The 20th Century Fox fanfare won’t be on our new Star Wars films. Apparently that makes a lot of people sad. This has zero pull or sway on me. I know a little about the history of 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm. Not to mention ever since I can remember, there has been some variant or version of the fast forward button. The last thing I do when I want Star Wars on my television right now is stare at that dumb logo with its stupid lights. I want to see Jawas, starships, lasers, laser swords, and cool looking bad guys. I’ve always skipped that Fox fanfare when possible. On my Blu-ray player, I have bookmarks saved that skip it altogether.
I have noticed this sadness about the fanfare leaving us for good now that Disney owns Lucasfilm. It is a sadness that reminds me of a well liked bass player quitting one’s favorite band. It is like George Lucas and 20th Century Fox started playing in small clubs together. They really cut their teeth together and formed Star Wars, the super group we all know and love. The reality of that situation is rather different.
Working with 20th Century Fox was a struggle for young George Lucas. The only one really pulling for Star Wars internally was Alan Ladd Jr. But “Laddie” as they sometimes referred to him, left 20th Century Fox in 1979. He was pretty much asked to leave because of the criticism he received from George Lucas having a hit that garnered him some power over the franchise. That’s right. The only guy that actually helped the movie get made and turned into a success, which saved their studio, was pretty much ousted because in that process he didn’t manage to screw Lucasfilm out of Star Wars itself. So Empire Strikes Back had a tumultuous financial production because they lost the one guy on their side at the studio.
By Return of the Jedi 20th Century Fox was an entirely different beast. A Man named Marvin Davis bought the studio. Davis used his huge stature to persuade people into doing business his way and was about as culturally opposite of our flannel wearing North Californians at Lucasfilm as one can be. Davis was a huge obstacle for George Lucas (so much so there was a baseless rumor that Jabba was modeled after Davis). He wasn’t the type of guy that was in the business for the love of the art, he was an oil speculator. After a long agreement battle for Return of the Jedi, Lucasfilm had to threaten to find a new distributor for the film if an agreement wasn’t made in thirty days. Fox feared that no one would care about A New Hope once Jedi was out and the trilogy was wrapped up. The accountants at Fox were irate with Lucasfilm. Fox ended up distributing the film but only after a shakedown on video sales extending into the middle of the nineteen eighties.
The Star Wars Special Edition releases were mostly paid for by 20th Century Fox. This gave Lucasfilm a way of re-releasing Star Wars but it also paved the way for Lucasfilm to really call the shots on the prequel releases. Lucasfilm was by this point, fully independent, and they mostly got a stellar deal by all accounts. Admittedly, not all of the details on those affairs have come out and we still don’t know exactly how things went with the suspended 3D releases of the five remaining films.
Granted, George Lucas knew Disney could care for Star Wars forever and that was a huge reason why he chose to sell it to Disney. But have you ever stopped to consider that Lucas never gave 20th Century Fox a chance to bid on the franchise and why that might be?
I write this because it is misplaced nostalgia. 20th Century Fox was simply the distributor and mad scientist in charge of the maze Lucasfilm had to navigate in order to operate within the studio system. These are the people that wanted the Wookiee to wear pants after all.
Missing 20th Century Fox’s logo at the start of our new Star Wars films is like being sad UPS brought your mail instead of FedEx. There was not a strong bonded love between Star Wars and 20th Century Fox, at least not one that affects the film in any way whatsoever. Star Wars was out for less than two years when Alan Ladd Jr. left, the only studio figure that was really on our side, the side where Star Wars comes out ahead for the better.
Mourning the loss the 20th Century Fox fanfare is understandable in the sense that you are used to seeing it and hearing that little jingle (which Jon Williams greatly improved the way). But a little historical knowledge of 20th Century Fox and what their logo mean to Star Wars in terms of a tumultuous relationship between the financial and creative sectors of the companies leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It isn’t one worth being saddened over the loss of 20th Century Fox because they barely deserve to be associated with the franchise. The distributor is literally the least important thing to worry about now and it was never a love affair worth romanticizing in the first place.