Genius Brands and POW! Entertainment Forming Stan Lee Universe Joint Venture

Genius Brands International and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment are forming a joint venture to create Stan Lee Universe, drawing from more than 100 original Stan Lee creations from which it will develop and license approximately seven properties per year.

Stan Lee Universe will assume worldwide rights to the name, physical likeness, physical signature, live-action and animated motion picture, television, online, digital, publishing, comic book, merchandising and licensing rights to Stan Lee and his IP creations post-Marvel Entertainment and not committed elsewhere.

Genius Brands will be the managing and controlling partner of the joint venture.

“In all of Hollywood, there is no greater prize,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement. “This is the Holy Grail. Stan Lee Universe is a once in a lifetime asset drawn from over 100 original, heretofore unexploited properties, created by the most successful creator of intellectual property of our time.”

The late Stan Lee created comic book characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Thor, Captain America, Silver Surfer, Ant-Man, Nick Fury and Guardians of the Galaxy. Lee was the editor and creative force behind Marvel Comics, which was sold to the Walt Disney Company for $4.4 billion and resulted in a string of hit films, including The Avengers.

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“Having worked with Stan and been a close friend for almost 30 years, nothing could make me prouder than for Genius Brands to become the guardian of both his brand and body of work,” added Heyward. “I have no doubt that the greatest characters, the greatest stories, and the greatest hits from the mind of Stan Lee have yet to be told. As big as Spider-Man, Black Panther, X-Men and the Avengers are today, tomorrow it will be Stan Lee’s Tomorrow Men, his Stringbean, his Black Fury and Virus.”

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“The spinoff opportunities for Kartoon Channel! alone are mindboggling, including a dedicated Stan Lee Universe program block,added David Neuman, former president of Walt Disney Television and chief content officer of Genius Brands’ new Kartoon Channel!.

Genius Brands will be creating a dedicated business and creative unit specific to Stan Lee Universe, Heyward said.

“For the millions of Stan Lee fans, we look forward to taking this unique asset and faithfully bringing the characters to the movie screens, to comic books, to toys and licensed products worldwide,” he said.

Kids’ Series ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten’ With Arnold Schwarzenegger Coming to Amazon Prime, Alibaba’s Youku

Genius Brands’ children’s animated series “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, will premiere in spring 2021 on Amazon Prime.

Alibaba Group will also launch the series in China on its video streaming platform for kids Youku.

“With Amazon Prime in the U.S. and Alibaba in China, we are very excited to launch on these two premiere platforms in the two largest territories in the world,” said Genius Brands’ chairman and CEO Andy Heyward in a statement.

“Years ago, Stan Lee and I spoke of such a project, and I’m excited to finally bring great storytelling to kids around the world, which will also promote lessons of health, exercise, fitness and anti-bullying,” said Schwarzenegger in a statement.

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“Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten” is an action-adventure comedy series targeting kids 4-7 and is co-produced by Alibaba Group, Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment and Schwarzenegger’s Oak Productions. In addition to his likeness, Schwarzenegger lends his voice as the lead character in the series. Co-creator of Deadpool, Fabian Nicieza, who has sold more than 100 million comics worldwide, is scripting the series.

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In “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” five years ago, a tremendous superhero battle blanketed the small town of Greenvale in cosmic radiation. Shortly thereafter, a previously ordinary, diverse group of boys and girls are showing the most unusual superpowers. Their superpowers, however, rather than coming from Kryptonite, or a radioactive spider, come from items in their kindergarten classroom — white glue, wooden blocks, crayons, silly putty, etc. A kindergarten teacher Arnold Armstrong (Schwarzenegger) arrives in Greenvale to train these super-kids. He knows what it is like to control superpowers, because he used to be Captain Courage, the hero whose final battle resulted in the previously unknown powers of the kids. Their new instructor teaches the kids how to become the heroes of tomorrow.

“This is a series of action, comedy, and fun, based on the genius and imagination of the great creative icon, Stan Lee, and with the important lessons of health, exercise, nutrition, and anti-bullying,” according to the Genius press release. “Just as he appeared as a cameo in all of the Marvel movies, Stan himself will be an animated cameo in each episode, with a digitized recreation of his voice as well.”

“We are gathering steam with our latest tentpole series, ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,’ and are thrilled to have two of the top digital streaming partners worldwide, Amazon and Alibaba, on board as launch partners, reaching a potential global audience of hundreds of millions, as well as the talents of Arnold and the genius that was Stan,” added Heyward. “In an ever-changing children’s media landscape and current viewing patterns of children around the globe, our strategy is to offer this dynamic series where kids predominantly go to find their entertainment now. We know we have a hit on our hands and cannot wait to share it with kids everywhere.”

Saturn Awards to Honor Feige, Favreau, Loeb

The Saturn Awards organization Aug. 22 announced the recipients of three honorary awards that will be presented at the 45th annual awards show Sept. 13, including a brand-new annual award named after comic book legend Stan Lee.

Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige will be honored with the inaugural Stan Lee World Builder Award, which will “be given annually to the creative force who has, over an extended period of time, created a world with multiple stories and characters that have amazed and engaged fans worldwide at the most galactic level,” according to a statement from the Saturn Awards.

