Disney Drops ‘Fox’ Name

More fallout from the consolidation of media brands.

Variety reports on an interesting if perhaps unsurprising development:

The mouse has officially killed the fox.

In a move at once unsurprising and highly symbolic, the Walt Disney Company is dropping the “Fox” brand from the 21st Century Fox assets it acquired last March, Variety has learned. The 20th Century Fox film studio will become 20th Century Studios, and Fox Searchlight Pictures will become simply Searchlight Pictures.

On the TV side, however, no final decisions have been made about adjusting the monikers of production units 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios. Discussions about a possible name change are underway, but no consensus has emerged, according to a source close to the situation.

Disney has already started the process to phase out the Fox name: Email addresses have changed for Searchlight staffers, with the fox.com address replaced with a searchlightpictures.com address. On the poster for Searchlight’s next film “Downhill,” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, the credits begin with “Searchlight Pictures Presents.” The film will be the first Searchlight release to debut with the new logo. “Call of the Wild,” an upcoming family film, will be released under the 20th Century banner, sans Fox.

–“Disney Drops Fox Name, Will Rebrand as 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures”

Partly, this is a function of the partial nature of the acquisition:

Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox last March included the 20th Century Fox film and TV studios, but not the Fox broadcast network or Fox News, which remained part of Fox Corp. under CEO Lachlan Murdoch. That automatically injected a level of brand confusion at odds with the highly differentiated divisions within Disney’s ranks, and Fox Corp. has no reason to change its name.

But Disney would presumably have lived with the minor branding confusion if it made financial sense. The Variety report mentions the association of the TV network with racy programming that—along with the sexual assault scandals—was incompatible with the family-friendly Disney brand. But, frankly, the Fox name has become toxic for many because of its association with Fox News.

The “20th Century Fox” name has been around far longer than I’ve been alive but I’ve long thought it outdated given that we’re a fifth of the way through the 21st century. But it turns out that the name wasn’t so much an anachronism but a result of a previous merger:

The original 20th Century Fox was formed in a merger in 1935 between Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Film Corporation

So, renaming it “21st Century Fox” or just “Fox” would have removed the legacy of half of the original company. And, it turns out, a much smaller outfit called “Century 21 Films” has been in existence since 1965.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Entertainment
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    I hope you’re right that Disney sees association with FOX news as toxic. Dr. Taylor has a post yesterday on polarized media and self selected reality. I don’t see a way out of that polarization. But if FOX is a negative to enough people in the mainstream, maybe FOX “News” and their ilk do eventually reform or find themselves marginalized and without sponsors.

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  2. Tyrell says:

    Hopefully Disney will keep the iconic opening emblem that has become so familiar to movie fans. William Fox was forced out back in 1930. Most people don’t realize 20th was named after a real person. Back in the 1960’s Fox almost went out: the results of the disastrous and costly “Cleopatra” movie*. They managed to stay open with just a few employees. Then the Fox executives decided to gamble on a movie musical, set in Austria at that: “The Sound of Music”. That movie saved Fox.
    Other movie company images that we are familiar with:
    The MGM roaring lion, Paramount mountain peak, Universal globe, Warner Brothers shield & studios image, the Columbia lady, and of course the Disney Castle. Those images are part of history, bringing back memories of great films. They need to be kept. I fondly remember the famous Selznick studios movie opener.
    *Joseph Mankiewicz directed “Cleopatra.” The original concept was a series of three films, but Fox executives said no to that.
    The theater lights go down, the screen curtain opens, and – the MGM lion roars, or the Disney Castle shines. Two hours of fun and fantasy lay ahead.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    I can’t see that logo without remembering an old cartoon. Two guys with rifles and uniforms in WWI style helmets following the searchlights looking up at the sky,”Who’d want to bomb this place?”

  4. MarkedMan says:

    As I’ve gotten older I find that “passing of an era” news has less and less of an impact. Whether it’s a movie studio, a local restaurant, a television series or a building that comes down, I recognize that all things must pass and, perhaps more importantly, appreciate that trying to keep something alive on life support and charity does no favors to its memory. Am I in the minority on this?

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  5. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08:

    if FOX is a negative to enough people in the mainstream, maybe FOX “News” and their ilk do eventually reform or find themselves marginalized and without sponsors.

    It’s an interesting question. “Fox News” is a polarizing brand but one where the polarization works in their favor in many ways. Getting “all” of the conservative news audience is a coup. The question is whether that impacts the Fox network brand. As best I can tell, it hasn’t. I don’t think of Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity when I tune in to watch an NFC game on Fox any more than I think of Rachel Maddow when I tune in to watch Sunday Night Football on NBC.

    @Tyrell:

    Hopefully Disney will keep the iconic opening emblem that has become so familiar to movie fans.

    @MarkedMan:

    I recognize that all things must pass and, perhaps more importantly, appreciate that trying to keep something alive on life support and charity does no favors to its memory. Am I in the minority on this?

    I haven’t seen any data on that but presume there are a lot of us like that. Change is constant, and often good. But I do think that noting the ends of eras is interesting, allowing us to reflect on the past.

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  6. Tyrell says:

    @MarkedMan: I have seen just in my lifetime the removal and destruction of so many historical homes, structures, and sites. Atlanta lost a large part of their history in their building boom of the 60’s and 70’s. Preservation efforts started, but it was too late for a lot of the sites. Look at Penn Station in NYC.
    The people of Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA worked to save and restore their historic areas and homes.

    2
  7. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “Hopefully Disney will keep the iconic opening emblem that has become so familiar to movie fans.”

    They’ve announced they’re keeping the logo and the Alfred Newman-composed fanfare.

