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The original teaser trailer for the first ever Star Wars film begins by saying:

Somewhere in space, this may all be happening right now...

Yet the final version of the film seems to dispute this...

Long Time Ago

What is the explanation for this glaring inconsistency? Was the "a long time ago" line not in the script when the trailer was produced? Were the people who did the trailer simply unaware of when the film was set? Were they just taking creative licence?

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    The people who cut the trailers often have nothing to do with the actual production of the film. This was likely the case for SW - especially at a time when they had no idea how to market such a film. – phantom42 Jun 15 '17 at 18:25
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    Wait, are you implying George Lucas changed something in Star Wars? – Machavity Jun 15 '17 at 20:34
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    Clearly, "a long time" passed between when the trailer came out and when the movie came out. – ruakh Jun 15 '17 at 20:36
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    "Lightyears ahead of its time..." Ugh. Also, the trailer contradicts itself. At the end, it says, "a billion years in the making." Somebody can't write a paragraph and maintain some semblance of consistency. – jpmc26 Jun 16 '17 at 0:36
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    You're forgetting that it's also happening in a galaxy far, far away. As such galaxies are moving relative to us at a sizable fraction of the speed of light, you really can't assume simultaneity to be absolute. Much as trailers are sometimes altered for international markets, this trailer was clearly intended to be aired in a galaxy where the events of Star Wars happened simultaneously with 1976 on Earth. (Actually, the events must have happened slightly earlier, to give Lucas time to record them, but a few years difference isn't that large on these scales, so "right now" is close enough.) – Ray Jun 16 '17 at 1:43
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The trailer was rushed and approved by George Lucas put together in three days (!!!) to meet the need to have something to show to movie goers during the 1976 Christmas season.

Hyping the film was more important than being accurate at the time. Heck the special effects weren’t even finished so things such as conveying the proper tone/spirit of the film were not a priority at that moment. More details here on a post on the official Star Wars website; pertinent excerpt here with bold emphasis being mine:

With the production in a mad rush to finish the special effects, Charles Lippincott was busy promoting the movie at conventions and by other means like the novelization and the Marvel comic that was in development. One of the other tools in his shed was the first teaser trailer. Lippincott met with Lucas, Kurtz, assistant optical editor Bruce Green and three ad agency people in November 26, 1976, to talk about the trailer’s storyboard and everything that was needed to make a rough cut. This was finished a mere three days later and talks began about what needed to be changed and what music would be heard in the trailer.

In the next couple of weeks, Bruce Green would travel back and forth between ILM and MFE (Modern Film Effects — the company responsible for the effects of the trailer like the exploding logo) to get the teaser ready. It was fully approved by Lucas in early December and ready for review by Fox. However, tensions were high due to the troublesome production that the movie had up to this point, and the executives were far from pleased with a teaser that featured a couple of unfinished shots and was seen by Lucas and his team as a “spirit of the movie” trailer. Fox even went as far as trying to change the title of the movie, but that never happened because nobody ever gave Lucas acceptable title alternatives. The teaser was finally released in cinemas during the Christmas season, and receptions were a bit of a mixed bag with some people becoming curious for the movie while critics said it would never work.

And there are even more details provided via this post on website Episode Nothing: Star Wars in the 1970s.

So at the end of the day the final product of the trailer was fully approved by George Lucas; warts and all. Why? It was clear more important to get something out there to the public during the Christmas 1976 film season than to worry about things such as the soundtrack being off, special effects being in place or even whether key plot points were made with subtlety or not.

Besides, in the pre-video days of the 1970s, trailers were disposable and not something people cared about others seeing in the future. By the time the film would actually be released, flaws in the trailers wouldn’t never be reviewed by casual fans since the they would not have access to view the trailers over and over again as we do nowadays.

Also, the original Marvel Comics film adaptation—which was created way before the film was finalized—shows utterly no indication that “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” was ever in the script. In fact the opening crawl text used in the comic is 100% different from what appeared on screen which was rewritten with the help of Brian DePalma; unclear what script draft this version of the crawl originated from. See image below:

The first page of the Marvel comics film adaptation of *Star Wars* which used the original opening crawl text.

Also, I dug up this scan of the Star Wars program page—seen below—that was a part of the 1976 San Diego Comic-Con that took place July 21–25, 1976. There was a Star Wars slideshow/presentation that was presented there that was not connected to 20th Century Fox’s promo efforts but rather George Lucas’ own grassroots effort. Read the text and you can find the same somewhat hokey—yet oddly specific in places—tone in overall presentation that Christmas 1976 teaser had; transcribed below.

San Diego Comic-Con 1976 program page on *Star Wars*.

STAR WARS


“I have wrought my simple plan. If I give one hour of joy to the boy who’s half a man. Or the man who’s half a boy.” —Arthur Conan Doyle’s preface to “The Lost World”


STAR WARS, a live-action space adventure-fantasy, involves the search for a kidnapped rebel Princess, and a confrontation with the dark forces of an evil space empire.

Through thousands of light-years come to the unusual exploits of hero Luke Skywalker and his friends, flesh-and-blood space pilots and mechanical robots, as they battle numerous villains and creatures in a massive Galactic Civil War. This story has no relationship to Earth time or space. It takes place in other solar systems in another galaxy and could be in the future, the past or the present.

