Nothing short of heroic effort will do. Disney is, after all, a pretty good marker for all that is mainstream about American culture. Marvel is, by deliberate contrast, darker and less predictable. One corporation turns in towards the gravitational center of our culture. The other prefers to plot a course for the margin, for the uncharted, for the unknown. I mean, this can't be a match made in heaven. It's going to be tricky, complicated and, possibly, agonizing.
No, actually. Stan Lee, god of the comix world, says the "synergy" between the two companies is "perfect." And The Economist says a clash of cultures is unlikely.
Disney is no longer the control freak it was under its former boss, Michael Eisner. His successor, Bob Iger, has turned out to be a relatively hands-off boss, with the Pixar acquisition a model of the sort of treatment Marvel can expect.
Hmm. I wonder if it's not too soon to go leaping to conclusions. It may well be true that Disney and Marvel will not suffer cultural differences of the big C kind. The center-periphery distinction matters less and less. Both parties have decoded the other. So Disney and Marvel may occupy different cultural trajectories, but they need not be prisoners of their strengths. What will vex and potentially undo this marriage is not the culture "out there," and their relative locations in our culture. It's the culture "in there."
This is culture of the little "c" variety, the ones that define the corporate culture. These are subtle and powerfully different. Some are merely "tomato" and I say "tomaato," that sort of thing. But others are fundamental differences of concept and problem solving. These sound little but in the press of everyday work, they add up and occasionally tip over. The difference between the two corporate culture is a little like the differences between the operating system of a PC and Apple. Not so very different, but when you are working on the fly annoying as the dickens, and sometimes just completely wrongfooting.
The differences of the corporate culture are subtle and deeply embedded. Indeed they are so deeply buried they are impossible to see. You cannot see them just by looking, anymore than you can work out the grammar of a speech just by speaking.
No, the thing to do is send in a team for anthropologist who will dig out these assumptions, logics and subroutines (to say nothing of the mixed metaphors) and (wait for it) build a translation table for the two companies.
Think of us as ferrets, but think of us. Tom Guarriello, Mary Walker, Steve Portigal, Cheryl Swanson (for all of whom I speak without permission), and yours truly are standing by.
Anonymous. 2009. Of mouse and X-Men. The Economist. September5-11. p. 71.