Yesterday the movie news cycle was hit by a juggernaut of a reveal. Apparently, behind closed doors, Disney has been negotiating to buy 21st Century Fox. The motivations why are obvious. In recent years the House of Mouse picked up those itty bitty Star Wars and Marvel franchises and the last remaining fragments of both movie universes are still lingering over at Fox (oh and they also added Avatar to Disney World and guess which studio owns that). Obviously, Fox isn’t too keen to give up their big fish properties, so the logical solution for a massive multibillion-dollar organization like Disney is to just buy Fox outright and keep the spoils. And before you think it, yes there has subsequently been word released that this deal is no longer in negotiations. But hey, the last time something like this happened was when the Sony email leaks revealed information about a deal for Spider-man. It was immediately announced in the fallout that the deal was no longer happening and then guess what happened? This seems similar. A deal so big neither company wants it to be scrutinized by the press before completion. It’s likely still happening and it’s also likely not a bad thing.
It almost goes without saying that the lynchpin to this whole deal is the fact that Fox still owns the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four universes, huge Marvel properties that aren’t under Disney control. Obviously, Marvel would like to have that back. Folding the X-Men and Deadpool into their big ol’ MCU sure would open up additional franchise possibilities that are too good to ignore (not to mention the fact that the Kevin Feige would undoubtedly be able to finally make a decent Fantastic Four movie, which Fox simply can’t seem to pull off). However, it also comes with a big caveat. In recent years, Fox has been willing to embrace R-rated superhero stories and in Deadpool and Logan delivered two massive hits that pushed the limits of the genre in intriguing ways. Obviously, R-rated adult entertainments aren’t exactly Disney’s specialty and if anything, could sour the reputation of the company’s “all family all the time” approach to entertainment. It’s a worry, yet not one worth getting too concerned over.
Here’s the thing, Disney buying Fox wouldn’t just be for the properties. They want the logo too. Fox is an established brand, one obviously willing to do more mature entertainment than anything that could appear with a Disney logo. It’s a lucrative market and one that Disney could continue to profit from. They could still make Fox movies for Fox audiences (including the semi-indie Fox Searchlight offshoot) funded by Disney with that parent logo nowhere in sight. If that sounds insane, well it’s not exactly new. Touchstone was a company that Disney created in the 80s entirely for that purpose and one that did well producing and releasing movies that Disney never would have touched under their typical brand like Alive,The Ref, Ed Wood, The Rock, Rushmore, and Starship Troopers. Fox could be operated the same way. They could be a division where Deadpool keeps being filthy, yet can also pull in characters like the Hulk or Iron Man to indulge in his deeply filthy ways. A place where a more mature and R-rated Logan style movie could be made out of other Marvel characters as well. It would actually be a boon for the entire MCU, providing an offshoot filled with new possibilities.
There’s another rationale for all this of course. Disney has made it quite clear that they want in on this Netflix streaming business and has plans to launch their own streaming platform. Obviously there’s more than enough content in the Disney vaults to justify this. But toss in the Fox vaults and suddenly they’ve also got the Alien, Predator, Avatar, Die Hard, Home Alone, and Planet of the Apes franchises to flaunt along with the rest of the lucrative Fox catalogue. More importantly, Fox still owns the distribution rights to the original 1977 Star Wars which Disney essentially has to lease out for any Star Wars box sets or streaming packages. This deal would take care of that and god-willing might allow for a long awaited reconstruction of the original theatrical release of the Star Wars flicks that fans have been whinging about for decades. So, there’s a substantial return on this “screw it, let’s just buy Fox” investment that would work out well for the big company and lead to some good viewing for audiences—it’s actually kind of an intriguing idea.
There is one big concern though. One of the wrinkles in the deal states that Disney can’t buy any of Fox’s television properties as they already own ABC and that would lead to a monopoly. Well fair enough. That’s understandable and I can see why Disney would have no interest in owning Fox News as well, that just makes sense. However, it’s odd to think that would be considered a monopoly while Disney swallowing up yet another film studio wouldn’t be. The fact of the matter is that with Paramount a shadow of its former self and MGM long gone, the number of movie studios is shrinking rapidly and it wouldn’t exactly be an exciting prospect to think that Disney might just own the entire film industry eventually. Like any film studio, Fox makes its share of crap. Yet, they are also a distinct entity of their own willing to take relative risks every year. Perhaps Disney would keep that mandate and collect the money and perhaps they wouldn’t. It’s tough to say.
Regardless, aside from the number of massive corporations that control all aspects of our daily lives shrinking down to an even more terrifyingly small number, this merger might not be a bad thing. There are opportunities here. It’s almost worth embracing the Big Brother aspect of it all just for the sweet rewards of getting the original Star Wars edits in HD or getting to hear Captain America drop an f-bomb. Then again, I suppose that’s the exact type of deal with the devil required to inch our way towards that sci-fi dystopia we all know is inevitable. Sigh…this is a tough nut to crack. Entertainment over evil empire? Hmmm…how’d this debate end with the Internet again? Has Google changed its name to Skynet yet?