Legacy Content

Jim on Film
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by Jim Miles (archives)
May 8, 2003
Jim lists some lesser-known live-action films he thinks should be re-released on video.

Walt Disney’s Studio Film Collection

This past weekend, I renewed my desire to see all of the Disney theatrical live-action movies, so I trekked to an independant video store in my area where I have been able to find many of the older films that the newer chain video stores weren’t around to buy. I found The Fighting Prince of Donegal, which I had been wanting see for the longest time, and brought it home to watch.

My movie night was stalled, however, when I discovered that the tape had “snapped,? the term the video clerk used to describe when the end of the video tape breaks from the reel. When I opened the flap of the tape to see why it wasn’t playing and saw that it had snapped, it occured to me that the video in my hand was quite old. According to Dave Smith’s encyclopedia, Disney A to Z, The Fighting Prince of Donegal was released on video in 1986--seventeen years ago.

Thinking back to the days when I regularly perused video rental stores to see their selection of classic Disney films, I would keep a mental inventory of what each store had so that I could know where to rent. Despite my varied trips, there were some films for which I really had to hunt, even five years ago.

Many of Disney’s lesser-known live-action films haven’t been available for over fifteen years. After years of use, copies are slowly disappearing from video rental shelves. While Disney has licensed some of its films to other video distributers, most of those are the lackluster titles from the 1970s, padded with a few from the late 1960s and early 1980s.

With Disney searching for ways to increase revenue, reaching back into the vault may be a profitable choice. If Disney were to create a new collection, followed with even a mild advertising campaign, they could find new pockets of money without short-changing audiences on straight-to-DVD sequels or without having to acquire new titles for video distribution.

With such a vast supply in the vault, Disney should seriously consider their potential. As Disney has shown in the past, it’s not always so much about the quality of the film as it is about the marketing campaign. For example, despite having broken it apart for so many years, when Fun and Fancy Free first hit video shelves, Disney made it sound like it was the great gem everyone would want. Fortunately, Disney has many live-action gems worth releasing.

In 1992, Disney began its first major release of Disney live-action titles since its mid-1980s videos. The smartly-titled “Walt Disney’s Studio Film Collection? featured eye-catching and attractive colorful cases with well-drawn artwork, headed by a classy 1950’s style of writing for the collection title. While I don’t have access to sales figures from those releases, the covers demanded attention and respect. Because of the collection status (and an advertising campaign that included television ads, magazine ads, and print and video advertisements in other Disney videos), they were displayed prominantly in stores that sold videos. Furthermore, in the following years, Disney added new titles to the collection to generate interest and sales.

Over the past decade, this collection was replaced by several others, including the most recent Walt Disney Film Classics collection, which features fairly respectable cover artwork with less classy (though more Disney-eque) packaging design. A trait of this collection is that it breaks apart the films into sub-collections, probably thought to aid in encouraging people to complete the collection. Perhaps it is time for a new collection, one with an advertising campaign and new titles.

Below are some wonderful Disney films that, I think, should be reissued on Disney DVD (widescreen) and video (not including Song of the South, which goes without saying). At the very least, they are lesser known titles that are among the best and deserve a checkout from a video store.

Third Man on the Mountain (1959)--Sharing many similarities with 1994’s Iron Will, Third Man on the Mountain is about a young Swiss man who uses all his heart and courage to face the challenge of a lifetime--conquering the Citadel (aka the Matterhorn). Starring the very talented Disney regulars James MacArthur and Janet Munro and featuring beautiful on-location scenery, Third Man on the Mountain is Disney adventure at its best. Unfortunately, it has not been, according the Dave Smith’s encyclopedia (the source for all video release dates listed below), available since 1986.

Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With the Circus (1960)--I was pleasantly surprised by Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With the Circus. Despite its main character being a child, the film, concerning a boy who joins the circus and becomes a success, has enough charm and humor to entertain adults. Kevin Corcoran is his usual cute self, and it’s a treat to see Zoro and Babes in Toyland clowns Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon in different roles, including plenty of speaking lines for the often mute Gene Sheldon. With the recognition factor of Kevin Corcoran and a fun name involving the circus, Toby Tyler would be likely to find a good audience. But despite this, it has not been available since 1986.

Those Callaways (1965)--While not so much a film that would appeal to younger audiences, the overlong Those Callaways still has its charms for those who dare to try it. The story concerns a father and son who want to build a sanctuary for the geese who migrate through their town. Thanks to the great talents of Brian Keith, Vera Miles, Brandon de Wilde, Walter Brennan, and Ed Wynn, it’s a compelling drama that proves itself worthy of a visit. Those Callaways has not been available since 1985.

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