This award also honors the legacy of the late Stan Lee and is exclusively available to The Saturn Awards from Lee’s POW! Entertainment. Feige is being honored for creating and guiding the Marvel Cinematic Universe across 23 films and 11 years from 2008’s Iron Man to this year’s Saturn Award nominated Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

The announcement comes as Sony and Disney have reached an impasse on extending a deal to keep Spider-Man in the MCU, which would prevent Feige from producing further “Spider-Man” movies.

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Jon Favreau

Filmmaker Jon Favreau will be honored with the Saturn Visionary Award for establishing himself as a groundbreaking visual artist in directing the films Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Jungle Book and the remake of The Lion King, the latter having earned nearly $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office. Favreau is also executive producing the “Star Wars” live-action television series “The Mandalorian” for the Disney+ streaming service.

Jeph Loeb

Jeph Loeb, EVP and head of Marvel Television, will be receiving the Dan Curtis Legacy Award, honoring fellow masters of genre TV and quality programming. Loeb has long been lauded for his work across multiple mediums including film, television, and comic books.

The 2019 Saturn Awards will be announced in a ceremony held at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, and will be presented online through a streaming platform to be announced later.

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Arriving Digitally July 30, on Disc Aug. 13 From Disney

Disney will release Marvel Studios’ blockbuster Avengers: Endgame digitally July 30 (including Movies Anywhere), and on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and on demand Aug. 13.

The 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe concludes the first “Avengers” saga that has spanned 11 years, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man. The film, in which the Avengers take one final stand against Thanos, has earned $834.9 at the domestic box office. Its $2.75 billion worldwide box office tally is the highest-ever for a film in its initial theatrical run (without a re-release).

Bonus features include a tribute to Stan Lee; the tale of Robert Downey Jr.’s casting as Iron Man; the evolution of Captain America; Black Widow’s dramatic story arc; directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s experience at the helm of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame; the making of an epic battle scene with the women of the MCU; the creation of Bro Thor; deleted scenes; a gag reel and more.

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The digital release, available in 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD, offers access to an exclusive extra highlighting the love story of Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Peggy Carter.

Consumers can also buy a digital bundle of all four films in the Avengers franchise, which includes Marvel’s The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

The film’s theatrical run is expanding June 28 with an introduction by the Russo Brothers and additional post-credits footage.

Thanks, Stan Lee, and Excelsior!

Stanley Martin Lieber, otherwise known to the world as Stan Lee, passed away Nov. 12 at the age of 95.

In the 1960s, he helped grow Marvel Comics into one of the two major comic book publishers (alongside DC Comics), having a hand in the creation of such characters as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Thor, The Fantastic Four and The X-Men. Lee wrote for “Captain America” in the 1940s and helped resurrect the character in the ’60s as a member of The Avengers.

His work in the genre helped spur a turn toward more-thoughtful, message-driven comic book storytelling based on the humanity of his characters. Spider-Man was plagued by the same problems as other teens. The X-Men were a metaphor for the Civil Rights movement. Iron Man became an alcoholic. And so on.

In his later years, Lee became an icon of the comic book industry and an ambassador of the medium like no other, always greeting fans with an enthusiastic smile and delighting crowds with the recitation of his catchphrase, “Excelsior!,” a Latin word that translates to “ever upward.”

While he stepped back from a creative role at Marvel, he remained connected to the company as Chairman Emeritus, while also working on new superhero projects on his own. In this capacity, he made countless appearances at comic book conventions and served as executive producer for many movies and TV shows based on Marvel Comics properties.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created.  A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, in a statement posted on the Disney website. Disney bought Marvel Comics in 2009.

In the past two decades, Lee’s frequent appearances in Marvel films helped expand his legend further. His cameos became a staple of the genre as audiences began to keep an eye on where he would show up next.

In 2005’s Fantastic Four, Lee appeared as mailman Willie Lumpkin, the first time he played a character he created. And his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe became so popular that they spawned a fan theory that he was actually a supernatural observer for a celestial race known as The Watchers, an idea that finally took root in 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

But his ubiquitousness was not limited to Marvel movies, including notable guest spots in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, “The Simpsons,” “Heroes,” “The Big Bang Theory” and, most recently, voicing himself in Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, his first cameo for a project based on rival DC. He also reportedly recorded a voiceover cameo for Disney’s upcoming Ralph Breaks the Internet.

His cameos became such a calling card of his that there’s now a separate Wikipedia page dedicated to tracking all of them.

From 2006 to 2007, Lee hosted the Sci-Fi Channel reality competition show “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?,” in which contestants would dress up as superheroes of their own creation and perform tasks to be judged by Lee.

In 2012 Lee’s life story was the subject of the documentary With Great Power … The Stan Lee Story, re-released on DVD last year by Well Go USA.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lee twice for various projects about 10 years ago, and he was never shy about his love of comic books, superheroes and the storytelling potential they represented. He even joked about setting up a “Stan Lee for Hire” billboard in Hollywood in hopes of getting more offers for cameos.

Lee’s most recent Marvel cameo came in Sony’s Venom, and he reportedly already shot a cameo for the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4. We don’t yet know to what capacity, if any, Lee would have appeared in the 2019 MCU films Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home, or even Fox’s latest “X-Men” chapter, Dark Phoenix, though those films will almost certainly be dedicated to his memory.

In the meantime, as long as we are graced with the thousands of comic books, characters and stories that represent Stan Lee’s enduring legacy, there can never be “’Nuff said.”

Excelsior.