Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rant: Disney and 3D Re-releases

We all know Disney plans on re-releasing Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and The Little Mermaid in theaters in 3D. If these re-releases go over well, we’ll see more in the coming years. This excites me, but I will ask, are we going to get the Walt Disney films in theaters again? Also, will they be converted to 3D?

Now I have nothing against Disney converting their post-1990 films to 3D, because all of those films were done digitally rather than with ink and paint, cels, etc. This is why I’m a bit against them re-releasing The Little Mermaid in 3D. That film was the last Disney animated film done with cels, and I understand that they can convert it to 3D, but... Does it need to be converted? This makes me worry, because these films shouldn’t have to be converted. If the conversion adds nothing to the experience, then we’ll be essentially re-experiencing the Disney classics with sunglasses that dim the picture. Disney animation is so beautiful and so colorful, that seeing it that way in theaters will just ruin it. Is that the price we have to pay to re-experience these classics? I know there are options, there are 2D versions, but what about those who have local theaters not showing them in 2D?

The Lion King’s 3D re-release did well for a reason: The film was in the vault at the time and it’s one of Disney’s most popular films. Unadjusted, it’s their highest grossing animated feature. Crowds of people didn’t go for the 3D, they went to see The Lion King. If it wasn’t in 3D, I bet it would be equally successful. I didn’t see the re-release for the 3D, that was a just a bonus in my eyes. I wanted to see The Lion King on the big screen, and I bet everyone else in my theater had the same intention.

Then you might ask, how come Beauty and the Beast couldn’t repeat that success? Beauty and the Beast has been available on home video since October 2010 when the Diamond Edition came out, and the 3D Diamond Edition has been available since last October. Still, $45 million is not bad for a re-release. Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. may perform the same way, because they are currently available on home video. I predict The Little Mermaid will perform like The Lion King, since it hasn’t been available on home video since the Platinum Edition went back in the vault.

Now for the positive side of this plan. Before the dawn of home video, Disney would re-release their classics every seven to ten years in theaters since Walt didn’t believe in showing them on the small screen for free. Let’s look at Pinocchio for instance. It first came out in 1940. It was re-released in 1945, 1954, 1962, 1971, 1978, 1984 and 1992. Pinocchio made its home video debut in 1985, thus the 1992 re-release (despite it being the restored version of the film) wasn’t as successful as the last re-issue. It wasn’t re-released in theaters since then, same with the other Disney animated classics. The Disney executives knew this would happen, and that’s why they were against releasing the classics on home video in the early 1980s. They were afraid that with the films being available to own on home video, nobody will see the films when they come back to theaters.

With audiences going to see these films in the theaters again, Disney might go back to that tradition, and better yet, give us a re-release of a film before it comes out on the newest home video format. Most of the first releases of Disney films on home video followed their final theatrical re-releases. The films that aren't on Blu-ray might follow theatrical re-releases. Let’s say the current home video release of Lady and the Tramp, the Diamond Edition, will go back in the vault in two to three years. Years later, Disney plans on releasing it on the newest home video format. (If one will ever surpass Blu-ray) Maybe it might follow a limited theatrical re-release. Does this sound plausible? I believe it does, how about you?

Disney is most likely using 3D as a way to get audiences to see these films in theaters again. With 3D on its way out, Disney should try a better alternative: IMAX. (No, not IMAX 3D. Just IMAX) Back when Disney re-released Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King in IMAX, there weren’t enough IMAX theaters in the country. Now with more of them, including the IMAX Digital/“Lie”-MAX screens, they have a golden opportunity on their hands. Audiences are clearly sick of 3D, whereas IMAX really delivers. It's becoming more and more popular, especially with films with sequences filmed in IMAX. It's worth the price, and it's a better experience overall. It's not the same on a regular theater screen. People will pay to see something on that huge screen, because it's worth it. It's great, especially at a time with high ticket prices and the fact that attendance has gone down. Re-releasing the films in IMAX may reel in massive profits, and they can also release them in regular theaters simultaneously. If they followed this strategy, the re-releases would do well and also... No 3D! IMAX is the future, not 3D. 3D could've been a great new frontier in cinema, but it was destroyed by greedy executives. We all know the story, other studios wanted their films to blow up the box office after Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, by converting their films to 3D and leaving audiences unsatisfied. There's so many post-conversion 3D films, audiences can't tell what film is going to have good 3D or not. It has driven audiences to go to the 2D versions of films instead. A great opportunity was wasted.

One last thing. How would Walt Disney embrace today’s 3D? When 3D was the rage in the 1950s, he tried it out with some short subjects, but that didn’t pan out. If Walt was alive in the 1980s when 3D made a comeback, who knows what he would’ve done. If he were around now, would he have the studio's latest animated films done in 3D? Would he re-release the classics in 3D? We all know Walt was an innovator. He might embrace today's 3D the way James Cameron did with Avatar, but would he convert his classics to 3D? Who knows.

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