Few companies have devoted as much time, energy, and money to protecting their brand as Disney. Since the first foundations were laid in the House of Mouse, Disney has portrayed itself as a safe place, a haven for kid-friendly content, designed to avoid any controversy that would drive away
customers families. When it decided to pursue viewers of PG+ entertainment, Disney formed sub-studios like Hollywood Pictures and Touchstone Pictures, which allowed them to put out films such as Good Morning, Vietnam or V.I. Warshawski without tarnishing the main brand.
When Disney purchased 20th Century Fox in 2019, its main goal was the acquisition of popular Marvel properties X-Men and the Fantastic Four. But it came along with a number of movies that didn’t match the Disney brand, both in production and in the back catalog. Thus far, Disney has maintained its brand separation by letting family-friendly properties from Fox (now called 20th Century Studios) go to Disney+, entries such as The Call of the Wild and The Simpsons, while Fresh, The Princess, and other properties that don’t fit the public image go to Hulu.
That’s going to change soon. On July 22nd, American subscribers will be able to watch R-rated movies Logan, Deadpool, and Deadpool 2 on Disney+. What does this mean for Disney’s brand and future plans?
This could be just a matter of consolidating IPs, as all three movies are part of the X-Men franchise. While Disney will almost assuredly be introducing new versions of Professor X and Wolverine into the MCU, they haven’t fully done away with the Fox X-Men movies. Patrick Stewart reprised his role as Charles Xavier in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and a third Deadpool movie, still starring Ryan Reynolds but now in the MCU, is on the horizon. It’s the same way that the Netflix Marvel shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones have arrived on the service (with content warnings) as those characters came into the MCU.
But these additions may also signal the consolidation of Disney’s holdings and the wider availability of off-brand movies and shows. For example, the R-rated Touchstone hit Pretty Woman or the Fox Alien franchise can be rented through most major services, but are not available on either Disney+ or Hulu (with the exception of prequel Prometheus).
Movies such as these are important parts of film history, which take greater precedence than brand identity. While it’s neither surprising nor new that Disney would want to present itself a certain way, that could result in the loss of history. Worse, it could leave movies in limbo if the copyright holder refuses to acknowledge the work or let anyone else distribute it. The inclusion of Logan and Deadpool may show Disney further taking responsibility as the copyright holder of a huge film and television catalog, even if that makes Mickey blush.