Disney – The Ruler of Fantasy
In the world of entertainment, media, film and animation, one piece of news will mark the past year: Disney’s purchase of Fox. A merge of such proportions is a business event comparable to geopolitical news such as: “Germany bought France!”, or: “U.S.A. announces the purchase of Canada!”. How does that sound to you?
Of course, if Germany were to buy France or U.S.A. Canada, these countries wouldn’t physically disappear. They would survive as regions, however, at least a part of the countries’ sovereignty would fade in the “dominant theology” of the new owners.
Two, poetically put, fantasy factories would disappear, same as a large portion of Fox’s hundred-year old fantasy factory will cease to exist in the Disney imperium. Disney, the largest contemporary ruler of fantasy, will not share his power with anyone, be it Fox or someone else. It will rule Fox, same as it rules Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel.
That is, from a business perspective, completely justified, because they had paid for the right to do so. Disney has purchased Fox for $52.4 billion. In reality it’s $66.1 billion, when you add up the accumulated debt Fox has had, which Disney is to pay off as well, according to their contract. That was the business and the money data concerning the merge. Nothing more to be said about that. There are facts that aren’t strictly business and money related, however.
Family & Fantasy – Disney’s “F&F Ideology”
Firstly, Disney’s “F&F Ideology”, family and fantasy, Disney’s credo. The Disney F&F flag, two stages od disneyfication to which (one way or the other), all of those subjected must obey to. Everything made by Disney has to be, firstly, meant for the imagination of the broadest audience possible and secondly, to the family as the primary user. Everything unsettling, subversive, provocative or challenging is strictly prohibited. The image of the world Disney creates is of a beautiful, perfect utopia, the best place you can imagine. And the best thing is – you can’t even imagine it the way Disney, Marvel, Pixar and, soon, Fox, will be able to do it for you.
It’s, therefore, no surprise that the first question to Disney related to the purchase of Fox was by fans of a Marvel character from a Fox movie: What’s going to happen with Deadpool, whose tagline is „Bad ass. Smart ass. Great ass.“, and who is completely opposed to Disney’s Family & Fantasy ideology?
Fox’s Deadpool was the first superhero movie in which the blood was literally spraying the screen, in which the sex scenes were really hot, and in which cursing and bad language were normal. The lead hero is not just vulgar, but a punk too. He doesn’t try for a single second to get the audience to like him, which gives him a freedom superheroes normally don’t possess.
In Fox’s Deadpool, for example, the hero can “break the fourth wall”, turn to the audience and say the scene wasn’t shot properly or as imagined because the studio wouldn’t give them enough money, which really happened because Fox had, doubting the success of the film, cut the budget.
Fox deserves highest praise for not banning the humorous critique of its frugality and lack of trust in the film. It’s unthinkable to hear anything even remotely similar in a Disney film. Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, when questioned about the future of Fox, had to reply to Deadpool fans: „we think there might be an opportunity for a Marvel-R brand for something like Deadpool,“, which means they are going to keep R rating prohibited for Disney films, because it allows „strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity“. Iger had smartly added: „As long as we let the audiences know what’s coming, we think we can manage that fine.“. This diplomatic statement in reality means that vulgar and rebellious Deadpool is to survive under Marvel and Disney regime for as long as it remains profitable, and as soon as the music stops, it’s to vanish without a trace since R rated films are in no way acceptable in Disney’s Family & Fantasy Factory. It’s unacceptable because it cannot fit into Disney’s lucrative business model of theme parks and toys, memorabilia and thousands of princesses, princes, kings, cinderellas or snowwhites being sold worldwide.
It is also unthinkable for Deadpool to appear as his original, vulgar self in other films with Marvel heroes which create the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney won’t allow Deadpool to contaminate other Marvel films with bloody violence, sex and curses, and trying to adjust him according to Disney’s family and children norms would be pointless.
Disney’s rigid F&F ideology could best be illustrated by the company’s fatal blunder to produce The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. That has to still be haunting their leadership to this day. The filming rights were owned by Miramax (which was owned by Disney). When Michael Eisner, Disney’s CEO at the time, who was in charge of Disney’s renaissance during the 90-es, had turned down to finance the project because he’d thought it was too expensive and, because the violence and scary scenes were unfit for family and children audiences, the rights were purchased by New Line, owned by Warner Bros at the time. With the three masterpieces directed by Peter Jackson, they’ve made billions (and they’re still doing so thanks to The Hobbit). Eisner’s successor, Bob Iger, wouldn’t allow himself such a blunder. After all, he is the one responsible for Disney’s dominant position in the fun industry for children and families. He’d realize that The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were ideal for Disney, and, that if done the way Jackson had directed them, they needn’t have any more violence than any sequel of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean.
