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December 14, 2017

What Does the Disney Buy of Fox Assets Mean for Marvel’s First Family?

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Written by: Rodney Brown
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Today Disney announced the long-rumored purchase of entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox for a value of $52.4 billion. That means that the rights to many of your favorite movies and shows come back to Marvel or move to Disney. But there is some confusion about certain properties, mainly the Fantastic Four. Let’s explore the deal and its implications.

In the press release it put out this morning, Disney said the purchase includes “include 21st Century Fox’s film and television studios, cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses” citing specific properties such as “X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons, FX Networks and National Geographic.” Later on it goes on to state:

“Combining with Disney are 21st Century Fox’s critically acclaimed film production businesses, including Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000, which together offer diverse and compelling storytelling businesses and are the homes of AvatarX-MenFantastic Four and Deadpool…”

That seems like a pretty clear statement that Disney now owns the rights to the first family of Marvel Comics, the Fantastic Four. But the rights apparently aren’t completely in the hands of Fox.

The German film company Constantin Film AG acquired the rights to the Fantastic Four in the mid-1980s when Marvel was selling off those movie rights to get out of debt. That led to the infamous never-released live-action movie Roger Corman made in 1994. Constantin Film is best know for the Resident Evil franchise of movies, but prior to that it made the first The Neverending Story and the solid adaptation of Umbert Ecco’s brilliant novel The Name of the Rose.

The unreleased 1994 Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie.

The unreleased 1994 Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie.

Then-named 20th Century Fox somehow got a part of the licensing rights to the Fantastic Four when it signed a deal for distribution rights of the 2005 Fantastic Four movie with Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Ioan Gruffud. That is confirmed by both the statement about the FF coming to Disney in its announcement of the deal for Fox, and by a previous deal in which Disney/Marvel tried to get the rights to Galactus for the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Disney negotiated in 2012 with Fox, not Constantin, for the rights to a character in the FF universe. It tried to cut a deal that would extend the Fox rights to Daredevil, which were about to run out, in exchange for Galactus. Fox said no and subsequently we got the amazing Netflix Daredevil and the rest of the Defenders pantheon.

This is what Doom should look like. Taken at GraniteCon 2913.

This is what Doom should look like. Taken at GraniteCon 2913.

So, despite the fuzzy history of the licensing rights to all the characters spawned in the Fantastic Four comics, it is pretty clear that Fox holds the deciding interest in those rights. That means, as Disney said this morning, Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben and all the other vital characters introduced in the FF comics now reside with Marvel. Chief in that line-up is the villain everyone wants to see, Doctor Doom. With apologies to Julian McMahon and Tobe Kebbell, no live action version of Doom has come close to doing him justice.

And for those of you worried about the tone of a movie like Deadpool in the hands of Disney, remember it owned Miramax when that studio put out the bulk of Quentin Tarantino’s early works. Disney may have a strong focus on family values, but it knows when to not mess with adult-themed content that makes scads of cash.

About the Author

Rodney Brown



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