How Will Disney’s Acquisition of 20th Century Fox Affect Theme Parks?

On December 14, 2017 the Walt Disney Company announced they were going to pay $52.4 billion for Fox Studios.  This acquisition includes all kinds of goodies such as “X-Men” and “The Simpsons” to name a few. More importantly, it gives Disney leverage in being able to offer more digital content on a platform to compete with Netflix moving forward.

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, (who incidentally is staying on board through 2021) released the following statement about Fox on Thursday, Dec. 14: “We’re excited about this extraordinary opportunity to significantly increase our portfolio of well-loved franchises and branded content to greatly enhance our growing direct-to-consumer offerings.”

No matter how many articles you read, there is barely any mention of how Disney’s Fox acquisition will affect theme parks. The reason for that is this has nothing to do with theme parks and it has everything to do with adding more content and brands under the Disney belt. For now, the company is only considering how they can best use those new assets for movies, television and on their own networks and streaming services.

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

Does that mean attractions like The Simpsons Ride at Universal Orlando will have to close? Not at all. Just because Disney will soon have overall control of Bart, Homer and the gang doesn’t mean that existing contracts become null and void. When a theme park negotiates the rights for a particular franchise to be used in a park (or chain of parks), that deal stays in place regardless of someone buying out the parent company who owns the franchise.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Marvel is a perfect example. Just because Disney bought Marvel in 2009, it doesn’t mean that Islands of Adventure had to close down Marvel Super Hero Island. As long as Marvel still exists as a company (and it does) the land, characters, attractions and everything else gets to stay. Incidentally, the Marvel deal is for perpetuity. Meaning there is no wiggle room for re-negotiation unless Disney decides to buy out that contract somehow (highly unlikely – read more about that here).

On the other hand, I don’t believe The Simpsons have exclusivity at Universal Parks in perpetuity. Meaning that when the contract is up, and it comes time to renegotiating theme parks rights, Disney could pull that plug. Or simply raise the price to where having Homer and the gang in Universal Parks is no longer lucrative.

Looking further down the road, what this does allow is more control as Disney has the rights to not only current movie franchises, but future ones as well. So let’s say that 20th Century Fox comes out with a hit film that could fit well into a Universal or a Disney park… Disney obviously would make use of it before the rights are even offered to other parks like Universal.

Copyright 20th Century Fox

Then again, let’s say that another franchise like The Simpsons could come around that is simply too crass for Disney parks, but is a huge hit on broadcast television or popular streaming service. Could a company like Universal acquire those rights? Not anymore! Disney most likely wouldn’t grant a competitor access or price it far out of reach. Not to mention, certain 20th Century Fox characters very well could end up in a Disney park some day. Could “Anastasia” make appearances at a Disney Park? You never know if Disney could dust off that film and try to capitalize on its already large following. The new Broadway show could bring an entirely new following. Your thoughts?

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