Late last month, it became official; Disney will be purchasing the bulk of Fox’s film and television output. After a short but tense battle with rival corporate giant Comcast, the House of Mouse emerged victorious, and the deal is expected to be finalized by summer 2019.
Whilst the industry is still waiting to see if Disney receives the foreign regulatory approvals it needs to complete its purchase, fans of Fox’s many movies and franchises have been anticipating the deal with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. There’s certainly excitement with regards to the X-Men and Fantastic Four finally being able to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but what about Fox’s more adult-oriented franchises, like Alien and Deadpool? And what will happen to the long in-development Avatar sequels?
Here’s a look at what Disney have already stated they said they have in store for 20th Century Fox, along with a few theories pertaining about properties that remain up in the air.
- This Page: Avatar, X-Men and Deadpool
- Page 2: Fantastic Four, Fox Searchlight and Fox’s In-Development Movies
- Page 3: Fox Animation and Fox TV
Avatar Becomes a Disney Property
One of the biggest jewels in the Fox crown, the all-time box office champ Avatar, has no less than four sequels currently in development. Avatar made $2.79 billion at the worldwide box office back in 2009, and Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5 are planned for release between 2020 and 2025. Avatar 2 & 3 are filming currently.
While all four sequels being made isn’t guaranteed just yet (Avatar 2 & 3 have to perform well, first), it’s easy to see that Avatar was one of the big fish swimming in Fox’s pool that attracted Disney to the buyout. Disney CEO Robert Iger has already stated his desire to “be associated with and expand” iconic IP like Avatar, so audiences will definitely be seeing at least a couple of sequels for Avatar – this time under a Disney banner. With the first two sequels already in production, they will most likely manage to be released on their planned 2020 and 2021 release dates.
Avatar already has a themed ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, named Avatar: Flight of Passage, and word is gnag movie-goers can expect to see some of the original creatures from that ride in the first Avatar sequel.
The X-Men Come Home to Marvel
MCU fans have long thought that there was little likelihood of Wolverine and the X-Men returning “home” to Marvel, as Fox continued to keep a tight hold on the franchise. In recent years they’ve been actively seeking to expand production on X-Movies, with Deadpool and its sequel proving to be smash hits, another prequel X-Men movie on the docket in X-Men: Dark Phoenix; the comic book-slash-horror movie New Mutants ironing out its kinks for a late 2019 release. Channing Tatum’s troubled Gambit movie and a James Franco-led Multiple Man film are also in development.
As Iger has already mentioned his enthusiasm for bringing the X-Men and their associated characters under the Disney flag, the confirmation that Disney will fairly quickly be taking over Avatar and X-Men movie development while downsizing 20th Century Fox is unsurprising. X-Men: Dark Phoenix and New Mutants will finally be released as planned in 2019. Beyond that, its anyone’s guess where the X-Franchise will go; but an introduction into Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe is expected (albeit not for some time).
Gambit is still currently set for release in 2019, but the fast-approaching release date seems unrealistic at this point. Channing Tatum was first announced to be playing the character all the way back in May 2014, so patience is clearly a strong suit for the actor and his passion project. Precious little has been heard on Multiple Man since it was announced in November 2017. That said, Disney are unlikely to impede each movie’s progress if development has already been humming along for some time.
One element of the Fox X-Verse that will definitely continue ahead as-is would be a second sequel to Deadpool and/or its planned spinoff, X-Force. Deadpool has been such a money-maker (the two movies have collectively grossed $1.5 billion dollars at the global box office) and shown so much staying power in the cultural zeitgeist that Disney would be stupid not to let the brand continue to flourish. By the time either Deadpool 3 or X-Force are released a few years from now – perhaps even being one and the same film – Marvel Studios may even be ready to begin work on integrating Deadpool into the MCU… though we’re not sure how that would work.
The Fantastic Four Will Eventually Get Their MCU Debut
The Fantastic Four have stalled as a franchise; Josh Trank’s much-maligned Fant4stic had a notoriously troubled production that resulted in a terrible final product (even the writer has apologized). Notably, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has been vocal about his eagerness to get his hands on Marvel’s First Family, and apparently,he’s simply “waiting for the call”. Considering the franchise has been dormant since the last reboot in 2015, fans could see an MCU integration of the Fantastic Four in the near future – but that is purely speculation at this point.
