Monday, December 17, 2012

What's Next? Predicting Disney Blu-ray's Future Again...

This year, Disney released a ton of their animated classics on Blu-ray alongside several live-action films from the Touchstone titles to films released under their name. Earlier this year, I had made predictions for what animated films would come out on the format next year.

Well it looks like we are already getting a massive helping on March 12th: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (I know, not a Walt Disney Feature Animation film...) is finally hitting the format for its 25th anniversary. Will it be the original, uncut 1988 version? Who knows. That film has been mangled and altered in some way ever since its first home video release, so I'm not getting any high hopes. Four animated titles are being released this day, two of which being films that were supposed to come out earlier this year (Atlantis: The Lost Empire* and Brother Bear). Mulan will be a 15th anniversary release, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame will finally stun in high definition.

Of course, Disney will be releasing the films as double-packs with their degrading direct-to-video sequels, but again, and Amazon list separate releases that'll just contain the first film. I sincerely hope this happens...

Now with four canon animated features announced for a March release, this tells me that 2013 will be as big as, if not even bigger than this year's line-up.

First off, what happened to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh? Booklets in Disney Blu-ray releases that appeared earlier this year said that the film would hit the format in Spring 2013. Apparently it's still going to come, but when? April? May? We haven't heard anything since, so I'm hoping that Disney didn't drop the title from the schedule.

Earlier, I had predicted that August 2013 would be the big month for Disney. This past August, Disney released The Aristocats, The Rescuers, The Rescuers Down Under and Pocahontas on Blu-ray. Released the same day were DTV sequel Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure and The Tigger Movie. Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World was packaged with the original, so seven titles were released that day. Throw in Disneynature's Chimpanzee, and that's eight. I thought the same would happen next August, but apparently Disney will release a ton of titles any month now.

So what am I predicting now? Well, everything is mostly up in the air at this point. Disney really is cranking out titles left and right, probably because of the uncertain future of physical media in an age of digital media and online streaming.

The UK Tarzan Blu-ray.

I have a feeling that Disney will definitely release Hercules and Tarzan sometime next year, since the latter is currently available in other countries. They only have those two out of the 1990s features to release with the exception of Aladdin, which should still be a Diamond Edition release. The Diamond Edition line still seems like it'll continue here in the states, despite the fact that Peter Pan was released in Europe as a stand-alone release, ditto One Hundred and One Dalmatians, though we don't know what that'll be released as when it shows up here. 2013's Diamond Editions are of course Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid (which will follow its 3D theatrical re-release), so that's all set.

What else? If Disney chooses another month this year to release a ton of titles, then we'll probably see the remaining post-90s Disney films on Blu-ray: The Emperor's New Groove and Lilo & Stitch. In addition to that, we may see the remaining 80s films: The Black Cauldron and Oliver & Company.

Oliver & Company is a strong candidate since the latest DVD was released in 2009, the time when Disney was really getting into Blu-ray and giving those who had the format the goods. Oliver & Company was released alongside DVD-only releases like Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Pete's Dragon. The latter was released on Blu-ray this year, alongside The Great Mouse Detective, which got a DVD-only release in 2010.

It seems like those 2009-2010 DVD-only releases will hit Blu next year. Bedknobs should definitely be out, and Oliver & Company will probably appear too. The Black Cauldron is still up in the air, as Disney continues to ignore that film. However, it could show up next year. If not, 2014 should be the latest.

Two other strong candidates are The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood, since both films will turn 50 and 40 respectively. Both films will probably be released the same day, being films with a medieval setting and weak (all subjective, don't get upset!) storytelling, films that appealed more to younger audiences than anything. I won't be surprised if that happens, plus both films have their fans. Their last DVD releases came before Disney really jumped onto the Blu-ray train.

That leaves the package features, from Saludos Amigos to The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Like I said before, these will probably be released with other films on the set. Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros is obvious, since they are both goodwill films made for South America during World War II, and the last DVD was a two-movie set. Make Mine Music would probably be packaged with Melody Time, since both are similar in structure (vignettes set to songs). Fun & Fancy Free and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad are both composed of two stories, so they probably will be released together. The question is, will it happen next year?

