Mickey Mouse goes fox hunting

Age of the Geek Column: Touching back on another development that happened over the holidays, it looks like The Walt Disney Company may actually be purchasing 21st Century Fox.

When last I wrote about the potential for a Disney/Fox buyout, it was still just rumor and speculation. Today it's much closer to reality. The $52 billion dollar deal is pending approval from the federal government, but in the meantime the entertainment world is abuzz about what will happen when one of the biggest fish in Hollywood gets eaten by a shark.

If approved, Disney would acquire the bulk of Fox's assets, including their movie studios, television networks, and their 30% share of Hulu. This also includes a library of entertainment properties that ranges from "Avatar" to "X-Files."

So, what does such an acquisition mean for the consumer? After all, franchises like Ice Age and Kung Fu Panda may fit in with Disney's family friendly fare, but it could be a little harder to reconcile Lisa Simpson as a Disney Princess.

Personally, I think concerns that Fox, which has built its reputation by pushing entertainment boundaries, is going to be "Disney-fied" are probably overblown. It's unlikely that the next season of "American Horror Story" is going to feature Disney's Haunted Mansion or that shows like "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons" will suddenly become G-rated. The whole point of buying a studio like Fox is to have a studio that makes the things Fox makes.

Disney has a history of being relatively hands-off when it comes to their acquisitions. Neither Lucasfilm nor Marvel Comics were "Disney-fied" when they were purchased. I doubt they'll be asking anybody at Fox to do things differently.

Besides, it's not like Disney hasn't owned R-rated brands in the past. Before you start worrying about the future of Ryan Reynold's profanity filled adaptation of Deadpool, remember that Disney once owned Miramax, which produced films from Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith during their tenure.

Also in the plus column for the consumer, the Fox acquisition adds a substantial amount of content to Disney's library. Between Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, and Disney themselves, their eventual streaming service was already a must-have. Adding Fox properties to the mix just sweetens the pot. It's hard to turn down a service that could offer "Independence Day," "Rogue One," and "Guardians of the Galaxy."

And speaking of comic books, Disney's purchase of Fox will finally put an end to the complicated relationship that Marvel Comics has with the X-Men franchise. Once Marvel's flagship series, the merry mutants have been all-but-benched in favor of properties that Marvel Entertainment wholly owns.

Following Marvel Entertainment's complete and utter failure to get audiences to accept Inhumans as a stand-in for mutants and the question of how Marvel Studios can shake up their cinematic universe after Infinity War, now might be the right time for the X-Men to make their glorious return.

But while Marvel may come out a winner in the deal, their competition may not be so lucky. Fox also owns the rights to popular franchises like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Aliens, and Firefly, all of which have had ongoing success in the comic book realm thanks to Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Comics is probably best known for adapting movie universes into comic books, with their greatest success being several excellent runs of "Star Wars" comics. At least until Disney bought Lucasfilm and transferred the "Star Wars" license over to Marvel.

It's hard to imagine history won't repeat itself. At this point, Disney should consider buying Dark Horse Comics outright, just to save time.

Dark Horse probably won't be the only company to get the short end of the merger either. There is a reason Disney needs federal approval before they can seal the deal. Buying Fox would make Disney even more of a corporate giant than they already are, giving them near monopolistic power over movie theaters, cable companies, and the film industry. When it comes to throwing their weight around, Disney isn't a 600 lbs. gorilla. They're the whole zoo.

While there are plenty of benefits to having all your favorite properties in one place, there is also a lot of potential for abuse. Disney already has a reputation for strong arming their business partners for more money, an expense that inevitably gets passed along to the consumer.

What happens the next time Disney decides they want to deny press access to a movie reviewer that doesn't give them a favorable review or when they decide they want an even larger cut of the ticket price of their movies? With 40% of the market share it will be all but impossible to do anything but play ball with them.

Bad press can only do so much and the ability for the consumer to hit them in the wallet will be substantially reduced. If you wanted to boycott Disney and still get your entertainment fix, Fox was one of your better options.

Good or bad though, it's unlikely the deal can be stopped. We will all just have to cross that bridge when we get there.

Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and is looking forward to the inevitable Star Wars/Aliens crossover.