Disney Destroys Film History. Like an unpopular animal sidekick in a straight-to-DVD sequel, Disney is cutting the Fox out of its acquired brands, renaming them simply 20th Century (not Fox) Studios and (not Fox) Searchlight Pictures. Is it a sneaky way to distance themselves from a dangerous Fox figure and whitewash the brand’s history? Absolutely. But which one exactly?
This is the first time Disney has changed the name of one of its new subjects in its ongoing war on the free market; Pixar, Marvel, and even LucasFilm got to keep theirs. The reason for this, most experts surmise, is while they really wanted The Simpsons, the apolitical House of Mouse doesn’t want any actual association with the Fox legacy, which today is Fox News: a highly polarizing political outlet/a rightwing propaganda machine that spews enough liquid shit to douse all the Australian bushfires it helped perpetuate.
But that’s not the only piece of Fox history that doesn’t gel with the Disney brand. For another, we have to all the way back to the figurehead himself: William Fox, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant who changed his name from Fuchs to Fox and then used that name to launch one of the greatest film studios of the twentieth century.
William Fox had a complicated career and life; the same self-made man who pioneered sound in film was also imprisoned for bribing a judge and perfecting the shady art of vertical integration. But Fox’s greatest achievement has to be his fight against and victory over the earliest movie monopoly. The Motion Pictures Patents Company (better know as the mobster-like The Trust) was a dastardly scheme set up by Cracked Hall of Fame asshole Thomas Edison and some of the biggest players in early cinema. Their goal: to crush independent competitors, create a stranglehold over movie theaters and decide film practices through money and sole control over the industry’s most valuable intellectual properties — not superhero sequels, but the very equipment to make movies.
This restrictive monopoly never came to pass, in great part due to the free market zeal of William Fox (who later made his own disastrous attempt at forming a super-studio because capitalists are gonna capitalist). Which makes it both sad and ironic that what finally destroyed his most enduring legacy, his name, is a megacorporation that now controls nearly 40% of the market, irreparably damaged indie art by pushing public domain back 21 years, and strongarms struggling movie theaters into doing its bidding. And we no longer have a William Fox to stop it. All we’re left with is Rupert Murdoch.