Disney only has a few titles left to crank out on Blu-ray, so it's possible that we'll have the whole animated library (sans the Diamond Edition titles) on the format next year. Will it happen? There's a big possibility that it will. Or maybe Disney will hold a few titles off until 2014, but we'll find out soon enough!

As for the remaining Diamond Editions, I believe this is what will happen:

After Mermaid streets in October 2013, it'll be followed by One Hundred and One Dalmatians in spring 2014. Why? Disney can't make us wait too long, since the film has been available on Blu-ray in Europe since October.

Following that will be Aladdin. It's been suggested that this film will get a 3D theatrical re-release somewhere down the road, given its popularity. It's very plausible because it's one that's always a hit, it's the second highest grossing Disney animated film (unadjusted) and it's a Renaissance film. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were converted, so I believe they won't leave this one out. Whenever I have talked to someone about Disney's 3D re-releases, I always got "They should do that with Aladdin!" as a response. People love Aladdin, despite the rather iffy claims about the last DVD release and how it fared.

So if they do convert Aladdin, it'll follow the Lion King/Little Mermaid pattern: It'll hit theaters for a limited time in September 2014, then the Diamond Edition will street in October.

Then after that, we'll get The Jungle Book in spring 2015. If Disney plans to re-release Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio on Blu-ray as Diamond Editions, those should be out in fall 2015 and spring 2016 respectively. However, The Jungle Book may show up in 2014. Maybe. But I can't see that happening, since Dalmatians is out overseas. I don't think Disney will make us wait till 2015 for Dalmatians.

Having covered all of the canon animated features, what else? A Goofy Movie is long overdue for a suitable home media release, so a Blu-ray release may show up next year since Disney is content with releasing non-canon animated films alongside the main animated films. It will probably be packaged with its sequel (An Extremely Goofy Movie) as well. Other Winnie the Pooh spin-off films should show up soon as well, from Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin to Piglet's Big Movie. How about other films based on Disney animated shows? DuckTales The Movie - Treasure of the Lost Lamp was released as a Disney Movie Club exclusive for some strange reason, it never got a proper in-store DVD release. The other films based on their own animated shows will probably not see a release anytime soon either, as they are mostly forgotten, though something like Recess: School's Out could be released.

What about The Reluctant Dragon, So Dear To My Heart and Mary Poppins? Well, Mary Poppins will most likely street in 2014 for the film's 50th anniversary. There's no way Disney will avoid this. The Reluctant Dragon's last release (I'm talking about the film of course, not the short subject) was part of the Walt Disney Treasures set Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio in 2002. So Dear To My Heart is currently a Disney Movie Club exclusive. Why that film was never given a regular DVD release is beyond me, since it was issued on VHS a few times in the 1990s.

The last two films containing animation that I haven't covered are Victory Through Air Power and Song of the South. We know the latter isn't getting a release anytime soon (Disney, just release it, will ya?), the former is a product of its time. It's certainly not something for family viewing, and not mainstream in any way. The only way we can own this film is by getting the Walt Disney Treasures set On The Front Lines. Will Disney launch a new collectors' series of Blu-ray releases containing this kind of stuff? Probably not, since the format may very well be on its way out by 2015 or so.

As for Song of the South, there is a way Disney can release it. Last year, Warner Bros. put out the first volume of the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection. All of the shorts on the set are unaltered with the politically incorrect humor, complete with a warning at the beginning of each disc that can't be skipped. I said this before in a Blu-ray update video on YouTube: Disney should do this with Song of the South, release it as an adults-only collector's release and put a warning on it. That way, it can finally be seen! But since this is Disney, a corporation so hell-bent on keeping such a squeaky-clean image, my hopes are nothing more than a pipe dream.

Now that I've covered animation, what about live action?

