5:00am PT by Patrick Shanley
Why Disney Should Add Fox's Fanfare Back to 'Star Wars'
Here’s a magic trick. I can make you hear something just by reading four words: 20th Century Fox fanfare.
If you’ve seen a movie in your lifetime, chances are your head is now filled with snare drums, timpani and orchestral horns. There’s also a fair likelihood that after that 20-or-so-second phrase drifts away into the foggy ether of your mind that another tune might creep in on its heels: the Star Wars theme.
Perhaps no film score in history is as iconic, and certainly no studio’s opening credit tag evokes such visceral reaction as that of Fox’s short march. The two themes are intertwined, stapled together by decades of Pavlovian reinforcement as deep-rooted as the soft jingling of sleigh bells kindles the image of jolly old Saint Nick.
Since 1977 first introduced moviegoers worldwide to George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away, the Fox studios title card and accompanying score has set the mood for the latest entry in the Skywalker space opera. The connection was finally severed in December 2015, three years and two months after Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion. The familiar drum roll and roving spotlights of Fox’s opener were, for the first time, absent from a Star Wars title.
Not only was the disappearance of the Fox theme a blow to the opening of films in the Star Wars universe, but the studio’s absorption by Disney raises questions about whether the fanfare will live on at all. The door is technically now even reopened for Disney to add the fanfare back in ahead of Star Wars films if and when Fox returns to the fold.
The theme, originally composed in 1933 by Fox music director Alfred Newman, may have very well faded into obscurity by the 1970s had Lucas not taken a particularly liking to it. The filmmaker insisted it be played before his first Star Wars film, and a renaissance of sorts began for the fanfare.
To truly understand just how deep the connection between the two pieces is, one need only look to Oscar-winning composer John Williams, the man responsible for the Star Wars score.
When Williams was hired to compose the music for 1977’s A New Hope, one of his first courses of action was writing a main theme in the same key as Newman’s fanfare. The combination struck a chord (pun intended) with audiences and fans of the series so deeply that the fanfare was included on releases of the Star Wars special edition re-release in the late 1990s and the Ultimate Edition score to 1999’s The Phantom Menace.
While Williams’ original theme, the "Imperial March" and other iconic Star Wars music remains in the new films, the loss of the Fox fanfare was still painful to many fans, and now, with the merger of Fox and Disney, it is likely gone forever, a relic of a bygone age that old fuds can reminisce about to future generations who only know Luke Skywalker as the bushy-bearded robe man surrounded by porgs.
True Star Wars fans, however, will always remember the excitement that initial drumroll generated, a sputtering train kicking into action to carry them into a galaxy of growling Wookiees, lightsaber-wielding Jedi and a universe of wonder that sparked the imagination of millions worldwide. In that, 20th Century Fox may have accomplished that most elusive of corporate branding goals: Connecting with a fan’s heart, not just their wallet.