The company was quick to tout that the pact “provides Disney with the opportunity to reunite the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool with the Marvel family under one roof and create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories that audiences have shown they love.” In other words, that means that Wolverine and Iron Man could soon be teaming up to save the world from alien invaders looking for new worlds to exploit, Nazi scientists shaking off the after-effects of a long cryogenic freeze, or whatever fresh planetary threat that Kevin Feige, dean of all thing MCU, can concoct.
In a call with investors and analysts shortly after the deal was unveiled, Disney chief Bob Iger referenced those possibilities by saying, “Bringing Disney and Fox together will combine some of the world’s most iconic entertainment franchises.”
Fox has long had access to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, beloved figures from the Marvel canon, through long-standing licensing deals that predate Disney’s 2009 acquisition of the comic book company. The studio once licensed Daredevil, but allowed those rights to expire, which enabled Disney to create a Netflix show around the blind lawyer turned vigilante. With the deal for Fox, that leaves Sony as the only outside studio currently licensing major Marvel characters. Sony makes films around the Spider-Man universe of characters, though Marvel has been able to insert the wall crawler into its long-standing cinematic universe thanks to a pact that saw the studio nab a producing credit on last summer’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
And even under the Disney umbrella, Deadpool could remain R-rated, Iger revealed. “‘Deadpool’ is an interesting one,” he said Thursday morning. “There might be an opportunity for a Marvel R-rated brand, as long as we let audiences know that it’s coming.”
On the film front, Disney was also quick to tout the addition of another major film franchise to its arsenal — “Avatar.” The company has a long-standing association to the world of Pandora thanks to its “Avatar”-themed attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort.
“Disney will be able to offer more ways than ever before to bring kids and families the world and all that is in it,” the company said in its press release announcing the deal.
James Cameron, the director of the “Avatar” films, plans to make four follow-up movies to the science-fiction smash, with the first installment landing in theaters in 2020.
The deal does one more thing for Disney. It unifies the Star Wars universe. The company owns the rights to almost all of the Jedi films thanks to its 2012 purchase of Lucasfilm, but Fox, which produced the 1977 original picture, retains rights to the first chapter in the series. Now, Disney gets its paws on that film, which Iger said, “opens new opportunities” for the franchise.
Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET with comments from Bob Iger.