By The Toy Story Fanatic Devo
Recently, Disney bought out 21st Century Fox. This is a huge shift in the entertainment business and with this comes a lot of questions. Not just business and investor wise, but with specific properties. I picked the top 3 questions I and many of my friends had about the change and now we’re going to investigate what will happen and what to look forward to in the new year.
The Disney Princesses
One of the biggest things people seem to be excited for is the possibility of properties like “The Swan Princess” and “Anastasia” being inducted into the Disney Princess lineup. That is likely not to happen.
The princesses that come with Fox are primarily created by Don Bluth who was an animator at Disney during its golden age and left to be a competitor to Disney during its dark age and Renaissance eras. While Disney was making movies that were a bit more progressive in art form and character driven in story (what we in the analyst business call “formalist” and “Animist”) Don Bluth was taking a very “Classicist” approach, focusing not so much on the story he was telling but on how it looked and how artistic it could be. Almost a celebration of what animation HAS done rather than what it WILL do. This resulted in animation that has yet to be rivaled and music that was some of the most beautifully orchestrated and often was the highlight of the film.
These films were so different from the established formula and are, quite frankly, not very marketable to little girls. 10 minutes online will show that the only people who are talking about placing Anastasia in the princess lineup are adults and older teenagers and they aren’t the ones buying the toys. I would not expect to see Don Bluth properties make it into the princess marketing or their official line-up.
What I can see would be something like Disney has been doing with Studio Ghibli where they would re-release these old Don Bluth films as their own classic collection and making them more available to consumers. This would include not just Anastasia or the Swan Princess but also An American Tale and The Land Before Time, as well as several other well-loved movies. Some of these properties may still lie with DreamWorks animation though, so there’s no guarantee what will and won’t be distributed.
Fox owned the distribution rights to the original and prequel Star Wars films. This means that, until this month, Disney had to get permission from Fox to show the movies on TV, release Blu-Rays and DVDs, or change what kind of release the movies had as far as special editions or theatrical versions (note how you haven’t seen a boxed collection with all 7 films).
Due to a long-lasting fan request, I say we can expect to have the Original Theatrical versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi released in new formats like Blu-Ray and Digital. We may also see them shown on Disney Channel or various other stations owned by Disney. DIstribution rights for The Clone Wars animated series still rest with Warner Bros.
Fox owned the rights to the Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and Deadpool. The latter two have been financially successful as well as critical successes while the Fantastic Four has struggled to hold its ground.
There are only two ways this can go. Either these properties are brought into the established Marvel Cinematic Universe, or they aren’t. Should they be inducted, we can expect fewer X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four releases since producing a movie in a connected universe is a lot of work and, so far, has been limited to 2 films a year roughly. There would also be a contrast in the tone of the movies since the MCU has a reputation of being lighthearted while the X-Men, particularly of late, has been darker and grittier.
The alternative is that Disney runs the X-men and Fantastic Four properties like they run Pixar where they add a few more quality checks in the review and pitch steps of production and leave the rest of the work to the studio. This will result in movies that feel much like they have been lately, but of higher quality since there’s another set of eyes to review the thing. Even on this route, there is a danger of losing options like a more adult-aimed movie like Logan hitting theaters.
Disney knows how to run new companies. They do two things when they do. First is they open up new possibilities to create new materials (Lucasfilm), they do quality checks and re-checks (Disney Animation post- Iger’s inauguration as president) and oftentimes they’ll leave the company alone to do their thing if they’ve been consistent in the past (Pixar).
Unfortunately, all magic comes at a price. The price for all of these benefits is going to be pretty costly in the short term and potentially lacking in the long term. The first thing we can expect to see will be a lot of layoffs and people losing their jobs. in 2006 when Disney officially bought Pixar studios, Disney’s devoted “Pixar Rip-Off” studio, Circle 7, was shut down, placing a lot of people out of work. we can see some of the same things with Fox’s subsidiary studios. We’ll also start seeing a lot fewer movies produced by “Fox” in favor of placing them under different branding, obvious choices would be X-men as MCU Marvel Studio films. While this wasn’t the case with the Lucasfilm takeover, the thing to remember is that Fox wasn’t dormant. they’ve been creating movies and attractions consistently, which was the opposite of Lucasfilm’s situation, and things are going to slow down. We can also expect a lot of current projects to be canceled to leave room for other developers and studios to work on their projects like we saw with Lucasfilm and its subsidiaries.
Time will tell the story of what happened with this merger. Soon the Alien princess memes and Simpsons jokes will settle and we’ll get a good look at the changes that have happened. But as Walt Disney said: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”. As we head down this new path together, please remember to keep your hands, arms, and legs inside the cart. Make sure your seatbelt is fastened and tightened, place all belongings in the mesh on the seat in front of you and enjoy the ride.
Also keep wishing on stars!