Back in December, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. announced they’d be splitting up its news and entertainment divisions, with the news division keeping the moniker “News Corporation.” We learned in mid-April that the media and entertainment division — which includes Fox News (yes, News Corp. considers the channel “entertainment,” not news), Fox Broadcasting and the former 20th Century Fox film studio — would be getting the new name 21st Century Fox, and today News Corp has unveiled a new logo to go with the name; and both, I feel, are serious missteps for a time-honored brand.
It may have been understandably short-sighted for Joseph Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck to retain the dated name when they merged their Twentieth Century Pictures with William Fox’s Fox Film Corporation — I mean, who could’ve predicted in 1935 that their studio would’ve withstood the test of time well into the next century. But it did, and it left an awkward branding problem on Fox’s hands: how to represent yourself as a modern company while retaining a dated name?
But why perpetuate the dated moniker by changing the century? Murdoch says that it “draws upon the creative heritage of 20th Century Fox, while also speaking to the innovation and dynamism that must define each of our businesses through the 21st century.” All it does is remind me that they’ll have to change it again in another hundred years. It’s clear by now that Fox will be around for at least that long, so why not use this opportunity to future-proof their name? Everyone in the film industry (speaking as a member of said community) already shorthands it to “Fox” anyway, why not just rename themselves simply “Fox,” or “Fox Film”? Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., The Walt Disney Studios — these majors have outlasted the century without needing to alter their precious brand, and it’s a shame we can’t say the same about Fox.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s take a look at that new logo. A simple white circle on black, with the suggestion of crossed searchlights, a holdover from the 20th Century Fox logo. Frankly, it’s bland, flat, and lacks the boldness of the classic forced perspective logo. It reminds me of that awkward phase in the early to mid ’70s when other major studios — Warner Brothers, Columbia & Paramount — all changed their logos to super-stylized simplistic designs, as far removed as possible from their origins, like petulant children, anxious to get away their embarrassing parents. All those studios eventually had the common sense to stick to the images audiences knew (and loved) best, and I’m willing to bet the new 21st Century Fox returns to its roots as well. Perhaps I’m being a luddite in not wanting to accept change to what I consider to be a classic design, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?