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It’s a small corporate world after all…

It’s a small corporate world after all… (photo)

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There are a lot of new characters in “Iron Man 2”: there’s the borderline unintelligible Russian physicist villain Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), the borderline laughably spray-tanned American businessman villain Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), and the borderline leather fetishist spy chick Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), not to mention a new actor (Don Cheadle) in the old role of Tony Stark’s buddy Lt. Col. James Rhodes. But perhaps the most interesting of all the new additions is the one played by “Mad Men” actor John Slattery as Tony Stark’s father Howard.

Mentioned ever so briefly in the original “Iron Man” as the founder of Stark Industries (and the buddy of Jeff Bridges’s baddie Obadiah Stane), Howard Stark takes a much more important role in “Iron Man 2.” A revamped version of Howard’s “Stark Expo” becomes the site of many of “Iron Man 2″‘s key scenes, and Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) watches numerous “vintage” newsreels of his father, like this one:

Howard Stark’s thin mustache, closely-cropped hair, dark, conservative suit, and folksy dedication to the power of technology make him a dead ringer for Walt Disney during his time hosting the “Disneyland” television show on ABC. And “Stark Expo” is, essentially, Disney’s original plan for EPCOT, which, unlike the theme park version that exists today, was originally envisioned as a utopian community with its own government and populace. Here’s HowardUncle Walt talking about his plans for EPCOT on “Disneyland”:

What makes the parallel between Howard Stark and Walt Disney so fascinating is the fact that last August, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment. Now, nine months later, Marvel releases their first movie since the merger and suddenly Walt Disney is Iron Man’s pops. I’m certainly not suggesting Marvel’s new parent company demanded or even suggested the choice, because that would be impossible — principal photography on “Iron Man 2” started months before Disney’s purchase — though the conspiracy theorist in me thinks the folks at Marvel Studios, knowing which way the wind was blowing, threw it in to get in good with their new boss. Nevertheless, the timing is incredible and, given Disney’s talent for synergistic exploitation of their intellectual property, it may be just the first of many subtle injections of Disney elements into Marvel comics and films.

This may not be the last of the Marvel movie universe’s Walt Disney, either. In an interview with MTV, “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau confirmed that Howard Stark will appear in the upcoming Captain America movie. “He would be much younger,” Favreau said, comparing Stark’s role in World War II (when “Captain America” will be set) to that of Howard Hughes. Fair enough. But maybe he doodles cartoons of talking mice in his spare time.

[Photos: John Slattery in “Iron Man 2,” Marvel Studios/Paramount, 2010; Walt Disney, Disney, 1954]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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