Just how shortsighted ex Disney’s CEO, Michael Eisner was, is vividly visible from Pixar’s sequels of their first film Toy Story, which was, as agreed by Pixar’s owner at the time (Steve Jobs), distributed by Disney. Eisner asked for Toy Story 2 to be a typical, cheap video title, same as plenty which are made routinely (such as the sequels of Aladdin or The Lion King). The guys from Pixar wouldn’t have it, though. Because of the dispute with Eisner, Jobs and Pixar were planning to change the distributor, but the whole thing got solved by Bob Iger. He’d simply bought Pixar from Steve Jobs for $7 billion in 2006., hence solving not only the problems regarding the distribution, but everything Pixar will, under Disney’s rule, be doing in the future.
After the Pixar purchase, Iger got rid of all the smaller companies, such as Miramax, which weren’t into what he considered to be Disney’s core business: animated and fantasy films meant for children and families. Three years later, in 2009., he bought Marvel, the future crown jewel of the Disney empire for $4 billion. After that, in 2012., he bought Lucasfilm for the same amount, $4 billion, along with all the rights to past and future Star Wars. All but the first Star Wars movie, which is owned by Fox. A problem to be resolved soon, I guess.
With the purchase of Fox, Disney became the owner of all Star Wars movies, as well as the great animation studio Blue Sky, known for its hit series Ice Age. They’ve also become the owners of the box office champs of all times; Titanic and Avatar directed by James Cameron (as well as all the sequels to Avatar, which Cameron is preparing). Along with these franchises, Disney is getting the priceless Fox film library, a limitless treasury of classics done by some of the greatest directors of all time, and evergreens such as Marilyn Monroe’s films, musicals such as The Sound of Music, the Die Hard series, Home Alone, Planet of the Apes, and many more.
But, most importantly, Fox is granting Disney all rights to all remaining Marvel’s comic book characters; The X-Men, aforementioned Deadpool and The Fantastic Four. Along with Spider-Man (now owned by Columbia and Disney, being a Marvel character), Marvel and its owner, Disney, now own the rights to almost every Marvel comic book hero, and they can freely combine any group together in their future films. Marvel Cinematic Universe is already the most powerful, the most profitable and, with broad (not to use a more insulting expression) audiences, the most popular film franchise in history, with heroes known to every child on the planet.
For everyone on the planet, be it a child or an adult, to be able to watch anything they want at all time, at any place, films, animated films, series, or anything else Disney owns, movie theatres or TV is no longer sufficient. Streaming is the next step. It’s Disney’s most important goal concerning the Fox purchase – the creation of a platform similar to Netflix. Netflix is paying Disney huge amounts of money for each title they get to screen for a limited amount of time. This ends by the end of 2018. Disney has declined the prolongation of the rights to Netflix even before the purchase of Fox. Now it’s clear why. They are looking to become the next Netflix, and, regardless of having thousands of titles already, they are preparing for the production of hundreds more, because the demand for streams is growing, as well as the ruthless competition.
Who is to keep up with Disney’s platform in a few years, though? With their goldmine of everything created in Walt Disney Animation Studio, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studio, Fox and Blue Sky, or, better put, everything that is yet to be created in these studios. Who is to compete with that? American senator, Amy Klobuchar has warned of such media domination: „Disney’s proposed purchase of 21st Century Fox threatens to put control of TV, movie, and news content into the hands of a single media giant…If it’s approved, this merger could allow Disney to limit what consumers can watch…“ The warning was answered to by Bob Iger, highlighting that what is about to happen is the complete opposite. Disney will not determine which content the consumers can watch, but offer something so rich and versatile it could compete with Netflix or Amazon. And what he’s offering is best described by lists of best movies of all time. Out of the hundred most popular movies in history 39 are owned by Disney. Out of the hundred most popular animated movies 60 are Disney’s. Netflix has a lot to be worried about (and it’s coming in less than a year).