What’s desperately needed for the team is to have a fun, yet intelligent, faithful family adventure that shows reverence to the source material. Feige of all people is the most likely to understand this, as it’s essentially been his process with every MCU film to date. Fans should feel free to get excited about the Fantastic Four being under Disney control.
All In-Production Films Are Released By Disney
Industry buzz is that Disney will release all of Fox’s movies that are complete or in production at the time of the acquisition, and there’s little wonder as to why, considering the caliber of what’s on the slate.
Among the completed or in-production projects to be released, there are new movies from British auteurs Joe Cornish and Joe Wright, an action/comedy featuring current Disney rabble-rouser Dave Bautista, and Logan director James Mangold’s real-life period racing drama Ford Vs. Ferrari, starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon.
The Murder on the Orient Express follow-up directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, Death on the Nile, is also on Fox’s docket. In taking the reins, Disney would be foolish not to release the movie from a financial standpoint alone. On a budget of $55 million, the first Agatha Christie adaptation from Branagh released last year more than $350 million at the worldwide box office – an impressive feat for a period thriller.
Announced or In Development Films May Be Temporarily Shelved
Movies in the edit bay or currently in production are one thing, but the fate of the ones that have merely been announced – like Michael Bay’s Robopocalypse – are a little more up in the air. Dwayne Johnson, currently attached to the Big Trouble in Little China remake is a little more safe in this aspect, as he essentially has carte blanche to do whatever he wants after the continuing success of his many franchises, which already includes an upcoming collaboration with Disney on Jungle Cruise.
The only announced-but-not-yet-in-development film that may be guaranteed to survive is the new version of Puff the Magic Dragon. A touted live-action/animated hybrid, in the vein of Pete’s Dragon, Puff could easily fit Disney’s aesthetic – provided they’re not worried about the original song’s many drug connotations affecting their family-friendly image in doing so.
All films that so far have only been announced will likely see the light of day eventually, but it will be long after the dust settles with the merger. The priorities for Disney will likely be the massive franchises that are already gaining steam.
Fox Searchlight & Fox 2000 Will Survive
Disney CEO Robert Iger has already stated that the smaller studios Fox Searchlight and Fox 2000 will survive the move into Disney territory. Considering that Fox Searchlight have been responsible for four Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards, it’s easy to see why for the former. Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave, Birdman, and most recently The Shape of Water have all scooped the big prize, and having such a consistently critically successful studio under their belt will be a major asset for Disney. Fox Searchlight currently have 17 films planned for release, in varying stages of development, and considering the studio’s track record, almost all of them are likely to be prestige, academy-award contenders.
Fox 2000, as the literary adaptation arm of 20th Century Fox, have also had a great output of late; Love, Simon, Hidden Figures, Bridge of Spies, The Drop, The Fault in our Stars and Life of Pi were all extraordinarily well-received by critics (if not always audiences) upon release. Their upcoming release The Hate U Give looks to be another strong, timely movie, perhaps even to be bestowed with adulation come awards season. A socially-relevant tale of racial tension, Disney will most likely be happy to be associated with this movie, which is currently sitting at an 88% ‘Want to See’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Terminator Reboot Will Be Distributed Internationally By Fox
The upcoming Terminator reboot is going to be distributed by Paramount Pictures domestically and by 20th Century Fox internationally. The fact that Disney is absorbing Fox into itself should not affect the release of the reboot, as it was a deal struck pre-merger and all existing distribution must stand as per law. Disney does not now own the rights to the Terminator franchise; merely its international distribution rights (by way of Fox).
Page 3: Fox Animation and Fox TV
Fox’s Animated Movie Franchises Are Probably Safe
Fox’s primary animation studio, Blue Sky Studios, will be included in the acquisition. A contender with industry giants Pixar and Dreamworks, Blue Sky has been responsible for films such as Rio, Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, The Peanuts Movie and the more recent John Cena-voiced film Ferdinand.
Blue Sky’s most imminent upcoming animated feature is Spies in Disguise. Set for release in September 2019, the film boasts an impressive voice cast, including Tom Holland, Will Smith and John Cena. The buddy-comedy follows a James Bond-esque secret agent who must rely upon the inventor of all his tech to save the day (it’s touted as 21 Jump Street meets Skyfall).
