Disney and 21st Century Fox could merge, bring characters to the MCU

The blockbuster entertainment world was rocked today by rumblings that 21st Century Fox and Disney have reportedly been holding talks discussing a potential merger, according to a report by CNBC

According to the report, Fox executives have expressed a willingness to sell most of the company to Disney, a media mega-corporation which also acquired Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios in recent years. 

The talks have been stop-and-go, with Bloomberg reporting that negotiations right now are not ongoing. Additionally, the fact that talks have happened in the recent past is no guarantee that a deal will be made in the future. But if negotiations resume and develop into a real merger, it could have fascinating implications for Disney's Marvel Studios, and the characters they're allowed to use in their stories.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, a series of 17 films and counting with last weekend's Thor: Ragnarok having touched down, has always been comprised of comic book characters that Marvel Studios have the rights to use, rather than the Marvel Comics characters that are the most popular in book form. 

This arrangement came as a result of a series of deals made in the nineties, before Marvel's moviemaking wing had become the juggernaut it is today. Many of the most popular characters in Marvel's catalog were sold to Sony and Fox, with most of the Spider-Man characters belonging to Sony, and the characters from X-Men and Fantastic Four being sold to Fox. 

This summer's Spider-Man: Homecoming was an exception to that long-standing arrangement, a unique co-production of Sony and Marvel Studios that appeared to be beneficial to everyone involved—especially the audience, considering the movie's great reviews.

Since the rise of the MCU, fans have lamented Fox's ownership of the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties, not necessarily because they made bad movies out of them, but rather because their holdings include some of Marvel Comics' most iconic villains, such as Doctor Doom and Galactus, as well as heroes like the Silver Surfer. The absence of these major characters from MCU continuity and creative control has long been something of a bummer—but should this merger actually take place, all of that could change in a monumental way.

Should 21st Century Fox and Disney truly merge, it would put both Fox and Marvel Studios under Disney's ownership, making it terrifically more easy—and likely—that the once-segregated properties may cross over.

It cannot be emphasized enough that nothing has actually happened yet regarding a deal being made, and that the fact that talks have been held doesn't mean both parties won't walk away with the status quo unchanged. However, the fact that 21st Century Fox even made the approach is a big deal, demonstrating a willingness to change that status quo immensely. 

Think about it—this merger would appear to put the rights to Fantastic Four and all of the X-Men characters under Disney's control along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, paving the way for an MCU Fantastic Four, or a team-up movie between Deadpool, Ant-Man, and, oh, Johnny Storm. Why not? 

Perhaps seeing what a good job Marvel Studios and Sony did playing nice with each other for Spider-Man: Homecoming is encouraging the people in charge to realize that good things happen when you share your toys. For their part, Fox has so far declined to comment on the talks.

We'll be watching this story closely, so stay tuned for future developments.