How the Fox Purchase Affects Disney Fans
I previously examined the details of the shocking Disney acquisition of Fox’s major assets. Today, I’m going to shine a light on a more important subject. How will this transaction impact Mickey Travelers, folks like you and me who love all things Disney? Read on to find out all the ways your fandom just got better…
The Marvel Universe Expands
Let’s start with the topic that has garnered the most attention. During the 1990s, Marvel Comics was desperate for money as they constantly battled potential bankruptcy. Their get-rich schemes led them to sell the rights to several Marvel properties, each of which wound up going to a different production company. The situation was so messed up that two different groups owned rights to the Fantastic Four and had to negotiate prior to the creation of any film.
Everything is different now.
Disney already owned Marvel, but they couldn’t randomly invalidate existing contract licenses. For that reason, Fox kept the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and other popular Marvel characters. They even made a star out of a previously unheralded one, Deadpool. Thanks to this transaction, every potential Marvel character that Fox owned is back home with Disney.
How does that impact the entertainment world? Well, one of the most popular recent comic storylines was X-Men vs. Avengers. Disney could make that movie now. Wolverine, the most beloved of all X-Men, could show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Well, I say “could” but what I mean is “will.” Hugh Jackman famously retired with Logan, the late-life epilogue to the storied comic book character. Would he return for a Disney/MCU appearance? Let’s be serious here. Of course he would.
Other ripple effects circle into television. Fox currently airs The Gifted, a show I highly recommend. It’s an X-Men series that features some of the lesser known characters such as Blink, Polaris, and Thunderbird. ABC currently airs Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a consistently entertaining story about how a group of (largely) unpowered espionage agents deal with crises in a world full of superheroes and supervillains. Those shows could feasibly have a crossover story arc now. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, just that it’s something to keep in mind.
The Mutant Problem Finally Solved
I could even use a weird example to describe how much this impacts Marvel. Since X-Men are mutants in the Marvel universe, Fox owned the rights to the very idea of a mutant. Any non-Fox Marvel characters cannot claim mutant status. It’s a contract violation.
Disney’s faced this issue repeatedly with the MCU and with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The entire reason why they added Inhumans to the television series (and later gave them their own series) was to introduce a different kind of genetically super-powered beings. Anyone that was previously a mutant could instead become an Inhuman while keeping their special abilities.
The ramifications are so far-reaching that the newest Marvel series, The Runaways, had to change the origin story of a character, Molly, AND kill off her parents. Why? The three of them were mutants in the comics. Hulu and Marvel had to jump through that many hoops to keep the character of Molly without keeping her mutant status. Well, they should have waited a year. As of the acquisition, Disney now owns the rights to mutants again. You just can’t keep Professor Xavier down for long.
The World of Avatar Is Now in the Disney Universe
When Disney announced the Pandora themed land in 2011, confusion reigned. Many analysts questioned why the corporation would build an entire realm based on a non-Disney property. Over the past few years, the other criticism was that Avatar left no cultural impact on society despite its status as the best-selling movie of all-time.
Whether you agreed with those thought processes or not, they’re utterly irrelevant now. Thanks to this stunning twist, Disney now OWNS Avatar! Yes, the themed land that they built seems preternaturally savvy now. The Mouse House is in charge of all marketing and productions on the upcoming quartet of Avatar sequels. In combination with the Star Wars franchise, Disney now claims the two best-selling science fiction realms (sorry, Star Trek fans). Those Avatar sequels are almost certain to have Walt Disney World tie-ins now. Also, don’t be surprised if another Pandora pops up at a different Disney park.
The Firefly Ride?
In acquiring virtually all of Fox’s intellectual property (IP), Disney suddenly has a slew of interesting characters and stories. A wonderful example is Firefly, the short-lived Fox television program that quickly became a cult classic. While the list of prematurely canceled Fox TV shows is long and depressing, Firefly is the one that strikes a chord with the most passionate group of supporters. They’ve clamored for its return for so long that the movie that revived the story, Serenity, is now 12 years old!
Disney owns Firefly once the deal is finalized. In fact, they also own the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and everything else from what’s colloquially known as the Whedonverse. That’s because Joss Whedon brokered all his deals through 20th Century Fox. All of these properties could potentially return as television shows or movies. At a minimum, Disney can license new merchandise using these characters. And they will.
You can read the full list of 20th Century Fox television productions here, but I will hit some highlights. After the acquisition, Disney is the rights holder for IPs including Planet of the Apes, Doctor Doolittle, M*A*S*H, The X-Files, Bones, Arrested Development, Prison Break, New Girl, and This Is Us. On the animation side, they’ve bought The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Tick, Futurama, Bob’s Burgers, Archer, and American Dad. And on a sidenote, Disney also has Legion now, another Marvel television series.
What does Disney do with all of these properties that will interest you? A lot’s to be determined, of course. What we know is that Disney has to populate a new over the top (OTT) streaming service due to arrive in 2019. They’ll need lots of content to entice consumers to subscribe. All of these shows are in play for the service. Some of them such as Planet of the Apes, The X-Files, and Doctor Doolittle also seem like intriguing choices for theme park attractions.
Speaking of Theme Parks…
This is the topic that matters most to Mickey Travelers. Over at Theme Park Tourist, I previously discussed the unusual circumstances that led to Marvel characters residing at Universal Studios Resort. If you don’t want to read the full article, the gist is that lawyers care the most about the words “in perpetuity.” In legalese, that basically means forever or at least as long as the licensing party wants to keep a deal in place.
Universal Studios owns Marvel characters in perpetuity. The expectation is that Disney will eventually dump a boatload of money in Universal’s lap in order to get those characters like The Incredible Hulk and Captain America back. That’s especially true since Disney confirmed at D-23 that Disney California Adventure will have a strong Marvel presence moving forward. Still, they can’t do anything until they rework the existing deal with Marvel.
A Lawsuit Even Lionel Hutz could Win
Why am I mentioning that? Well, Disney just bought The Simpsons… Yeah, that adds some complexity. As you know, Universal Studios has The Simpsons Land, and it’s grrrrrreat. The Flaming Moes are tasty, and the giant donut is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Also, The Simpsons Ride is a masterpiece.
What happens if Disney wants to build a themed land for The Simpsons? My expectation is that they can’t. I haven’t looked at the contracts yet, but I’m friends with a lot of lawyers for just this reason. They can find out this stuff much quicker than I can. I just don’t see any way that Universal lets that happen, though.
The Next Guardians?
Instead, what I expect is an increase in Simpsons merchandise at ShopDisney, BoxLunch/Hot Topic, and other retailers. Disney will have new ideas for toys and gadgets that remind us all why we fell in love with the residents of Springfield in the first place. Also, I’m telling you right now that I’m buying the first shirt I see that has Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson on it.
Any of the characters that I mentioned above that aren’t part of a current theme park expansion at a competing site are totally in play. I already mentioned a few possibilities. I also love the idea of a Futurama attraction made by Disney, just as I salivate at the thought of an X-Files ride akin to Tower of Terror in spirit. All of these things are in play at this juncture.
The terrific part of the entire situation is that Disney will surprise us all at some point. Remember when Disney confirmed that they were making a Guardians of the Galaxy film? Even comic book superfans looked around in confusion. It was like picking somebody on the school board to run for President of the United States…but Disney somehow made it work.
Similarly, they have a slew of new IPs now and thousands of creatives tasked with putting new ideas into motion. Something unheralded from the Fox catalog will one day become as big a surprise as Guardians of the Galaxy. We just don’t know what that is yet, but that’s the fun of loving Disney. They’re always full of surprises!