Walt Disney made its huge acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox official on Thursday (aka the biggest news of the week that had nothing to do with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi).
Assuming the deal wins the necessary regulatory approvals, it would reshape the media and entertainment industries, especially related to the streaming entertainment services that Disney plans to offer to over the next couple of years. But, for the pop culture obsessed, the deal’s most important storyline may be that it unites some of the biggest film and television franchises in Hollywood. The assets Disney is acquiring from Fox include the rights to classic TV shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, as well as blockbuster films like James Cameron’s Avatar and Fox’s X-Men movies.
Of course, what many movie fans have been wondering since the first rumors of a Disney-Fox deal popped up earlier this fall is exactly how such a marriage would affect Disney’s film and TV plans for its Star Wars (Lucasfilm) and Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) properties. Here are a few of the possibilities that the Fox acquisition presents:
X-Men can join the Marvel cinematic universe
This is basically a given, as the Disney press release announcing Thursday’s deal specifically mentions “the opportunity to reunite the X-Men” with the rest of their fellow Marvel Comics characters. Despite Wolverine, Magneto, and the other X-Men being Marvel characters, Fox has held the rights to the comics franchise for decades, including the 1990’s animated X-Men TV series and about a dozen movies, starting with 2000’s X-Men and will continue with next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix. In X-Men comics, the characters regularly interact with other members of the Marvel universe, including The Avengers. So reuniting them with “the Marvel family,” as Disney called it, likely will mean future movies and TV shows where the X-Men and characters like Iron Man and Thor share the same screen.
Of course, Disney acquired Marvel in 2009 and the unit now regularly churns out billion-dollar movies, like last year’s Captain America: Civil War. Disney has said that the fourth and final Avengers movie featuring its current cast of actors and characters will roll out in 2019, which makes the Fox deal well-timed to inject some new life and storylines into the Marvel cinematic universe.
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Not to mention Deadpool and the Fantastic Four
Speaking of new characters, Fox also has the rights to Marvel characters like the Fantastic Four and Deadpool, and Iger said on Thursday that all of those characters will be welcomed into Disney’s Marvel universe, as well. Fox made three different Fantastic Four movies, including as recently as a 2015 version that flopped at the box office. Of course, few studios have had as much superhero movie success as Disney and Marvel, so it’s always possible that a move to a new company will help the Fantastic Four finally catch on with movie audiences.
2016’s Deadpool, on the other hand, was a surprising smash hit for Fox, pulling in $783 million in global box office revenue on a relatively modest budget ($58 million). The only problem with Deadpool joining Disney, though, is that the character is notoriously foul-mouthed and violent—characteristics that don’t exactly fit Disney’s family-friendly vibe. And each of the first two Deadpool films (Fox’s sequel is due in theaters in June 2018) are very much R-rated for language, gore, and the like. (Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds has been tweeting Disney-themed jokes since rumors of a possible deal first surfaced weeks ago.) Iger addressed that cultural disconnect in a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning, in which the Disney CEO said he thinks there is still room for an R-rated Deadpool at a Disney-owned studio. “As long as we let the audiences know what’s coming, we think we can manage that fine,” Iger said.
Star Wars Reunited
Believe it or not, Fox financed and owns the rights to the original Star Wars movie, 1977’s A New Hope, which is a fact that has tied the hands of Disney and Lucasfilm from fully exploiting the iconic film franchise since Disney acquired the latter in 2012. On Thursday, Iger said Disney is looking forward to “reuniting all of the Star Wars movies ever made under one roof, which opens new opportunities for that franchise.” Those opportunities could include re-releasing theatrical cuts of the first Star Wars film, along with the rest of the first trilogy. As most Star Wars fans know, movie creator George Lucas went back years later and added various computer-generated graphics to the original trilogy (for better or worse, depending on your opinion), and until now, Disney has not been able to do a full re-release of the first trilogy in its original form.