Disney almost bought Fox. That much we know. But what could one of the biggest deals in movie history really mean? Today, we’re going to dive deep and find out.
Corporate mergers between unfathomably enormous international conglomerates aren’t easy for most people to fully wrapped their heads around – they’re not designed to be. Companies large enough for their comings and goings to make the news in 2017 are seldom one entity, but rather interconnected webs of progressively smaller entities that sometimes don’t even appear meaningfully adjacent to one another until it becomes convenient for it to appear otherwise. For example: most people think of chocolate and candy when they think of the word “Nestle,” but the Nestle Corporation is also behind everything from General Mills Cereal to L’Oreal Cosmetics and (extremely controversial) ownership of entire pieces of geography in order to control fresh water sources.
So when the Walt Disney Corporation was discovered to have entered into talks to purchase the film and television assets (excluding news and sports operations) of 21st Century Fox, the most prominently buzzed-about potential results of such a maneuver centered on the possible return and re-integration of the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As was the case with Spider-Man at Sony and The Hulk at Universal, movie rights to the Mutant and Fantastic Four characters were sold to Fox over two decades ago before Marvel formed its own production studio (and was subsequently purchased by Disney), but whereas deals were struck to share use of Hulk and Spidey for the MCU, contentious relations between execs at Fox and Disney have kept Logan and company firmly segregated.
But while the potential of seeing Wolverine and The Thing share screentime with Spider-Man and The Avengers in the near future may be the “sexiest” headline to come out of these discussions (which were reported to not be “currently active” but also by no means permanently scuttled, with mere news of “talks” sending both Disney and troubled Fox Studio’s stock prices soaring), the two companies collectively control so many different entertainment enterprises and intellectual properties between them that even a partial sale has the potential to dramatically change the face of global popular culture.
Here are 15 of the biggest and most noteworthy films, TV shows, entertainment companies, celebrity content-creators and intellectual properties that could undergo major changes (for good or for ill) if and when The House That Mickey Built takes control.
Star Wars, Alien and Predator (This Page)
Disney Finally Owns The Original Star Wars
It’s far from the most valuable jewel the Disney Empire could add to its crown by plucking Fox away from NewsCorp (the powerful Rupert Murdoch-founded media conglomerate that currently owns Fox and would retain Fox Sports and the controversial Fox News properties after the hypothetical sale), but the so-called “Fox Fanfare” possibly being once again attached to the opening of new Star Wars movies would likely warm the hearts of particularly nostalgic fans of the ongoing Skywalker Sagas. Whether Disney would actually drop in the “classic credits” moment for future Star Wars films (or even if they’d keep the Twentieth Century Fox brand active, period) is unknowable, but if it was to come to pass it would almost certainly become the most high-traffic trumpet-related entertainment news story of the decade.
The importance of the deal to Star Wars goes bigger than that, though. Fox currently owns the distribution rights to the original six films, and while the options on five of those expire in 2020, due to George Lucas’ dealing in 1976 they own the original film in perpetuity. A deal may finally see the full saga come home.
THE FUTURE OF THE ALIEN FRANCHISE
There’s a story (likely apocryphal – aka “made up, but well-traveled”) that someone working on one of the more recent (post-First Class) X-Men movies at Fox sent a memo up the chain of command asking to double-check whether or not the studio’s deal with Marvel included the rights to use “The Brood,” a race of reptile/insect-esque aliens that bedeviled the X-Men in a handful of well-regarded comic stories from the franchise high-point. So goes the story, the request came back asking for clarification as the who/what The Brood were, and upon receiving their explanation an unnamed figure in power at Fox was said to have opined: “Isn’t that just The Alien? Just use The Alien, we definitely own that.”
Whether or not a Fox executive actually did casually pitch a crossover with the X-Men movies (stranger things have happened), the fact remains that Fox absolutely does control all rights to the Alien franchise and the iconic space-monster antagonists of the title. But while said creatures (technically called “Xenomorphs” within the series) remain one of pop culture’s most famous modern monsters, the property is widely viewed as “troubled” in the current media landscape following mixed reviews and declining box-office for the last two installments and the uncertain future of director Neil Blomkamp’s planned Alien 5. The Fox deal would put Disney in control of an extremely popular set of characters – but would the famously family-friendly studio be interested in continuing a series of expensive R-rated horror features?
THE FUTURE OF PREDATOR
Fox’s other big space-monster property, Predator hasn’t been seen in theaters since the retro/grindhouse-flavored spin-off Predators several years ago. That concoction didn’t quite reawaken the franchise (which had stalled out after the disastrous reception of Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem) the way Fox wanted it to, but the studio is about to try again with hotly-anticipated revival called The Predator from mischief-making writer/director Shane Black, who was part of the cast in the original film before scoring fame as the screenwriter of Lethal Weapon and has seen his Hollywood star rise once again after having helmed Iron Man 3 to a series-best worldwide blockbuster status.
That means that The Predator’s current caretaker is himself on friendly terms with the Disney Machine, but the same reticence about R-rated fare that makes Alien an unusual part of said machinery would likely hold true in this case as well. Neither case needs to automatically be bad news for fans, but it will definitely mark a change in approach for either the films themselves or Disney itself.
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