Yahoo! reports that Marvel Studios & Disney are planning an animated Big Hero 6 movie. Personally, I want Disney to do another animated superhero flick: The Incredibles 2. While TI2 may be inevitable, it is not imminent.
Marvel choosing to make an animated movie is not news. A brief search in your Netflix account will show you dozens of quite recent animated movies from Marvel, including the Planet Hulk storyline that fans SO want to become The Incredible Hulk 2. What makes the announcement of Big Hero 6 such a big deal is that Disney, at their own D23 expo, made it clear that this will be a big budget animated feature. It will be a movie theater feature to rival other big animated movies like The Incredibles or Shrek.
So far, none of this news is particularly big or shocking, unless you are an established fan of Big Hero 6. An overly simplistic description of BH6 is that it is Japan's X-Men, though not all of its members are mutants. But some of them certainly are! Its 2 most significant members are Silver Samurai & Sunfire. The casual comic book fan might not be familiar with those characters, but most X-Men fans will. Sunfire was a member of the X-Men, part of the movement to create more international diversity. The same movement gave us Storm & Wolverine. Silver Samurai is an established Wolverine villain who, at times, serves as a hero. The Silver Samurai was featured in this summer's The Wolverine, kinda. The Silver Samurai armor, wielded by Mariko's father, was the template for the cyborg giant that Wolverine fights in the climax of the movie.
Therefore, it is probably clear that FOX owns the movie rights to at least these two characters, and probably the entire Big Hero 6 lineup by proxy. But there is a loophole. Marvel retains the rights to make animated movies of its entire lineup of characters. But the live action movie rights of Spider-Man belong to SONY, and the live action movie rights of the X-Men & the Fantastic Four belong to FOX.
I have a theory.
I think that Disney/Marvel is testing to see just how much they can get away with. So far, no major Marvel animated feature movie has been made. All animated Marvel movies are direct-to-DVD releases. Using FOX's characters in a feature is Disney/Marvel's way of picking a fight. I predict that FOX will challenge Disney's right to do this. When the studios go to court, the judgment may determine the entire future of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). If the legal system allows Marvel to exploit this loophole, then Marvel will be able to make feature movies with the X-Men & Spider-Man & the Fantastic Four.
Let's follow this through to its logical conclusion: Big Hero 6 is not the big prize here. Disney/Marvel can make its own Spider-Man, X-Men, & Fantastic Four movies! Animation today can be extremely photorealistic. Marvel can hire major, A-list actors not only as voice talent, but as the artistic template for facial features and as motion capture. Furthermore, if Disney is allowed to make high quality-animation features, there is nothing to stop them from connecting those movies with the MCU. The Avengers 3 or 4 can be an animated movie that unites Wolverine & Spider-Man with animated versions of Iron Man & Captain America, both animated to look EXACTLY like they do in live action. (This could also solve the Robert Downey Jr. problem, who is much more likely to keep making Iron Man movies as a voice talent.) Then Marvel can make yet another Avengers movie, this time without Wolverine or Spider-Man, and go back to live action.
I hope Marvel gets away with this.