Disney may have the answer to Marvel’s mutant problem

Reunited and it feels so good.
Reunited and it feels so good.
Image: Alan Markfield/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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Two years ago, Disney made a landmark deal with rival movie studio Sony to bring a comic-book fan favorite, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, into Marvel’s multi-billion-dollar universe of interwoven superhero movies. The result, Spider-Man: Homecomingwas the best-reviewed and highest grossing movie about the web-slinger in a decade.

Now, a new deal between Disney and Fox could bring an even larger superhero franchise into the fold.

Disney has been in talks to buy most of 21st Century Fox, including movie studio 20th Century Fox, which has the film rights to Marvel’s X-Men characters, CNBC reported. The acquisition could unite the mutant group with Marvel’s heroes for the first time in movie history.

Fox has held the live-action rights to Marvel’s mutants since the 1990s. It leveraged them into several successful film franchises, beginning with 2000’s X-Men. (The most-recent X-Men movie, Logan, even generated serious Oscar buzz.) Fox also has the rights to The Fantastic Four and Deadpool; the latter headlined the raunchy, R-rated Deadpool, one of the biggest movies of 2016. Fox’s TV arm also teamed up with Marvel to create two series based on the mutants: Legion and The Gifted.

A Fox merger, if completed, would be big for Disney in more ways than one. On top of 20th Century Fox—this year’s fourth-largest studio by US box office—Disney would add international business like Sky, Fox’s TV production studios, and TV networks like FX and National Geographic to its already massive entertainment portfolio. This comes at a pivotal point for Disney, which is preparing to launch a standalone streaming service that would bring its biggest entertainment properties—Pixar, Marvel, Disney Animation, and Lucasfilm movies, as well as TV shows from networks like the Disney Channel—under one roof.

Disney is also developing a separate streaming service for ESPN, but the company would not vie for Fox’s sports or news networks due to antitrust concerns, CNBC reported. It also would not buy broadcaster Fox, as Disney already owns ABC.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has spearheaded the acquisitions of brands like Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and a majority stake in streaming tech company BAMTech during his 12 years at the helm. A deal for 21st Century Fox would be a logical cap to his tenure, which is expected to end in 2019.