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Monday, March 25, 2019

What Does the Disney-Fox Deal Mean?

by Ray Keating
March 25, 2019

So, what does the completion of the Disney-Fox deal really mean? Lots of people have lots of ideas. What are some of the most meaningful and interesting? Let’s take a look.

First, Orlando-Rising.com argues that the deal will matter very little at Walt Disney World, at least in the near term. It’s pointed out:

• “But the mega deal doesn’t offer much for Disney parks, at least not immediately, because several of Fox’s biggest properties are already being utilized in a theme park setting— including by Disney’s competition. Both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Hollywood features characters, shops, restaurants and rides based around ‘The Simpsons,’ meaning you won’t be seeing the likes of Homer, Marge and Sideshow Bob in Disney World. The deal also doesn’t break Universal’s lock on many Marvel Comics characters like the X-Men and Fantastic Four thanks to a 1994 licensing agreement Universal signed with a then-independent Marvel, even though Disney now owns their film rights and can incorporate those characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

• “... the ‘Ice Age’ franchise, is rumored to be under consideration for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, according to entertainment writer Jim Hill on an August 2018 episode of his ‘Fine Tooning’ podcast.”

• “Disney World guests shouldn’t expect to see any quick additions. [Dennis] Spiegel, [a theme park consultant and president of International Theme Park Services] pointed out that it took years after Disney bought Marvel for those characters to appear in Disneyland, where the Universal Orlando deal isn’t an issue, and he doesn’t expect any major Fox presence in the parks in the near future. ‘You can always get characters out there running around in the park, but to create and develop a bonafide ride or attraction, that takes several years,’ he said.”

Second, the merger will produce layoffs given some inevitable duplication. The Hollywood Reporter declared, “Disney still hasn't disclosed an official number of jobs they plan to cut. Analysts estimate 4,000-10,000, though several employees say the number being floated among people in the know is closer to 3,000.”

Third, Disney is closing down the Fox 2000 label. The Hollywood Reporter noted, “Disney is doubling the number of film labels it juggles, and once it decided to keep 20th Century Fox and the specialty film unit Fox Searchlight, there apparently was no room for Fox 2000.
Gabler’s unit, created in 1999, has been home to such films as Walk the LineThe Devil Wears PradaHidden FiguresLove, Simon; and The Hate U Give.

Fourth, Kelly Rocheleau, writing for Auburnpub.com, makes a strong case that with the acquisition (re-acquisition?) of the video rights with the Disney-Fox deal, the Fantastic Four would make for a great series on the Disney+ streaming service. She writes: 

“The ‘Fantastic Four,’ more than most comic series, thrives on the characters and their relationships. It may sound odd to say about a series that frequently features stare downs with cosmic gods, but the interactions between the characters give the series life, even back when it began in 1961... These relationships and other operatic trappings are baked into the DNA of the FF and would be better served over 8 episodes rather than a 90-minute film where their origin story also has to be told and stuff has to blow up real good. These characters have pathos and complexities, and there is enough material from these figures bumping up against each other that could easily fill a series.”

And fifth, Time takes a shot at predicting how the Disney-Fox deal might “tweak” the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’re looking for the Fantastic Four on the big screen, and offer a prediction involving bad guys:

“But now Disney will have access to some of the best villains in comics, many with more complex motivations than simply ‘because they’re evil.’ Magneto is an incredible villain exactly because he’s not always villainous. He’s a Holocaust survivor, a man totally justified in his fury against those who seek to discriminate against others. But he takes his philosophy to a militant extreme, and that’s where morally righteous Professor X feels he has to step in. Fans have also hailed Fantastic Four baddie Dr. Doom as one of the best (if not the best) comics villain ever created. Dr. Doom is driven by a sincere conviction that the world would be better off if he ruled it — and his jealousy of Mr. Fantastic. For whatever reason, Fox was never able to capture him well on film. (The mask never helped.) If Marvel can get the egomaniacal character right, he could become a staple of the next phase of its universe.”

Getting Dr. Doom right would be a big plus for the MCU. Regarding the Fantastic Four, I just want to see justice done for the First Family of Marvel – whether that’s on the big screen or on Disney+.

As for the unfortunate layoffs, that’s not surprising in a merger of this size. After all, there are multiple objectives with a move like this. One is to enhance the value and use of intellectual property and talent. But it’s also about gaining efficiencies, and that means eliminating duplication. Over the longer haul, if Disney performs well, that will be good news not just for shareholders, but for current and future employees.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with three books - Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant NovelHeroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story and Shifting Sands: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story – published in 2018. In addition, the second edition of Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel was published in January 2019. He can be contacted at raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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