Young Luke Skywalker is accompanied by his robot companions R2-D2 and C-3PO; the tough starpilot Han Solo; the seven-foot, fur-covered Wookie, Chewbacca; and the venerable old warrior, Ben Kenobi.

Three different worlds become settings of the series of colorful adventures and thrills. They travel from the large arid planet of Tatooine to the huge man-made planet destroyer, Death Star, and finally arrive on the dense jungle-covered fourth moon of Yavin.

Director-writer George Lucas has created a majestic visual experience of extraordinary worlds. The Panavision Technicolor motion picture is produced by Gary Kurtz for Twentieth Century-Fox release and was made on locations in Tunisia and at EMI Elstree and Shepperton Studios, London over a 17-week schedule.

Lucas and Kurtz, the successful duo of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, have acquired an outstanding production team, including production designer John Barry of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE fame and director of photography Gil Taylor of Alfred Hitchcock’s FRENCY and Twentieth Century-Fox’s new hit, THE OMEN.

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    Is it known whether the opening titles of the film had either (a) been shot, or (b) even written at the time the trailer was created? – TripeHound Jun 15 '17 at 21:52
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    For sure it was in the rough cut he had in early 77--it's unlikely that ad execs even saw the whole movie, let alone read the entire script. – Erin Thursby Jun 16 '17 at 1:11
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    @JakeGould By "opening titles" I meant the rolling "A long time ago...", not the name of the film. In other words: had Lucas even decided when the film was set at the time the trailer was created? The snippet "and could be in the future, the past or the present" from the July '76 program (added after my original comment) suggests he may well not have decided by that time. – TripeHound Jun 16 '17 at 4:19
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    @TripeHound “…suggests he may well not have decided by that time.” Pretty much my thoughts as well. The idea that Star Wars is some perfectly mapped out universe is continually disproven. – JakeGould Jun 16 '17 at 4:23
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    That trailer is better than most modern ones. – Joshua Jun 16 '17 at 5:17
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Because trailers are often misleading.

See this list, and this one and the TV tropes list under the Trope Never Trust a Trailer.

As to WHY-- well, for the same reason that trailers are misleading today. A marketing person determines what might sell, often based on a synopsis and snippets of the film. In this case, way back in the 70s, the marketing department might not have actually even WATCHED the movie. More than likely if they did at all, they got snippets of specific scenes. Not included in that was what they probably thought was the most boring clip of all: the exposition crawl.

As the other poster points out--the movie wasn't done--and that's pretty standard for most trailers, even the ones you see today. Again, no way the the ad execs to even see a finished movie, however closely they may have worked with Lucas.

Here's a great article from the Den of Geek that talks about the phenomenon.

The reasons are:

  • The marketing people didn't watch the whole movie.
  • Even if they had watched the whole thing, they might decide they can't sell it as is, so they just market it in a way they think is salable.
  • They had no idea, at the time, that anyone would care about how accurate it was. The "right now this could be happening" immediacy thing has been used to market news items: "this could be happening on your street" or "right now in America"...it's basically on old time version of click-bait, and it's what advertisers at the time thought was effective. Placing the movie in context of the viewer's time and place was something they did for a lot of trailers in the beginning--take Jaws for instance. It opens with "There is a creature alive today..."
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    -1: I understand the concept of “A marketing person determines what might sell, often based on a synopsis and snippets of the film.” but in the case of this specific trailer, it was storyboarded and approved by George Lucas himself and created in 3 days at the demand of the studio. The trailer is flawed because in Christmas 1976, the need to get a trailer out to hype this untested—and unfinished—film was more important than being accurate. Besides, in the pre-video days of the 1970s, trailers were disposable and not something people cared about others seeing in the future. – JakeGould Jun 15 '17 at 20:26
  • Many trailers are put together before the whole movie even exists, and are based upon what's expected to be in the film. – supercat Jun 15 '17 at 21:26
  • @JakeGould: Your quote only says it was approved by Lucas, not that it was storyboarded by him. – user2357112 supports Monica Jun 15 '17 at 22:06
  • @JakeGould Yeah, I've read your answer. The Ad agency people pretty likely did not watch the whole movie. He approved it quickly because (see point 3 in my answer) NOBODY CARED. It was inaccurate because the people actually making it although they had some input from Green, are pretty likely to have never seen the movie. That it was marketable was more important. I stand by my answer. In those days a 3 day turn around for a trailer, was actually close to standard, and most happened before total wrap. – Erin Thursby Jun 16 '17 at 1:07
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    @ErinThursby Did you actually read my answer? You keep on talking about faceless “ad agency people” when the reality is that it is very well known that George Lucas worked closely with Charles Lippincott who was the advertising publicity supervisor for Star Wars. “Lippincott met with Lucas, Kurtz, assistant optical editor Bruce Green and three ad agency people in November 26, 1976, to talk about the trailer’s storyboard and everything that was needed to make a rough cut.” This was not a hand’s off effort. – JakeGould Jun 16 '17 at 1:34

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