Legacy Content

Jim on Film
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by Jim Miles (archives)
April 24, 2003
Jim tells you why he thinks the luster is wearing off Disney video releases.

For An All New Generation

This weekend, I was looking through the ads in the Sunday paper, and I saw that the price of the DVD and video of DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt had dropped since I last looked at copies in a store. Released in 1998, The Prince of Egypt is an amazing feat in storytelling, animated or otherwise. Every time I pop in my DVD, I marvel at its genius and beauty.

I remember clearly the days when Disney movies would hit store shelves for the first time. I waited for so long to see The Aristocats that it was a dream when, for the first time, I would finally get to see it on the day it was first released on video. When Cinderella was released on video the second time, it was thrilling for me to be able to finally add it to my collection. As most people remember, Disney always advertised these films as being available "for a limited time only." So as the studio was threatening to stop making copies of Aladdin, the average consumer didn’t realize that, while the studio had stopped duplicating copies, the video itself wouldn’t finally disappear from store shelves until four or five years later. It’s doubtful that Disney actually lost any sales to this tactic, but they did do something special that set their films apart.

In life, perception is everything. Tom Sawyer taught us that. It’s irrelevant that Disney makes their movies available for a limited time and sells far more copies of their films than most other video companies. But through the process Disney started in the 1980s of releasing their classic animated features to the home market for a short time before pulling them out of circulation for several years, then re-releasing them for "a new generation," Disney created its own events. By doing this, Disney made everyone take notice of their films, made everyone see that their films were something special, and in the process, films like Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and The Lion King became mega-selling blockbusters.

Through this process, even the studio’s "minor" films became events--The Aristocats, The Rescuers, The Black Cauldron, and so on. It didn’t matter that in 1985, The Black Cauldron was unjustly labeled an embarrassment in the studio and that the company itself had almost disowned the film for over ten years. When it hit video shelves for the first time in its shining eye-catching case, it was a masterpiece.

During these times, there were always the films that remained available on video no matter what--Dumbo, The Three Caballeros, Alice in Wonderland, The Sword in the Stone, and Robin Hood. While no figures have been made available, it is likely that these films sold no fewer copies than their "for a limited time only" counterparts, but they also never really got the just honor due them.

Since Disney released its first wave of DVDs several years ago, this trend has changed considerably.

First of all, the number of films in constant release has risen. They seem to now include all of the package films from the 1940s, The Aristocats, The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company, The Rescuers Down Under, and Pocahontas, in addition to A Bug’s Life.

Secondly, Disney has also re-issued films very closely to the time they were taken out of release, to the point that copies from the previous release never disappeared from stores. These were Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan, in addition to Toy Story.

Furthermore, titles are remaining in circulation for considerably longer periods of time. With the exception of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Beauty and the Beast, of the recent Disney releases, none of them have been removed from the market within any previous time frame. Mulan, for example, was in almost constant circulation, as was Tarzan.

And as these titles remain available, for the first time ever, their prices are dropping. In the past, even the films that remained in constant circulation were priced at the higher pricing, close to that of the "new" releases. Now, these DVDs are slowly dropping into the steeper discount ranges. This is natural, but because Disney always regulated their releases, it never happened in the past.

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