Disney is reportedly in talks to purchase "most of" 21st Century Fox, who currently own Star Wars: A New Hope and the live-action big screen movie rights to Marvel Comics properties X-Men and Fantastic Four.
Talks are said to have been "on and off" for weeks, and would specifically include 21st Century Fox's movie studio, 20th Century Fox. The potential purchase — which would not include Fox's news and sports assets — would finally bring the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and all ancillary characters under the Disney-owned Marvel umbrella.
The Walt Disney Company — who owns Marvel, all respective Marvel characters and Marvel's production company, Marvel Studios — already produces the Marvel Cinematic Universe, home to the Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises. (A deal with Sony Pictures allows Spider-Man, whose live-action screen rights are held by Sony, to exist in the shared universe: Marvel creatively produced this summer's Sony-distributed Spider-Man: Homecoming and the character will next appear in the Disney-distributed Avengers: Infinity War.)
If the sale is made, Disney will gain control of the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties for use on the big screen, allowing the franchises — two of Marvel Comics' most well-known brands — to integrate into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The X-Men exist in their own cinematic universe, alongside spinoffs Deadpool and New Mutants, while Fox has already rebooted the Fantastic Four twice: first in 2005 and again in 2015. The first iteration took the form of the unreleased, Roger Corman-produced low budget Fantastic Four in 1994, with the superhero family making their big screen debut in 2005. That iteration fizzled out in 2007 after just two movies, with Fox retooling a younger, darker take on the team in 2015's critically mauled Fant4stic.
While the Fantastic Four property has never flourished under Constantin Film and Fox, the studio has had a reliable earner in their live-action X-Men franchise. The X-franchise (including Deadpool) has brought in nearly $5 billion worldwide since its start in 2000, and another spinoff will be released in 2018 while two others — Gambit and X-Force — are in the works and gaining traction.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the latest in the saga and sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, is set to hit theaters next November — but if a sale to Disney is made, it's likely the film would serve as the bowing out of the long-running franchise. Wolverine star Hugh Jackman, who served as the nucleus of the franchise, departed the series as a whole earlier this year with Logan, and the X-Men films continuity is boggled, confused and constantly being reworked — Marvel Studios wouldn't want the baggage that comes with a 17+ year old franchise they never had any involvement in, so it stands to reason that Disney would reboot X-Men entirely.
The R-rated Deadpool proved to be a major hit for Fox — it's the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever — so it's unlikely Disney would end that franchise, despite Deadpool tangentially tying to what would be a now-defunct X-Men universe. Deadpool (played by Ryan Reynolds) could operate separately in his own Marvel-produced series after Deadpool 2, or some cosmic mumbo jumbo could retcon Deadpool and supplant him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which would be keeping in line with the character's cheeky and irreverent sense of humor.
Fox already has a kid-friendly Fantastic Four reboot in the works, but a sale would place the First Family of Marvel Comics in Marvel Studios president and producer Kevin Feige's wheelhouse: Marvel Studios would undoubtedly want to put their own take on the Fantastic Four, even though there are "no plans whatsoever" for the Fantastic Four, who are (for now) a hands-off property controlled by another studio.
Fantastic Four and X-Men co-creator Stan Lee has been optimistic about the live-action rights for all the Marvel characters eventually ending up in the same place, and while talks between Disney and Fox have apparently cooled for now, we're one step closer to an all-out, unrestricted crossover that could dwarf even Infinity War.
Writer and director George Lucas’ original space opera was released to theaters as Star Wars in 1977, produced by 20th Century Fox with a budget of $11 million dollars. Unlike the five other George Lucas produced Star Wars movies, A New Hope didn't transfer over to Disney when the company purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012.
The physical distribution rights for the Original and Prequel trilogies won’t be handed off from 20th Century Fox to Disney until 2020 — except for A New Hope, whose rights are contractually retained by Fox in perpetuity — but if Disney buys Fox, that problem goes away. Walt Disney Pictures has produced and distributed all Star Wars films since 2015, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens up through next year's Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the space saga is the crown jewel in an already-impressive portfolio: as a major part of their empire, Disney probably doesn't like the idea of an outside studio having any hands on the Star Wars pie.
Buying the relevant parts of Fox would allow Disney to assume control of the entirety of Star Wars and most of Marvel, all in one fell swoop.
Fox released James Cameron's Avatar in 2009, which would go on to become a box office phenomenon and the highest-grossing movie of all time. Cameron is currently hard at work bringing four Avatar sequels to life, to release between 2020 and 2025, and Disney opened Pandora — The World of Avatar at Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park earlier this year.
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide joined forces with Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment in 2011 to bring the groundbreaking and awe-inspiring themed area to visitors, faithfully recreating the lush planet of Pandora, home to the blue-skinned Na’vi. The partnership came as a bit of a surprise: with so many box office smash hit franchises in their cap, why outsource a competitor's product for your sprawling Florida resort?
Maybe it was to compete with Universal's detailed Wizarding World of Harry Potter (neighboring both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in California and Florida, respectively), or maybe it was a response to Disney being unable to utilize their Marvel properties in their Florida parks. (A pre-existing deal between Universal and Marvel, made before Marvel's 2009 sale to Disney, prohibits Disney from using Marvel east of the Mississippi; Disney can only use Marvel in their west coast theme parks, where they recently launched Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT at Disney California Adventure.)
We won't know how the Avatar franchise factors into the potential Disney/Fox deal until it happens — if it happens at all — but Disney has been dominating the box office the last few years with the success of their Marvel, Lucasfilm and live-action re-imaginings productions, and owning Cameron's Avatar would ensure Disney's continued box office domination.
Disney would also be gaining another box office heavyweight with the acquisition of the Planet of the Apes franchise, which Fox relaunched to big success in 2011. Sequels in 2014 and 2017 followed, the latter pair directed by The Batman's Matt Reeves, and were critical and commercial successes. The three films brought in more than $1.6 billion total at the worldwide box office, and the trilogy is generally regarded as some of the finest modern blockbusters — making future installments a no-brainer for Disney.
The Mouse House typically doesn't venture outside of the franchise installments of its heavy hitters — the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars and the live-action re-imaginings of their beloved animated classics — but Disney is no stranger to PG-13 fare outside of superheroes and a galaxy far, far away. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has lost some of its box office mojo, but the latest installment (the series' fifth) still pulled in nearly $800 million worldwide, and that was with an abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score.
Disney would find extreme value in continuing a franchise like Apes that's a hit with critics and audiences alike, and it just so happens this summer's War for the Planet of the Apes closed out the trilogy while simultaneously leaving a clear path forward for future installments. Disney would get along just fine without furthering this franchise — for the same reasons they're not very interested in that pending Tron reboot — but with such a viable box office earner on the table, the possibility would at the very least be considered.
The Apes films tend to skew a little darker than typical PG-13 Disney fare, but Disney has never played just to kids and their Marvel movies alone prove Disney isn't "kid's stuff" — the Marvel movies have explored everything from heavier themes to marijuana and sexual innuendos (and blatant utterances of "the Devil's anus" became a running gag in Marvel Studios' most recent blockbuster, Thor: Ragnarok), so a heavier franchise like Planet of the Apes being tackled by Disney isn't a completely ludicrous idea.
Stay tuned to ComicBook.com for updates on a potential Disney/Fox deal as the story continues to develop.