This year, Disney put out some live action titles. Some of which were Touchstone titles like The Color of MoneyAdventures in BabysittingDick Tracy and the Father of the Bride films. Titles released after the 1980s like Newsies, Hocus Pocus, the Santa Clause films, Heavyweights and The Princess Diaries films also came out. The Muppets films that they own are also coming out as well, which kicked off with the release of The Muppet Christmas Carol last month. Now the quality and content of these releases are debatable, but let's face it, Disney is really starting to release everything.

However, only one pre-1980 live action Disney film is on Blu-ray, Babes in Toyland. Other classics such as The Absent-Minded Professor (and it's sequel, Son of Flubber) are slated for next year, so this means that we may see more of the live action classics on Blu-ray soon. When will we get classics like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Pollyanna and The Love Bug? Since Disney's live action library is massive, we'll probably see tons of them coming out in the next two years or so.

That makes me wonder though, what about the not-so-beloved live action titles? Disney has had several live action clunkers that didn't really appeal to anyone other than children, so will those ever get a release? Or will those simply show up on Netflix? Will we also see long buried live action titles like Trenchcoat and Midnight Madness? Perhaps, Disney has no reason to give them to another distributor (i.e. Anchor Bay), so they should get a suitable (if quiet release) sometime soon.

TV shows? Hopefully we'll be getting some of the classic Disney animated TV shows on Blu-ray sometime soon, but Disney didn't really fulfill fans' wishes during the DVD era. They started with releasing The Adventures of the Gummi Bears and then got as far as getting halfway through Darkwing Duck, releasing 52 out of the series' 91 episodes on DVD. So we did get a good amount of the Disney Afternoon material like Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers and Talespin, but not everything. Will they give us all of this plus what they haven't on Blu-ray? Probably not.

Other 80s and 90s-era TV shows like Dinosaurs and Boy Meets World may or may not get a release as well, and I don't see them releasing anything afterwards as complete sets anytime soon. Again, they'll probably just save that for Netflix.

From the looks of it, the future of Disney Blu-ray seems pretty predictable. Disney will release things all at once and as quickly as they can, as online streaming continues to dominate. A few of the classics are already available on Netflix, but they are some of the not-so-successful (sales-wise) titles like The Aristocats and The Great Mouse Detective. Disney making that deal with Netflix pretty much adds to the predictability of their home media division's future. This makes me worry a bit.

A few years ago, when DVD had no competition from any home media format (Blu-ray took some time to really take off), Disney released almost all of their library whether it was in the form of Treasures sets or stand-alone releases. Almost all of the live-action titles were eventually released, including obscurities left and right. Unfortunately, a lot of them were issued with poor picture quality and some weren't even presented in their correct aspect ratio! They were just released, but with no bells or whistles. I feel the same may happen for their Blu-ray releases as well, but this time, poor image quality just won't cut it.

Again, a good number of their recent Blu-rays either have poor picture quality (The Color of Money is a fine example), picture quality that could've been much better (The Fox and the Hound) or don't have enough bonus features (The Rescuers two-movie collection). While Blu-ray may not last much longer (I hope it lasts long enough!), Disney should still take their time with these releases and give fans and casual viewers the goods.

Only time will tell...

Update (1/2/13): Atlantis: The Lost Empire was quietly removed from Disney's current release calendar. Originally slated for a March 12th release alongside The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan and Brother Bear, it is now unscheduled. So now it can come out any time this year. I think we'll get it during the summer alongside Hercules and Tarzan.

Update (1/25/13): The Jungle Book is confirmed as the Spring 2014 Diamond Edition title. The Little Mermaid's 3D re-release was cancelled a few days ago, but the Blu-ray is still coming this autumn.


  1. Great analysis! I sincerely hope the reason they're holding off releasing Aladdin as a Diamond Edition in 2013 is because they want to release it in 3D in 2014. Fingers crossed!

  2. I hope Disney goes the route after bluray to convert more or most of their stuff to 3d. I also wonder if this is really the end of the bluray , I mean people will always want to have a physical copy in their hands and part of their collection. I mean bluray won't just fade away, after all there will be other movies release and they have to be put on some for the format and bluray seems the way to go...

  3. What about The Mighty Ducks live action trilogy (I want it on Blu-ray!) I also want the Disney Afternoon animated series too.