    By the way, two of Newman’s descendants are up for best original score Oscars this year — Randy for Marriage Story 4 and Thomas for 1917.

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  8. wr says:

    I’ve seen the trailer for the new “Call of the Wild.” If I were Disney, I’d be plastering the Fox logo all over it…

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  9. Andy says:

    I’m much less interested in name and brand changes than the fact that media consolidation continues, mostly without comment or opposition.

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  10. EddieInCA says:

    As someone who has worked for Fox 21 Studios, I can tell you for certain that I hated knowing I was working for anything connected with Fox. But I happened to love the project. The actors, the writers (wr was one), the location (South Florida), and the crew were all outstanding. That we had a four year run made it even better.

    Bottom line is that, like many in Film and TV, I’m a whore at the right price. I can’t be bought, but I can be rented at the right price.

    But as to who is worse, Disney or Fox…? I’ll stay out of that discussion because they both suck for different reasons. Bad as Fox is in some ways, they pale in comparison to how bad Disney is in some ways.

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  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Tyrell:

    Curious as to why 2 individuals down voted this comment. It’s not judgmental and it is historically accurate. In every city that I’ve lived in there is a group that mourns the destruction of parts of the city for new structures and freeways. For example, https://www.builtstlouis.net/

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  12. Andy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    That reminds me of this site which I’ve had bookmarked for a while.

  13. Tyrell says:

    @EddieInCA: When I think of Fox, it is mainly the film company that gave us so many great films over the years. I don’t connect it to Fox news at all, even though technically they are connected. We used to have Time-Warner. We were having a lot of problems with their charges. Finally I called out to Warner Brothers in California out of separation. I actually asked to speak to Mr. Warner. They said he had been gone for decades (which I knew, but maybe there was still some family there). I believe in going to the top. Would you believe that they almost sold off the cartoon division years ago?
    William Fox was one of the early film pioneers.
    I guess I am fortunate to remember well the Warners, Goldwyn, O’Selznick, Zanuck, Cecil DeMille, and other icons of Hollywood’s golden ages. Hitchcock was probably the most famous director. People could not wait for his next picture to come out.
    “That’s all, folks”

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  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Andy:

    Thanks for the link to that site, it looks interesting.

  15. Kathy says:

    @Andy:

    Uh, it’s not media. It’s just about everything.

    Remember Northwest, Continental, Air Tran, Virgin America, US Airways, America West, and TWA? They’re now folded into Delta, American Airlines, Southwest, Alaska, and United.

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    Went to a private screening at Disney (not my project though one I will benefit from) and though I can’t say anything specific (ahem) I can say that I now unreservedly love the Mouse.

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  17. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “I guess I am fortunate to remember well the Warners, Goldwyn, O’Selznick,

    Or maybe not so well. It was David O. Selznick, not O’Selznick. Not a lot of Irish in the Lithuanian Jewish communities…

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  18. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I kind of enjoy variety for the sake of variety, but overall the passing of a brand is just that.

    I miss when commercial aircraft had two, three, or four engines. Now they all have two (except the A380, which will soon end production), and they all look alike. It’s almost as though there’s a cookie cutter in every aircraft factory.

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    I think you’re ignoring the extra excitement that comes from flying in a Boeing jet.

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  20. Andy says:

    @Kathy:

    Uh, it’s not media. It’s just about everything.

    This was a post about the media, so my comment was specific about that. I agree that over consolidation in a big problem in many industries.

  21. sam says:

    Maybe the last time you could hear the 20th Century Fox intro music to this.

  22. Tyrell says:

    I certainly hope not. That would not be good.

  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Tyrell: Good to see you back in form. I’ll give that one a solid 7 out of 10

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  24. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: Last time I worked for Disney it was still the Eisner days. I hear it’s a lot better now… if you can imagine.

  25. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I do understand what you mean, but I choose to answer: there’s very little chance of my flying a 747 before they are all retired.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: As long as there are businesses that deal in sketchy financial vehicles disguised as investments and “life-altering” pseudo-health “supplements,” Fox News will have advertisers.

    ETA: Surprised to realize that Tyrell doesn’t realize that “the Columbia lady” is a classic representation of Liberty.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @sam: Wow! Two measures for professional musicians to make the entrance. The visibility must have been really poor.

  28. EddieInCA says:

    @wr:

    wr says:
    Monday, January 20, 2020 at 17:10

    @EddieInCA: Last time I worked for Disney it was still the Eisner days. I hear it’s a lot better now… if you can imagine.

    Ah… the days when they worked you so hard for free that a common refrain was “If you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t bother coming on Sunday. But you can come in on Monday to clean out your desk.”

  29. Mister Bluster says:

    @MarkedMan:..Whether it’s a movie studio, a local restaurant, a television series or a building that comes down, I recognize that all things must pass

    I’ll add Capital Airlines that was picked up by United in 1961 to the forgotten fleet.
    One of the few restaurants I miss that closed back in the ’80s was the Doggie Diner in San Francisco. Fortunately someone has preserved some of the Doggie heads.. Presumably without the use of cryonics.

  30. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: I’m represented by a union, so it wasn’t so bad for me. But I do remember working for several weeks without being paid, and when my agent called to complain, Disney business affairs explained in all seriousness that our contract stated we would be paid in full when the series was “completed.” Which of course was not only ludicrous, but since this was an international production that would be dubbed into multiple languages and sold around the world, no one could define exactly when that “completion” would happen.

    Our agent’s solution was simple. He told my partner and me to leave our offices and start walking. Before we made it to our cars, they folded.

    They knew they were going to lose. They knew there was no chance in hell we would work under those conditions. But they had to try… just in case.

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