, virtual reality and archival footage, fans can once again enjoy the man who created iconic characters from Spiderman to Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Ant Man and Silver Surfer, the letter said.
“We know that in Marvel’s thoughtful hands, the legacy of this great man will be represented respectfully and with the dignity and humor that those of us who worked with and loved him would have wanted,” Heyward wrote in the letter.
More importantly, he added, as Genius Brands prepares to release never-before-seen Lee content, the transaction with Marvel and Disney will help ensure continuous exposure for the upcoming Lee consumer products created and licensed by the company on behalf of its joint venture, Stan Lee Universe LLC.
Genius Brands has engaged Michael Uslan, executive producer of “The Batman” film franchise, and Greg Hildebrand, an artist known for his iconic “Star Wars” poster, to lead the design and storytelling of Lee’s last creations, which are moving forward from development to production, the letter said.