By Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- Hollywood heavyweights Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox collided Thursday in a whopping 66.2-billion-U.S.-dollar merger-acquisition (including 13.7 billion dollars in Fox debt), leading to a mixed reaction in the entertainment industry.
Hollywood has displayed mixed reactions towards the merger.
A deal of this magnitude could be a powerful, productive mix of killer film, TV intellectual properties and best-of-breed distribution that would deliver exciting, accessible new content on a seamlessly-integrated multi-platform system. Or it could herald the birth of a predatory, monopolistic conglomerate.
On the up side, it reunites the Marvel Extended Universe characters to form a fan boy's fantasy that's badass enough to blow the lid off Comicon.
How else but through a Disney-Fox merger could viewers unite the dream team of popular heroic characters like Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, X-Men and the Fantastic 4, all piling on in one epic, bare-knuckle brawl?
"Every time I saw an 'Avengers' movie I could just see Wolverine in the middle of all of them, like punching them all in the head," joked Hugh Jackman, the Australian actor of "Wolverine."
Chris Evans, who stars as both Marvel's Captain America and The Human Torch of the Fantastic 4 tweeted, "So who do I talk to about a Cap/Human Torch buddy comedy spin-off?"
James Gunn, writer and director of the Disney-Marvel hit "Guardians of the Galaxy" films, tweeted, "While there are many aspects to Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox's assets, I am personally incredibly happy about it, for obvious reasons. Welcome home, old friends."
Naturally, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger is bullish about the deal.
"The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before," Iger told Xinhua on Thursday.
The move would combine Fox's vast library of films and high-end television programs, such as "The Simpsons," "Modern Family," "The Americans," "This is Us" and "Empire," with Disney's treasure trove of content, including the incomparable "Star Wars" brand, the megahit franchise "Pirates of the Caribbean," and many more.
It would also dovetail the exotic flora and fauna of Fox's "Avatar" with Disney's formidable merchandizing machine, a move sure to result in real-life incarnations of the "World of Pandora" that has already begun with a 12-acre "World of Avatar" theme park in Florida.
Fox's high-quality Fox Searchlight division could bring award-season prestige and statuette bling to Disney, while other franchise brands in the IP pool, like "Planet of the Apes," "Independence Day," "Alien" and "Predator," could make entire alternate universes of cross-pollinated, brand-mashing possible.
Disney's massive war chest of megahit content would be funneled into living rooms or mobile devices through U.S. video website Hulu, 60 percent of which is owned by Disney, as well as through the two new direct-to-consumer websites that Disney is teeing up now.
FEAR OF NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES
However, some others see the merger as a clear violation of U.S. antitrust laws which prohibit consolidations that might unfairly reduce competition. Many think that the negative impact of such a massive merger would far outweigh any positive influence.
The Writer's Guild of America, which represents most of the writers in the entertainment industry, is fighting an increasingly uphill battle with studio giants for fair wages.
"In the relentless drive to eliminate competition, big business has an insatiable appetite for consolidation," the organization harshly condemned the merger Thursday.
"Disney and Fox have spent decades profiting from the oligopolistic control that the six major media conglomerates have exercised over the entertainment industry, often at the expense of the creators who power their television and film operations," it said.
"Now, this proposed merger of direct competitors will make matters even worse by substantially increasing the market power of a combined Disney-Fox corporation," it added.
"In the entertainment industry, my fear is that there will be a real push to leverage the power of one big company to withhold content from competitive platforms or demand higher prices, or possibly draw a lot of business from companies that today are godsends for consumers," Jamie Court, president of the Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog group, said in a statement issued Thursday,
According to the law, there will be plenty of time to debate the issue, as a merger of this size will take 12 to 18 months to close.