The Disney-Fox Merger: A key summary

Impact's Jack highlights the key talking points of Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox and highlights what it means for the film and TV industry.

At 2 minutes after midnight EST, March 20th, the $71bn acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney finally began after over 18 months of legal ratification. The deal is unprecedented in Hollywood and is causing a predicted 4,000 layoffs to both avoid duplication with Disney’s copious existing assets, and cut administrative and distribution positions no longer needed in the modernising industry.

Here are the highlights of Disney’s acquisitions in both small-screen terms and in movie franchises.

In terms of the small-screen:

  • The Fox film and TV studios, National Geographic and Indian TV giant Star India.
  • The top 13 US TV channels – from ABC to FX Movie.
  • (hold your laughter) FX’s American Horror Story. Very Disney.
  • A smorgasbord of adult animated TV, including (take a deep breath) The SimpsonsFuturama, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, American Dad, Bob’s Burgers and King of the Hill, none of which seem very on-brand for the Mouse House. (Particularly in the case of Family Guy, I’m assuming we can’t have Mickey Mouse portrayed as a ruthless psychopath anymore! Or the Cookie Monster as a drug addict!)
  • Disney also acquired the rights to beloved classics such as 24Buffy the Vampire SlayerM*A*S*H, and The Shield.


In terms of major movie franchises, Disney has gained:

  • Alien and Predator: Both of these franchises are in shambles after the respective failures of Alien: Covenant and The Predator, and now it seems even less likely that these R-rated horror series will make a return under Disney’s famously kid-friendly brand-name.
  • Die Hard: I very much doubt we’ll see this one again, what with the slow train-wreck the franchise turned into. Then again, Indiana Jones 5 is still in development with a Harrison Ford over 70 years old, even after Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… 
  • Kingsman: Matthew Vaughn is still developing a prequel to his R-rated spy series, but its risqué sexual scenes and penchant for gleeful, in-your-face violence is distinctly un-Disney.
  • James Cameron’s Avatar: It will be interesting to see how Cameron’s famous ego and auteur spirit will clash with Disney’s intensely corporate culture. Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 have wrapped filming, with production for the fourth and fifth instalments dependent on their box-office success. That decision will fall to Disney and will be an interesting one for them to make.
  • Planet of the Apes: Thank f%&@ this series just wrapped up its stellar reboot trilogy. No changes will therefore be made.

“Disney now owns three major CG animation studios after Pixar and Disney Animation. Only Universal’s Illumination and Dreamworks stand in their way of complete dominance.”

  • Blue Sky animation studio: the creators of Ice Age, and lesser-known offerings like Rio. This means Disney now owns three major CG animation studios after Pixar and Disney Animation. Only Universal’s Illumination (Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets) and Dreamworks (How To Train Your Dragon, the upcoming Shrek 5) stand in their way of complete dominance – and, perhaps, Sony, who just swept awards season with Into the Spiderverse and is looking to make multiple sequels. 
    • The future of Blue Sky’s latest film, Spies in Disguise, starring Will Smith as a suave superspy and Tom Holland as his young assistant who accidentally turns him into a pigeon, is now up in the air.
  • More up Disney’s street are the Home Alone, Night at the Museum and (shudder) Alvin and the Chipmunks franchises
  • Disney also acquires Searchlight Pictures, the indie branch of 20th Century Fox who’ve won the Best Picture Oscar 4 times in the last 10 years – a feat Disney has never managed once.  Presumably they’re in with a shot now.
  • Finally, perhaps most high-profile of all, it’s been confirmed that producer Kevin Feige will be rolling Fox’s X-Men franchise into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, much like they did with Sony’s Spider-Man in 2016’s Civil War.
    • It’s been reported this will constitute a full reboot and recasting, and so we shouldn’t expect any Disney X-Men movies until after 2021. Joining the X-Men are the Fantastic Four and associated characters, who were last seen in Josh Trank’s godawful grimdark reboot Fan4stic back in 2015.
    • The only character that will be reportedly immune to this clean slate initiative is Deadpool (which certainly seems appropriate for such a meta character) with Ryan Reynolds confirming the radically different third movie is in development.


The majority of these resources are being funnelled into the setup of streaming service Disney+, which was announced last April. This deal gives Disney 60% ownership of Hulu, primarily a platform for currently airing TV shows from other networks. It is generally assumed (though in no way confirmed) that Disney will convert this platform into this new service, so they can wage war on Netflix and Amazon. That’s separate to Disney’s ESPN Plus, which recently reached 2 million subscribers in under a year.

“It is generally assumed (though in no way confirmed) that Disney will convert [Hulu] into this new [streaming] service, so they can wage war on Netflix and Amazon.”

In terms of physical property, Fox Corp. is keeping the 20th Century Fox studio lot, but for now most of the 21st Century Fox property Disney just acquired is staying on the Fox lot as, per the merger agreement, Fox Corp. is leasing Disney a sizeable portion of the space for 7 years.

Jack Richardson

Featured Image courtesy of Marc Levin via Flickr.

Article images Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox via IMDb. No changes made to the image. 

Image use licence here.

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