Disney Classics: Back in the Vault

Disney Classics: Back in the Vault

On April 30th, the current Blu-ray and DVD releases of three animated classics: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition, Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Edition, and Fantasia/Fantasia 2000: 2 Movie Collection Special Edition are going back in the Disney Vault.

On April 30th, 2011, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 return to the Disney Vault

In the 1940s, the Walt Disney Company began to theatrically re-release its animated features every few years as a way to introduce these beloved classics to new generations of children. The re-issued films performed well at the box office, earning hundreds of millions of dollars while helping to recoup losses from some of the company’s less successful films. The re-issues also helped several Disney films climb the ranks of the All Time Domestic Box Office Chart (Adjusted for Inflation), including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (#10), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (#11), and Fantasia (#21).

Disney Re-Issued Films at the Box Office (box office tallies from Box Office Mojo)

Film Original Box Office Re-Release Box Office
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937, $66,596,803 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975
1983, $30,100,000
1987, $46,594,212
1993, $41,634,471
Pinocchio 1940, $38,976,570 1945, 1954, 1962, 1971, 1978
1984, $26,414,038
1987, $46,594,212
1992, $18,863,559
Fantasia 1940, $42,850,000 1942, 1946, 1956, 1963, 1969, 1977, 1982
1985, $8,194,726
1990, $25,363,371
Bambi 1942, $3,000,000 1947, $2,200,000
1957, $6,000,000
1966, $9,000,000
1975, $20,000,000
1982, $23,000,000
1988, $39,047,150
Cinderella 1950 1957, 1965, 1973
1981, $28,040,000
1987, $34,101,149
Peter Pan 1953, $40,759,520 1958, 1969, 1976
1982, $17,200,000
1989, $29,445,131
Lady and the Tramp 1955, $36,359,037 1962, 1971
1980, $26,114,207
1986, $31,129,082
Sleeping Beauty 1959, $36,479,805 1970, 1979, 1987, 1993, 1995, 2002
1986, $15,120,195
One Hundred and One Dalmatians 1961, $14,000,000 1969, $18,000,000
1979, $19,000,000
1985, $33,049,729
1991, $60,830,285
The Jungle Book 1967, $73,741,048 1978
1984, $23,456,945
1990, $44,645,619

When DVDs first emerged as a home video platform in the late 90s, the Walt Disney Company shifted its marketing strategy from theatrical re-releases to the “Disney Vault”, a practice of releasing home video editions of Disney animated classics for only a limited time before pulling all copies from shelves and making the films unavailable for purchase for years at a time.

When the Disney Vault was first established, a friend of mine worked at a video rental store and revealed that the rental houses were required to go through their inventory to remove all copies of the vaulted films (including used copies that were for sale) and ship them back to Disney, suffering heavy fines for any copies that went unaccounted. Because of Disney’s strict policies, the Vault makes it impossible for consumers to buy or rent vaulted films from legitimate dealers which has led to a rise in bootlegged illegal copies as well as outrageously inflated prices for out-of-print editions through dealers on sites such as Amazon and Ebay.

But as frustrating as the Disney Vault is, it’s impossible to deny that it’s a brilliant marketing strategy. Limited releases become must-own films for families that might otherwise have to wait as long as ten years for the next opportunity to buy their favorite animated classics. When I was a poor college student, the Vault inspired me to buy my first Disney DVD, Aladdin (no longer a part of the Disney Vault), even though I had seen it on VHS so many times I could quote the film by heart.

History of the Disney Vault’s Special Edition Releases (from Wikipedia)

Special Edition Original U.S. Release Vaulted
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition October 9, 2001 January, 2002
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition October 9, 2001 January, 2002
Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition October 8, 2002 January, 2003
The Lion King: Platinum Edition October 7, 2003 January, 2005
Aladdin: Platinum Edition October 5, 2004 January, 2008
Bambi: Platinum Edition March 1, 2005 January, 2007
Cinderella: Platinum Edition October 4, 2005 January, 2008
Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition February 28, 2006 January, 2007
The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition October 3, 2006 January, 2009
Peter Pan: Platinum Edition March 6, 2007 January, 2009
The Jungle Book: 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition October 2, 2007 January, 2010
One Hundred and One Dalmatians: Platinum Edition March 4, 2008 January, 2010
Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition October 28, 2008 January, 2010
Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition March 10, 2009 April 30, 2011
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition October 6, 2009 April 30, 2011
Fantasia/Fantasia 2000: Special Edition November 30, 2010 April 30, 2011
Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition October 5, 2010
Bambi: Diamond Edition March 1, 2011

I blame the Disney Vault for the four Disney DVDs that are lingering in my Amazon shopping cart, patiently waiting for me to “Proceed to Checkout”. If I really want the films (and I do!), I know I have to act soon, because if there’s one thing the Vault guarantees, it’s that they won’t be there for long.

And finally, something (not) for the kids: in the clip below, Saturday Night Live‘s TV Funhouse parodies the Disney Vault, Disney’s straight-to-DVD sequels, and the rumor that Walt Disney has been cryogenically frozen, all in three playful animated minutes.

April 23, 2011 - History, Latest News, Movies - Read More

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