Musings About Music In Film

Episode IV: A Muted Fanfare

By Charlie Brigden FF

So once again the Star Wars saga has been re-released and once again the internet is up in arms, and once again the peanut gallery has a point. In what has become a broken record, a change in the latest issue of the films has upset people, and it's actually a musical change. But the change comes not from George Lucas but the galaxy's new hope: Disney, and the Lucasfilm brand run under the mouse's ears.

This change actually comes from the transfer of Lucasfilm and the films to Disney. With Disney issuing the films as digital versions, they have removed a signature part of Star Wars - the 20th Century Fox Fanfare. Originally written in 1933 by Alfred Newman, the version we have come to know and love through the Star Wars films was composed by Newman in 1954 for the Cinemascope process. Both the fanfare and John Williams' main title are composed in the same key, so the opening cue serves as a natural successor to the fanfare.

What Disney and Lucasfilm (hereafter referred to solely as Disney) have done is remove the fanfare from every film except the original Star Wars aka A New Hope- as Fox still own the rights to the first (fourth) film. The remaining five films now open solely with the Lucasfilm logo, for which Disney have added a new fanfare, which is what has angered fans. The "new" fanfare is actually an edit of the closing fanfare from the end titles of The Empire Strikes Back, unsurprising really considering Lucasfilm's love of the fanfare, which ended pretty much every trailer and piece of Star Wars marketing up to Attack of the Clones.

Some fans aren't happy with the choice themselves, but everyone has agreed it's a pretty terrible edit. I was talking with a friend about it yesterday when the news broke from Australian fans who had purchased the films (mugs!) and we agreed that this feels like Disney squeezing the last drops from the sponge, potentially before they get to actually reissuing the original theatrical cuts. It's been the worst kept secret that a 4K scan of Star Wars has been done by Lowry Digital (and mentioned here by Devin Faraci of Badass Digest) and given Disney's huge success in getting fans excited for Star Wars again with The Force Awakens, it would seem a huge mistake to not issue the original cuts on Blu-ray between now and December.

Everything seems rushed about this release, while we've known about it for ages (through commemorative action figures of all things) it was only officially announced this week. The fanfare feels indicative of this release, that it was put together at the last minute in a rush and amazingly, someone thought this edit was okay. This is doubly surprising when we know John Williams recently recorded music specifically for the teaser for The Force Awakens, so why not have him record something in that session, even if it's based on that small section?

Speaking as a massive Star Wars nerd, I don't want to lose the faith. I've been really impressed with Disney and all of the news regarding The Force Awakens, and I am really excited for December. By then I'd assume John Williams would have composed and recorded a proper Lucasfilm fanfare, but this release on the whole, personified by the rushed fanfare, has not enthused me for Disney's treatment of the existing films.

A new hope indeed.