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How Will The Disney/Fox Deal Affect Animation?

Matt Selman via twitter
After several weeks of speculation this week it became official: Disney will acquire a significant proportion of 21st Century Fox's Film and TV Business. They haven't bought the company outright and Rupert Murdoch's company will hold on to their "news" and most of their sports channels plus the Fox network itself. Disney will take over "21st Century Fox’s film and television studios, cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses".

Much of the online chatter has revolved around the impact on comic book movies, and the potential of the X-men or Fantastic Four meeting the Avengers. However, the deal has much more serious ramifications than that. Not only will Disney's already tight stranglehold on the entertainment industry be strengthened further, but there are plans to make cuts that will certainly cost many jobs.

And how will the animation industry be impacted? 21st Century Fox own Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation. The latter has been ramping up their activity recently and has a large number of films in development at the moment including Nimona, The Bob's Burger's Movie and Spies In Disguise. They recently signed a deal with London based Locksmith Animation to increase their output. Will Disney have the desire to own two more major animation studios? It's a worrying time for employees at both companies, because their future is uncertain. It would undoubtedly be a bad thing if the Mouse House decided to shutter either or both of the companies- both for animation, and (more importantly) for the people involved. There's also the possibility that the new owners would instead sell off one or both companies- but again that would put their futures in doubt.

At this stage, it's not clear how the company will operate going forward. Disney allows Marvel and LucasFilm to operate pretty much as independent studios under the Disney umbrella. It's possible that the same would be true of Fox (which is after all one of the most established names in Hollywood) and their animation studios.

In Television, although the Fox Network will still be owned by Murdoch, Disney will own their cable and international networks and the production studios that provide much of the content. This means that series such as The Simpsons, Archer, Family Guy and Bob's Burgers are now owned by Disney too.

A big motivation for this deal was probably Disney's plan for launching their Netflix killer in 2019. They already had an impressive library with Disney's own content, plus Marvel and LucasFilm. Add in Fox's archive though and they will have a sizable chunk of the most popular TV and Film in history at their fingertips. From a consumer point of view, this means you'll probably be able to find Disney movies, Star Wars, Marvel and The Simpsons on a single service- which does sound pretty enticing.

But decreasing in competition is never a good thing. With Disney owning even more of the US animation industry than they already do, and Comcast owning the next two biggest studios (DreamWorks and Illumination) it's going to be even harder for others to compete. It'll be tough for big names like Sony and Warner Bros, so it'll be almost impossible for smaller companies or independents.

We can only speculate at the moment, and the deal will take an estimated 18 months to complete. It has to pass government approval so it's not a done deal (although let's be honest, with the current US administration, it might as well be). However, even as big Disney fans, we can't help but worry how this will affect the animation industry in the US- and worldwide- in the long term. Many people's jobs- and futures- are hanging in the balance... and no amount of Marvel crossovers is worth that.