You may remember a while back that Donald Glover’s plans for a Deadpool animated series at FX were nixed, which led to Glover posting some now deleted and highly pointed script pages on Twitter. As news continued to bubble over the planned acquisition of 21st Century Fox by The Walt Disney Company, many wondered if the decision to not go forward with what surely would have been a must-watch series was related to the merger. Now, as Disney are all but ready to throw down $71bn for Fox, FX CEO John Landgraf revealed at the TCA press tour how it was Marvel who didn’t want to move forward with Donald and Stephen Glover’s vision for the Merc with a Mouth:
“I think that Marvel will revive it, because they have the rights. They own the IP and they have the rights to do an animated adult series based on any of the X-Men characters, and based on Deadpool specifically. They didn’t want to do the show that Donald and Stephen [Glover] wrote. We would have done the show that Donald and Stephen wrote, but it wasn’t our decision. When Marvel decided not to do that show, we parted company with them as did Donald and Stephen. Now it’s totally up to them [Marvel] whether they hire someone else to do a different show.”
So there you have it. Marvel have Deadpool now and they don’t want the brand sullied with *checks notes* an R-rated take on the character. Smart thinking. Perhaps Glover, who has never shied away from tough topics on Atlanta and in his music, took the material in a direction they didn’t like? Not that the Fox movies have skimped on crossing the line. That’s kind of the point.
It’s hard to look at this news independently of the Disney/Fox merger. Disney will soon own close to 40% of the media market share. They’ll own not just Deadpool and the X-Men but FX, controlling shares in Hulu, The Simpsons, the Avatar franchise, Blue Sky Studios (who make animated films like Rio and Ice Age), National Geographic, both the Alien and Predator franchises, Planet of the Apes, and Sky News. That’s a lot, and the power that comes with it is scary.
Big changes will happen to our media landscape - we’ll see fewer movies made every year, and Disney, who notoriously don’t make R-rated films, will probably invest less in such properties. It has been rumoured that one of the reasons they wanted the Fox brand so much was to appeal to us millennials through outlets like FX, like the mortgage of avocados that we are. If that’s the case, it seems foolish to not only shut down something popular with a built-in fanbase, but to then piss off the creative team that have brought such prestige to the network. Plus Glover’s now in the Disney family thanks to Solo and The Lion King. Those projects are more family-friendly than Donald’s typical work. Is that a driving force for keeping Deadpool down?
It may simply be that Marvel want to keep everything contained. They’ve spent a decade building this intricate and deeply connected universe of films, realizing one of the most ambitious projects in Hollywood. They’re not all that invested in spin-offs or T.V. that goes outside that canon. DC has done well there but Marvel doesn’t have much interest in copying that model. A cartoon of Deadpool would obviously be out of place in that context.
Still, this is disappointing in that it seems to confirm a worry many have had about this acquisition: Unless it provides corporate synergy, creators won’t have much freedom under the House of Mouse. Ryan Murphy, who helped make FX what it is, cited the merger and possible loss of creative control as a reason he jumped to Netflix. And let’s not forget the queen of ABC, Shonda Rhimes, doing the same thing.
I doubt Disney will make Deadpool family friendly, but can you blame everyone for worrying?