Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Future of Disney Home Media


During the early days of DVD, Disney tried their hand at releasing some of their animated classics on the format. These releases, known as the "Limited Issues", weren't impressive. A lot of them had questionable picture quality, and lacked bonus features. Some DVDs would contain at least one or two, others would be bare bones. Of course, this has always been Disney's strategy, dating back to days of LaserDisc: Bare bones release first, then a packed collector's edition with a lot of bonus features afterwards. They did this with titles like Tarzan and The Emperor's New Groove. The Gold Classic Collection DVD releases came along in 2000, many of these titles boasted a good amount of bonus material. Their VHS counterparts even had a few. (Fun & Fancy Free and Alice in Wonderland, for example.)

Of course, as we all know, Disney created a prestigious line for their best-selling, most popular animated films. This would be the Platinum Edition collection, which continued this trend of saving certain titles for one particular line. It continues today with its successor, the Diamond Edition collection, which picked up right after the Platinum Edition collection capped off with the 2009 Blu-ray and DVD release of Pinocchio.

According to a fellow Disney enthusiast named Lnds500 (Twitter / profile), Disney Germany verified that two titles, Pinocchio and One Hundred and One Dalmatians, have been dropped from the line. Oddly enough, being out of print since 2010, Dalmatians is returning to Blu-ray in Europe. The UK gets it in a few days and it's already available in Italy as a "Special Edition"Peter Pan is hitting Blu-ray in France in November, so it's possible that title has been dropped as well. This means that we may get these films on Blu-ray next year.

Now why would Disney drop titles from the Diamond Edition collection? Lnds500 suggested to me that Disney might not be sure if Blu-ray will still be the dominant home media format by 2016 or so. If Disney were to do the Platinum Edition two-a-year-plan each year out, the final title would street in 2016. Perhaps Disney is dropping them so they can release them on the format sooner without having to wait. That being said, will the sets be the same? Will these films get the same treatment they got with their previous releases? Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland, two non-Diamond titles, got excellent treatment for the Blu-ray debuts. Disney shouldn't change anything for the forthcoming Blu-ray releases of the dropped titles, unless if they have new bonus features to provide, which would be lovely.

Personally, I would actually prefer it if Disney stopped the Diamond Edition collection altogether and just simply gave great treatment to all of their animated classics. In reality, every Disney animated classic, even the weaker ones, still deserve a great set with great transfers, great bonus features and a lot of material to satisfy everyone. Unfortunately, they seem to be going backwards with some releases. The Fox and the Hound and Pocahontas, being titles that haven't sold as much over the past few years, were packaged with the direct-to-video sequels. This garnered mixed reactions, some may not mind that the cheap sequels are on there. Others, such as myself, would prefer to buy the original on its own. Honestly, I just don't like the idea of a Disney classic sharing cover space with the low budget, direct to video sequel that only existed to just cash in. It just feels cheap to me, because the sequels are not even any good to begin with.

If Disney simply put a sticker on the cover saying "Also includes [insert DTV sequel here]", I would actually be fine with that. I try not to be picky when it comes to this, but the direct-to-video films are an unfortunate part of Disney history. John Lasseter wanted to halt them for a good reason. (Though Tink and Planes slipped through the cracks. Compromise I guess...) I think they should give us fans a choice, but I guess I'm asking too much. The other problem is that the film shares the disc with the sequel, whereas that disc could be loaded with great bonus features and whatnot instead of the sequel. Disney curiously leaves out bonus materials from past DVDs and LaserDiscs for their Blu-ray releases and such, so that seems like I'm asking too much out of them. I guess Disney history books are your friends if you're looking to dive into the production histories of certain Disney animated films.

Back to the whole "ending the Diamond line" thing... In the early days of Disney's home video division, the animated films were released under one banner and that was it. From 1984 to 1994, it was The Classics. From 1994 to 1999, it was the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. Both lines had titles that you could arguably call misfires (Robin Hood, Pocahontas). Even some titles in the Platinum/Diamond lines aren't Disney's best. Again, that line was created for the most popular Disney films that are generally well-liked by critics. But it shouldn't be like that, I believe. Why not just do away with labels? Instead of using labels like "Classics" or "Masterpieces", just call it the "Disney Animated Library" or something like that. Or how about no brand at all? So all live action and animated releases will just be on their own, no "this or that" edition or whatever.

What's The Rush?

The Fox and the Hound's Blu-ray release, which I didn't buy for personal reasons (which you know of), apparently had a very weak transfer for a Disney animated classic on Blu-ray. Home on the Range's recent Blu-ray was also said to be unspectacular. Treasure Planet had some noise that I couldn't get around at times, but for the most part, the transfers have been good. This year, Disney released a boatload of titles. A lot of the live action releases are said to be a mixed bag, with transfers ranging from passable to even downright bad.

But why? Is Disney simply just throwing these titles out there? Of course, this has been the thing with the DVDs as well. Lesser live action titles often got crumby transfers, while the most well-known titles got the goods. Now I've been noticing that Disney has been behind with bonus features, even on the Diamond Editions. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Beauty and the Beast, the first Diamond Editions, were loaded 2-disc sets. Bambi? Most of the good stuff was on Second Screen, which is great if you have an iPad. Using it from a laptop while watching, I believe, is a lot more tedious. The Lion King was no different. Personally, I miss the days where you could just sit down and watch the bonus features from TV. Not using another device, though the apps are very cool.

In 2013, we'll probably see a lot more Disney films on Blu-ray, but I don't want to see the quality be compromised. It was odd to see poor transfers for a few of the animated films (Home on the Range was done digitally, making it even stranger), but Disney shouldn't just give other films the short end of the stick. Like I said, I also don't want Disney to take the "less successful" animated films and pair them up with the DTV sequel. Take The Hunchback of Notre Dame for example, a very dark departure for Disney. Package that with the kid-friendly, not-so-dark, poorly animated sequel that was only made to make bank... It just isn't right, if you ask me. I don't know who thought this was a good idea, but I think it's just another way for Disney to quickly release what they have out there.


While not every single film the Disney company has put out over the past seventy years should look perfect on Blu-ray (unrealistic expectation), they could still at least put effort into certain titles. The Blu-ray releases of films like The Color of Money show that Disney will just simply release a title without putting much thought into how it's going to look. This isn't the DVD era anymore, and with Blu-ray's sharp image, poor quality image won't cut it. Less-than-stellar work on the animated films won't cut it either.

That being said, Disney is probably going to release tons of titles next year since other studios are racing to do this as well. At the same time, I just hope the right titles get the right treatment.

No comments:

Post a Comment