Picture this: You’re walking down Main Street at Disneyland with some bomb cotton candy. You feel someone tap your shoulder, so you turn around in excitement. Instead of being greeted by a friendly, smiling Mickey Mouse like you expected; you come face to face with Peter Griffin from “Family Guy.”
I’m not saying Disney would ever consider bringing a Peter Griffin mascot costume to Disneyland, but who knows now that Disney finalized the $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox rights on March 13, 2019.
Disney just became an even bigger force in Hollywood — if that’s even possible — taking over Fox’s movie and television production studios and the rights to several valuable properties such as “Avatar,” “Ice Age,” “Deadpool,” “X-Men,” “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.”
The owner of ESPN and ABC will also absorb FX, which produces “American Horror Story” and the National Geographic channels. Most notably, this purchase has awarded Disney with the controlling shares of Hulu. Fox previously owned 30 percent of Hulu’s shares, while Disney also owned 30 percent. Now, Disney owns 60 percent, giving them ample opportunity to make significant changes to the streaming service.
While a huge portion of the Fox Corporation was purchased by Disney, a small portion does still exist independent of Disney. It now primarily serves as a news and sports company, with Fox Sports, Fox News and the Fox TV network. No single corporation can own more than one broadcast network, and Disney already owns ABC. Therefore, Fox TV network will remain with Fox Corp.
This purchase was the most expensive in Disney’s history. It has beaten out the purchases of Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, each for $4 billion, and Pixar, purchased in 2006 for $7.4 billion.
I think of Disney as the giant virus Ralph from “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” acquiring a bunch of little Ralphs — Pixar, Lucasfilms, Marvel, etc. — to create one mega Disney empire that will stop at nothing to conquer the entertainment world.
Talk of a deal between Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger began in Aug. 2017 but were not revealed to the public until Dec. 2017.
Why would Iger make such a bold and risky move, you may ask? Well, the tea is that Iger and Murdoch have been feeling a wee bit threatened by the rich technology giants Netflix Inc., Google Inc., Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Each of these corporations have attracted millions of customers to their streaming services. Netflix currently has about 136 million subscribers, while Amazon.com follows closely behind with over 100 million and Apple, averaging 50 million subscribers.
The threat of being trampled by the competition grew so fierce that Murdoch opted to sell much of the Fox empire to Iger, who was more than happy to increase the size of Disney’s dynasty.
“Disney probably has enough content in its arsenal with ‘Star Wars,’ Marvel and Pixar, but the Fox properties will help give Disney more global strength,” said Michael Eisner, the former Chairman and CEO of Walt Disney. “In many ways, this is an insurance policy to help protect all of these assets and compete, globally, with Netflix, Amazon and, soon, Apple.”
To add to the arsenal, Disney plans to launch its own streaming service called Disney+ later this year.
“This as an extremely important, very, very significant strategic shift for us,” Iger said, when he announced the Disney-branded streaming service last year.
There are still a lot of unknowns about what Disney+ will entail including subscription cost, rollout strategy and exact movies and television shows that will be available. What we do know is that it will be a strictly family-friendly platform — meaning no R-rated films. Older audiences will still be free to enjoy non-G or PG rated films via Hulu, which is now almost entirely owned by Disney.
To make the Disney-branded service as packed as possible, Disney will allow their current lucrative licensing deal with Netflix to expire. Starting with “Captain Marvel” in March, all of the films that Walt Disney Studios releases in theaters will subsequently flow to Disney+ instead of to Netflix. As of now, there are no current plans to move Marvel-themed television shows off Netflix, a Disney spokeswoman said.
From my own Netflix search of the keyword “Disney,” over 100 movies and television shows popped up, which ranged from “The Emperor’s New Groove” to “Coco” to “Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups.” While the fate of Marvel is determined, the future of other Disney-owned movies and television shows remains unclear.
In terms of newly acquired family-friendly Fox movies and shows, like “Home Alone” and “Ice Age,” Disney has not decided whether those will be included. Fox’s more young adult animated shows, including “The Simpsons,” are expected to remain on Hulu.
Now the tea everyone has been waiting for: What is going to happen with Disneyland?
How Disney will go about incorporating the two very different cultures into one seamless theme park is still up in the air. There is the question of if it is something that can even be done.
In the past, Disney has incorporated Marvel into the parks quite well, with the relatively new “Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!” ride that replaced the classic “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.” While this risky move was upsetting to fans of the original Twilight Zone series, the ride is now one of Disneyland’s most popular attractions with wait times exceeding 90 minutes.
Disneyland has also expanded the single “Star Wars: Star Tours” ride into an entire Star Wars land called “Galaxy’s Edge,” to be opened in May 2019.
But will they be able to incorporate an entirely new set of cartoons and comic book characters like the X-Men and Deadpool? These characters are a bit harsh for such a family-friendly theme park like Disneyland, especially Deadpool and Family Guy.
Furthermore, how will they maneuver around removing properties that are owned by other establishments, like “The Simpsons Ride” that currently reside at two Universal Studios parks?
I would have never thought it would be possible for Disney to successfully mash Star Wars, Indiana Jones, all the Disney princesses, Guardians of the Galaxy and A Bug’s Life into one cohesive theme park, but they have done it. Disney continues to be successful, so maybe adding more characters won’t be so bad.
I’m not too sure what the future of cinema is going to look like in the next few years, and I don’t think anyone else does either. What I do know is Disney is growing to be the biggest major movie studio at an alarming rate. Hollywood has now lost yet another studio, leaving a mere five studios — Disney, Warner Bros, Sony, Universal, and Paramount — to fight for the top spot. How long until there is only one left standing? There may be potential for the cinematic world to lose diversity with the loss of studios, not to mention jobs. The best we can do is hope that these big fish figure out all their drama. After all, I don’t think Disneyland can stand to get much bigger.