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So in case you guys are wondering why John so vehemently defends all of George’s changes to the original Star Wars movies, it’s his job! Most people reading this probably don’t know that. John works for marketing at Lucasfilm. While I do enjoy a good Star Wars row on The Wren Forum, what we all should understand is that John can’t very well agree with us, even if he wanted to. (I don’t think he’d want to.)

With that prologue out of the way, here’s something interesting from Video Business, forwarded to me by Marcy:

In the wake of extreme fan protests, Lucasfilm is positioning its release of the original ’70s theatrical versions of the first three Star Wars movies as bonus features.

As groused about on various DVD enthusiast Web sites, including www.thedigitalbits.com and www.hometheaterforum.com, Lucasfilm confirmed the studio is not remastering these early films. The prints for the Sept. 12 DVDs of Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi come from laserdiscs of the films released in the mid ’90s. This means that Episodes IV-VI will be presented in widescreen but not anamorphic, thereby not making full use of modern TV screens.

Lucasfilm acknowledges that some imperfections are embedded in the prints, but director of publicity John Singh said the company felt there was little need to invest resources into sprucing up films that have already been restored to pristine form.

Special edition versions of the films with additions made by George Lucas were released in theaters in the ’90s and on DVD in 2004.

“We put a lot of time and effort into digitally restoring the negatives for the 2004 DVD releases,” Singh said. “The late ’90s theatrical versions represent George’s vision for Star Wars. We hoped that by releasing the original movies as a bonus disc, it would be a way to give the fans something that is fun. We certainly didn’t want to be become a source of frustration for fans.”

Although the prints aren’t in the best of shape, the masters used for the laserdiscs “do look good,” Singh assured.

Both old and new versions of Episodes IV-VI will be included in the Sept. 14 Star Wars sets, to be distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The revamped ’90s theatrical versions will be offered in anamorphic widescreen.

This release also represents the first time the movies will be available individually on DVD.

Fans have threatened to boycott buying the original Star Wars films if they aren’t cleaned up.

“These are the versions that the fans saw as kids back in the ’70s—this was how they grew up,” said Ron Epstein, HomeTheaterForum.com co-owner. “George doesn’t like these versions, and it’s not the way he wants his legacy to be remembered. But fans [are saying], ‘You aren’t doing us a favor [in putting out] what basically amounts to a laserdisc transfer.”

Aware of the uproar, Lucasfilm is in the process of directly contacting its upset fan base in an attempt to smooth things over.

Some fans had been speculating that Lucasfilm was saving its big gun efforts for the new generation DVD formats. But the company said that at this time, there are no plans to release the original ’70s Star Wars versions in high-definition.

“We absolutely appreciate the fact that these fans are so passionate,” Singh said. “It’s indicative of the fact that they care so much about Star Wars.”

Well, how about that? I think everyone knows what’s wrong with Lucasfilm’s statements regarding the old films, and yes, it pretty much does end up being a “screw you, fans” thing. “We appreciate [insert concern here]” is corporate speak for “We don’t really care but must act concerned anyhow.” (Or, in the case of customer support issues, The Consumerist says, “I damn well know that ‘I appreciate your concerns’ is shorthand in your industry for ‘We’re not going to help you.'”)

How clever that the original movies are only “bonus features.” What spin! And saying “the company felt there was little need to invest resources into sprucing up films that have already been restored to pristine form” is ludicrous; the originals were not spruced up, and that’s what the problem is here. Clever marketing speak (read: LIES) does not change the fact that the originals, which are what people really want out of this release, are gonna look like crap.

I reiterate that it is John’s job to create statements supporting his employer’s position. And as he once hinted he’d do, he has, indeed, started a blog devoted to criticizing the company I myself work for. (You can also get there via the Epcot Central link in the Wren Peeps box.) But I don’t care. In fact, I tend to agree with him on everything he posts there. His site is well-written, passionate, and, most of the time, dead-on regarding Disney’s missteps with its theme parks. Maybe if I were in a marketing or PR position here, I’d have to watch what I say about Disney. But I’m not, and I don’t, thank God.

As far as the Star Wars movies go, I, of course, fully appreciate John’s approach to this issue. However, I am unable to support his employer’s viewpoint at this time.

3 Comments

John Expounded Thusly:

Well, sheesh, you could have at least TOLD me you felt so strongly instead of letting me read it here, Steve. 😉

Sunday, May 28th, 2006 • 11:44am • Permalink

John Expounded Thusly:

Oh, and thanks for spillin’ the beans about my identity on the OTHER blog. Ah, so much for anonymity. Tee hee. I have not been writing on Wren lately because work, home and dogs have kept me more than a little busy. But I read it religiously. Oh, and I stopped off in Denver last week!

Sunday, May 28th, 2006 • 11:45am • Permalink

Steve Expounded Thusly:

Oh, well, that’s a good point… If yu want the reference removed, I’d be happy to do so. I realize now, looking at the blog, that you are pretty anonymous. Say that word and I shall remove the connections!

Monday, May 29th, 2006 • 6:07pm • Permalink

 

Sorry, I ain't takin' no comments on this page. Deal, y'hear?