The franchise that Blue Sky is perhaps most famous for is the Ice Age series, which is currently being developed as a TV series, according to current 20th Century Fox chairman and CEO Stacey Snider. Whether Disney will continue with the production of said TV series remains to be seen.
The Fate of Fox’s TV Animation Is Also Unknown
Also included in Disney’s new animation selection are perennial television stalwarts The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers, thanks to their association with 20th Century Fox Animation. Fox’s approach to animation is allegedly currently being “revamped,” but there is a Bob’s Burgers feature film in the pipleline, which is supposedly going to go ahead. A second Simpsons Movie is also apparently in the early stages of development, alongside a hybrid live-action/animated Family Guy movie.
Expect Disney to slowly figure out what to do with these often-controversial adult animations, and how to find a place for them within their family-friendly image. While they do, Snider will continue on, expecting her animated features to come to fruition. American Dad! will also go on, and fans will supposedly even see a return to King of the Hill (a show already tipped for a revival).
Disney Will Own A Lot Of Prestige TV Thanks To FX
American Horror Story and Disney might not feel right being said in the same sentence, but as Disney will be buying FX in its intellectual property haul, they’ll be responsible for its ongoing production – alongside other FX shows such as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Americans and Marvel’s Legion. Don’t expect Disney to pull the plug on any of these shows, as they’re consistent money-makers and crowd-pleasers, but they’ll likely keep their distance and allow FX to continue on autonomously. After all, Always Sunny isn’t exactly a family-friendly show.
An Uncertain Future for Disney’s Other New Brands
Through Fox, Disney have now acquired the rights to the Alien franchise. The second film in Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel series, Alien: Covenant, a lackluster follow-up to the similarly-derided Prometheus, left a lot of story for the industry titan to explore. However, the last word from Fox was that the sequels had even been cancelled (as of December 2017).
Disney is also acquiring the hugely successful Kingsman franchise, which has some major future plans already laid. Set to shoot next year, Kingsman 3 is the follow-up to last year’s successful Kingsman: The Golden Circle and under the new merger’s terms and conditions is guaranteed a release. The Kingsman movies have also recently brought fresh word of a prequel, spinoff, and TV show all in the works, which means the House of Mouse is being handed the keys to a brand with the potential for real, lasting longevity.
Disney will also the critically-acclaimed, VFX-pioneering Planet of the Apes franchise. Bob Iger did mention the franchise by name when speaking during Disney’s third quarter 2018 financial results conference call, so clearly it’s on their mind, but seeing how the close of the most recent trilogy was only last year, its hard to tell how soon we’d see a redo (or even a continuation of) the franchise. That said, a total box office haul of $491 million for the trilogy conclusion War for the Planet of the Apes is not to be sniffed at, so it shouldn’t be too long before audiences see a continuation of the franchise.
Hulu Becomes Disney’s Second Big Streaming Arm
Disney famously have a streaming service in the works to rival Netflix’s – if not in quantity than in quality. In addition to their plans for that service, the Fox buyout has also come packaged with a controlling stake in Hulu. The streaming service has been around online since 2007, and has been putting out some consistently headline-grabbing, crowd-pleasing shows, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Marvel’s Runaways, and the Stephen King mash-up Castle Rock.
Disney’s plan is to stick all its non-family-friendly content onto Hulu, keeping its own brand streaming service squeaky clean. This beefs up Hulu’s catalogue, considering it’s going to include a whole host of adult-orientated Fox property. Scarily, Hulu lost $900 million in attempting to develop more original content last year, and that number is predicted to rise to $1.7 billion in 2018. This is unlikely to phase Disney however, considering they just spent over $70 billion acquiring Fox. A potential $1 billion loss from Hulu is a drop in the ocean.
Considering that The Handmaid’s Tale was the first streaming service to win an Emmy for Best Drama, Disney will most likely be willing to encourage Hulu’s original output, whilst simultaneously scaling it down somewhat to avoid further drastic fiscal losses.
The details of Disney’s acquisition of Fox are still emerging, and we won’t have a full picture of what will happen to these many movie and TV properties until the deal is finalized and Disney’s new reign begins. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on any further developments here on Screen Rant.