When you watch a Disney film released between 1953 and 1984, you are most likely going to see something like this at the beginning of the film:
This would happen to be the logo that was created for Disney's self-distribution company, Buena Vista. It's common because a lot of the classic Disney animated features had this logo before the credits, live action favorites like Mary Poppins do as well. Most home video releases of the Disney films in the 1990s preserved these logos. Some, however, did not.
Before Buena Vista, who distributed Disney's feature-length films? That would be none other than RKO Radio Pictures, with the exception of Victory Through Air Power, which was released by United Artists. Walt Disney had a falling out with RKO over the documentary feature film, The Living Desert. With that, Disney basically started their own distribution company and that was it (though a handful of post-1953 films were distributed by RKO). All re-issues of the pre-Living Desert Disney films would replace the RKO card with the Buena Vista card. This is usually what you saw on the home video releases in the 1980s and 1990s, or you wouldn't see anything at all. In the 1990s, Disney did a good job at restoring most of the logos. When DVD came around, most of the pre-1953 Disney films had the RKO logo restored.
Now that we've moved onto Blu-ray disc, the Disney films have been restored quite well for the most part. There are some exceptions, mostly in the live action department, but most of the Blu-ray releases of the animated classics have been spectacular. However, there are some problems:
Bambi came to Blu-ray for the first time in March 2011 as the fourth "Diamond Edition", the successor to the Platinum Edition series. The restoration was beautiful, but the opening credits of the film were a disappointment. Of course, as Disney fans know, when Bambi was first released in 1942, it originally opened with this:
The original 1989 VHS, Betamax tape and LaserDisc didn't have the logo, just the opening fanfare playing over a black screen. The 1997 LaserDisc has the logo, but the VHS didn't have it, just the black screen with the music. The 2005 Platinum Edition DVD replaced it with a cut-short version of the Walt Disney Pictures castle logo with the theme playing over it. So you'd think the Blu-ray would open with this logo since Disney was restoring the RKO logos for their pre-1953 films since the mid 1990s. It didn't, instead, it opened with a short version of the 2006 Walt Disney Pictures logo in all its modern, CGI glory! How fitting!
Now why would something like this irritate me and several others? Well, as a Disney fanatic, I'd like to see the film presented as close to the original theatrical release version as possible. No, that doesn't mean I'm against digital correction to errors such as the disappearing raccoon (a production mistake for those of you who don't know), it's just that the crisp, clean and modern Disney logo does not mix well with the opening credits or the era the film was released. This is a 1942 film, having it open with this isn't right... Where was the RKO logo? They restored it for the 1997 LaserDisc, why did they leave it off the Blu-ray? Or better yet, the first DVD? No way it's lost. There's got to be a reason.
Aside from that big screw-up, Disney did keep the RKO logo for the Pinocchio Platinum Edition Blu-ray and DVD, the intermission card with the RKO logo for Fantasia, and the RKO logo for the final shot of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Dumbo's Blu-ray keeps the RKO logo as well, since the 2001 and 2006 DVDs had it. That raises a good question though: Will the Blu-ray release of Cinderella (coming October 2nd) restore the RKO logo? Like Bambi, the original LaserDisc and videocassette (VHS and Beta) lacked it. The 1995 LaserDisc had it, while the VHS had the Buena Vista logo instead (used on the film's 1957 theatrical re-issue and onwards). The 2005 DVD, like Bambi's 2005 DVD release, used the abridged Walt Disney Pictures logo instead. Will they use the 2006 Walt Disney Pictures castle for the Blu-ray release instead of the RKO logo? Probably, but we'll know when someone gets their hands on the disc.
However, these screws up aren't limited to the opening title cards on the older Disney films. The newer films have been losing their original logos, too...
When Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were re-released as a double feature in October 2009, both films opened with the current Walt Disney Pictures logo and not the CGI one used for Pixar films up until WALL-E. First of all, I miss the original music from the original logo. Also, the first Toy Story opens up with the Walt Disney Pictures logo fading into Andy's wallpaper. The Pixar logo fading into it just doesn't work. It is presented this way on all the Blu-ray and DVD versions released after this re-release. Will the 3D re-releases of Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. open this way? They can't replace the logos for Monsters, Inc. because not only does the film use cut-short versions of the Disney and Pixar logos, but the intro to the jazzy opening song plays over them.
Then came the restored version of Beauty and the Beast for the Diamond Edition Blu-ray in 2010. It opened with the current Walt Disney Pictures logo and the Walt Disney Animation Studios logo. The film originally opened with the 1990 Walt Disney Pictures logo, so why replace it?
Then came the 3D theatrical re-release of The Lion King in September 2011. It opened the same way. Now this was even more jarring, because the original version of The Lion King opened with the 1990 Walt Disney Pictures logo with the sounds of the African savanna used instead of the Walt Disney Pictures fanfare. We only hear a little bit of it for the current version that's on Blu-ray, then onto "Nants Ingonyama!" Seriously, I find that annoying. I loved how the original opened. All nice and quiet when we see the Disney logo, the Frank Wells tribute and "Walt Disney Pictures presents". Why shorten that?
Some other examples of this include Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. On Pocahontas, we heard the drumroll leading up to "Virginia Company", the film's opening song. On Hunchback, we heard the eerie cathedral-esque choir leading up to "The Bells of Notre Dame". Would Disney replace that on the restored versions when they hit Blu-ray? That would just ruin it. Other films like Tarzan have their own custom version of the logo, so they shouldn't replace those either.
Now with all this about logo plastering, let's consider what Walt Disney himself did once Buena Vista was set up. The RKO logo would be replaced with the Buena Vista logo, but they would at least keep the original opening credits music since the logo would only last for mere seconds like the RKO logo did. Now if he were alive today, what would he do about the opening credits? Would he modernize things with using a new logo in place of the Buena Vista/RKO logo? Or would he just leave the film as is?
I'd say leaving the film as is works best. These are timeless films, but I think using the original logos is the best way of presenting these films today on Blu-ray because using a new logo that clashes with the style of the opening credits and music just doesn't look right to me. A lot of folks would agree, too. This is an issue that's often nit-picked, and I myself will admit that Disney changing logos on their films does irk me. Does it irk you? Or do you think it's a non-issue?
That said, for those who are interested, a YouTuber who goes by 8to16to35 has uploaded nearly every RKO and Buena Vista title card, plus custom made variations and other things. They give you a good picture of what logos Disney used over time. These two videos do just that...
Wow, all those different versions of two logos...
Anyways, what do you think? Do you think that Disney should leave these films the way they are and not remove any logos or replace them? Or do you believe that it doesn't matter? I am all ears, this is something that's often talked about among Disney fans and aficionados. It may seem like something minor, but it's actually a big thing among some Disney fanatics.