What Is the Future of Ambitious Filmmaking at Disney After 21st Century Fox?

Perhaps what makes Disney and 20th Century Fox such revered parts of Hollywood history is their ability to tell ambitious stories and ideas on the big screen through their various production companies. With Disney’s $71 billion dollar purchase of 21st Century Fox, the biggest studio purchase in Hollywood, Disney has acquired an endless library of valuable intellectual property, including various assets that will be of great interest to the modern Walt Disney Company, including Avatar and X-Men. In addition to this, Disney has also acquired some of Fox’s most ambitious subsidiaries, including Fox Searchlight and Fox 2000, but just a few days into the purchase, Disney has already permanently shuttered Fox 2000, making us wonder what the future of ambitious storytelling will look at this once-powerful studio, and what this means for Disney.

Obviously, Disney’s interest in Fox is in major part to its valuable intellectual property assets, providing a valuable contribution to a massive library that Disney hopes to leverage on their upcoming streaming plans, including their majority-owned Hulu. But elsewhere, Disney CEO Bob Iger has expressed interest in continuing to finance films under the Fox Searchlight division of the company, a smaller arm of the company specializing in distributing independent films and art-house productions. Recently, Fox Searchlight has produced critical and commercial hits like The Grand Budapest Hotel, 12 Years a Slave and The Shape of Water, all Disney-owned productions. While Fox Searchlight may be safe for now, the same couldn’t be said of the other smaller production company, Fox 2000, which had produced hits like The Hate U Give, Life of Pi, and The Fault in Our Stars. These changes make the future of ambitious storytelling that these studios laid out a bit uncertain, but it causes for interesting speculation about what could come next for both of these studios.

‘Life of Pi’, one of Fox 2000’s prominent hits

It’s clear that an ambitious path is ahead for The Walt Disney Company, and that should call for some excitement for fans, even if the company’s future isn’t quite clear after this acquisition. Disney will likely continue to invest in art-house features using the Fox Searchlight brand to dominate the awards season similar to the company focus when it managed its Touchstone Pictures and Miramax labels. Luckily for fans of Fox Searchlight, Disney’s deep pockets and desire to continue to dominate the industry could continue further ambitious stories, leading to more movies like Birdman or Isle of Dogs. Disney has said that the Fox studios will release less content per year, meaning less of these films will be produced per year, even if its still a positive sign that they haven’t met their demise entirely.

But what does this mean for ambitious Disney movies? For better or for worse, Disney is heavily focused on big-budget blockbusters, delivering quality landmark movies like Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: Episode IX. With the many franchises recently acquired with Fox, Disney will certainly capitalize on those markets, continuing to build big-budget movies. With so much intellectual property to focus on, we can only hope that smaller projects, like the inspiring Queen of Katwe or McFarland USA, will continue to be produced, even if their existence is something of a rarity. Elsewhere, we hope that the additional studios, like Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, will continue to develop original concepts like Coco even amidst a valuable library of franchises recently acquired from this expensive purchase.  

The future of these studios is exciting and endlessly promising. These companies were founded on the ideas of ambition, creativity, and risk, and we hope that we can only expect so much more from both of these legendary studios stepping forward into this exciting new era of the company.