You may have heard about this tiny little deal in the entertainment world…Disney has agreed to purchase assets from 21st Century Fox, including Fox Studios, in a deal worth over $54 billion! Disney gets all of the film and television assets except the broadcast network (they already own ABC), sports and news divisions, which will be retained by Fox. Although this doesn’t include the broadcast network, it seems to leave the network without a TV production studio as a sibling, which the other major networks have.
Disney will also get the rights to all the upcoming Avatar movies, which isn’t surprising since the Mouse House has already incorporated the franchise into its Animal Kingdom theme park.
But one of the biggest ramifications everyone has been talking about is what it means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Fox has owned the rights to the X-Men for some time, which as a result has left the X-Men out of the MCU, even for cameos. In fact, we ended up with two different versions of Quicksilver. In fact, both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch where at the center of a battle between the two studios – Fox claimed they were part of the X-Men universe, while Disney wanted to use them in the Avengers. The studios came to an agreement to allow both to use the characters, so long as neither mentioned the other in either way. Fox never used Scarlet Witch, but Quicksilver first appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and then in his MCU version in Avengers: Age of Ultron alongside Scarlet Witch.
Now with the acquisition, that line gets blurred and the X-Men could easily be included in the MCU going forward, if so desired. In fact, Hugh Jackman, who said he was retiring from playing Wolverine after Logan, left the door open if he could appear in an Avengers movie. So maybe Wolverine isn’t quite done yet.
Another Marvel rights property related to the acquisition is the Fantastic Four, but the rights issues are a little murkier. Fox did not own them outright but rather were in a partnership with the original optioner, Constantin Films. The rights and productions have an interesting history on its own, but rather than regurgitate it here Screen Rant has an excellent write-up. So the status of that property is perhaps less clear, although Disney mentioned them in their press release:
Combining with Disney are 21st Century Fox’s critically acclaimed film production businesses, including Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000, which together offer diverse and compelling storytelling businesses and are the homes of Avatar, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool, as well as The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hidden Figures, Gone Girl, The Shape of Water and The Martian—and its storied television creative units, Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21, which have brought The Americans, This Is Us, Modern Family, The Simpsons and so many more hit TV series to viewers across the globe. Disney will also acquire FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Fox Sports Regional Networks, Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Sky plc, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.
So Disney at least believes they are back in the fold.
Oh, and what of Deadpool, the R-rated superhero? Disney isn’t known for going after the R-rated audience, but Deadpool broke all the rules and was a massive success. Well, Disney CEO Bob Iger mentioned that specifically while addressing shareholders: “[Deadpool] clearly has been and will be Marvel branded. But we think there might be an opportunity for a Marvel-R brand for something like Deadpool. As long as we let the audiences know what’s coming, we think we can manage that fine.”
So there you have it. It might be a while before we see the rewards on screen, but I think I can hear the gears of MCU master Kevin Feige’s brain turning now…