Disney and Fox shareholders voted Friday to approve The Walt Disney Company’s $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox, a deal that will add numerous big-name entertainment properties to Disney’s ever-growing portfolio.
The merger will see the creation of New Fox and a separation agreement that transfers to the company assets Disney won’t be involved with, namely a portfolio of 21st Century Fox’s news, sports and broadcast businesses, including the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Sports, Fox Television Stations Group, and sports cable networks FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes and the Big Ten Network.
21st Century Fox retains all media assets not transferred to New Fox, including the Twentieth Century Fox film and television studios — home to properties like Avatar and The Simpsons that will now be Disney-owned — and certain cable and international television businesses, channels like FX and FXX.
Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed in December Marvel Studios is “looking forward to expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool,” and the door is open for future R-rated Marvel productions in the vein of Logan.
Once the deal is completed, Marvel will freely be able to integrate famed Marvel Comics characters like Wolverine and Doctor Doom into the shared MCU, already home to the mega-hit Avengers, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises.
The future of Fox’s X-verse is in doubt: the long-running franchise launched in 2000 with X-Men and has since expanded to include the R-rated spinoff franchise Deadpool, itself giving way to a planned R-rated Deadpool 2 sequel-slash-spinoff X-Force.
In addition to the in-the-works X-Men: Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants, both releasing in 2019, Fox has long been developing Channing Tatum vehicle Gambit. It was learned in November Spider-Man trilogy star James Franco is attached to headline Multiple Man and Logan director James Mangold was developing a script centered around young mutant X-23.
The long-struggling Fantastic Four property was rebooted in 2015 as Fant4stic, a critical and commercial misfire. Last summer, reports surfaced Fox was developing a new kid-friendly take on the franchise that would center around Franklin and Valeria Richards, the big-brained and super-powered children of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman.
That project stalled, as did Fox’s planned Doctor Doom solo movie: its writer, Fargo’s Noah Hawley, said a script was near-finished but had an uncertain future because of the Disney-Fox deal.
TIn July, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige insisted Marvel was not yet developing any potential X-Men or Fantastic Four movies, saying only that he has “vague dreams and vague ideas” for integrating the fan-favorite characters into his universe. The focus, Feige said, remained on a packed slate — Captain Marvel, Avengers 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home — until the Disney-Fox deal was complete and Marvel is “given the word” to move forward with those new toys.
America’s favorite yellow-skinned animated family will be among the A-list properties to be owned by Disney, as the long-running ‘toon predicted 20 years ago in a 1998 episode. The longest-running American sitcom, The Simpsons heads into its 30th season to premiere on FOX September 30.
The multi-billion grossing franchise also released a big screen movie in 2007, earning over half a billion worldwide, and has since served as a staple of Universal’s domestic theme parks for a decade with a land themed to the Simpsons’ iconic hometown of Springfield.
James Cameron’s Avatar remains the highest-grossing movie of all time since its release in 2009, where it earned nearly $3 billion at the worldwide box office.
The esteemed Terminator and Titanic director has since developed a sprawling saga after signing with Fox a four-movie deal to produce Avatar sequels intended to release through 2025.
The now-shooting Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 are scheduled for December 2020 and December 2021, with later sequels planned for both 2024 and 2025. Guardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana returns with Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver alongside franchise newcomers Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet.
In 2017, Disney incorporated Avatar and the world of Pandora into their theme parks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.
Disney will come to own Fox Television Animation, producers behind Seth MacFarlane’s irreverent long-running adult animated series Family Guy as well as MacFarlane’s American Dad!
The network is also home to the fan-favorite Bob’s Burgers and King of the Hill. Fox Television Group chairman and CEO Dana Walden revealed last August the network was in “preliminary conversations” with creators Mike Judge and Greg Daniels concerning a potential revival.
Fox has long served as producers and distributors on both the Alien and Predator franchises, first established in 1979 and 1987, respectively.
Following two Alien franchise revivals in 2012 and 2017 with Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, Fox resurrects The Predator this September under writer-director Shane Black (Iron Man 3).
Disney previously acquired the Alien theme park rights when then-CEO Michael Eisner intended to bring the R-rated sci-fi franchise to Disney’s family-friendly theme parks. Though Disney later incorporated the horrific ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter at Walt Disney World, the project did not adapt Ridley Scott’s 1979 film. Disney did, however, include a scene from Alien in the since-closed Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Other more adult fare offered by both FOX and FX include The X-Files, American Horror Story, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Disney isn’t a stranger to owning or producing adult fare: less than 20 years after the death of studio founder Walt Disney, the company — under Eisner — established the Touchstone Films label to produce films aimed towards more mature audiences, films the more family-oriented Walt Disney Pictures otherwise couldn’t release.
The practice was first initiated with 1984’s Splash, and the banner saw the release of R-rated box office hits Pretty Woman, Enemy of the State, and Con Air, and PG-13 hits Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Signs, and The Proposal.
Disney similarly once owned and operated grown-up labels Hollywood Pictures, Miramax, and Dimension.
CG-centric animation arm Blue Sky Studios has operated under the 20th Century Fox banner for more than two decades, producing such animated hits as the Ice Age and Rio franchises, as well as The Peanuts Movie and John Cena-starrer Ferdinand.
Disney famously operates their well-known animation studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, which have produced seven of the top ten highest-grossing animated films of all time. The company recently shuttered Disneytoon Studios, the production house responsible for the Tinker Bell and Planes movies.
In addition to classic Julie Andrews musical The Sound of Music, Disney will lay claim to seminal holiday classics Miracle on 34th Street and Home Alone. More recently, Fox has produced such hits as the Kingsman franchise, the Hugh Jackman-led The Greatest Showman, The Martian, and the Taken trilogy.
Disney gets another blockbuster heavy hitter in the form of the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, which released three installments between 2011 and 2017. All critically acclaimed and financial successes, Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes closed the door on the trilogy — but left an ending open for future installments.
Disney is expected to leave indie house producers Fox Searchlight Pictures alone, Iger said in March.
“We have every intention once the acquisition is approved to maintain the business of Fox Searchlight,” Iger told Disney shareholders during an Annual Meeting in March. “We think they’re in the business of making high quality films.”
Among Fox Searchlight’s acclaimed filmography are such Best Picture winners Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave, Birdman, and The Shape of Water, as well as Academy Award-nominees Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Black Swan, 127 Hours, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brooklyn, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.