Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Keeping The Classics Special

I picked up this paperback at a yard sale last summer, The Official Disney Trivia Book by Bill Ginch and Fred Miranda. It's from 1988 and it's nothing really special except maybe for offering 20 questions on The Gnome-Mobile and 30 for The Happiest Millionaire!?! However, after leafing through it for a couple of weeks I finally got around to reading the introduction and found a passage that really struck a cord with me:

"We can all recall our first encounters with the Disney mystique without too much trouble. Impressive television and print campaigns everywhere let us know what was coming next from the master himself. You never had to ask Mom and Dad twice to take you to a Disney feature film; they were all too happy to accompany you. A Walt Disney film never left you disappointed. You traveled home from the theatre on a cloud."

The sad thing is, there's no cloud to travel home on anymore. The only way to experience the classic Disney films of yesterday is on television wheter it be by DVD, VHS, or network television. Sure, we've all got our larger screen televisions but even the best home theatre system doesn't compare to taking your kids to see Cinderella, Snow White or Peter Pan on the big screen at your local theatre. Going to the movies is still somewhat of an event, especially for little kids. I'm afraid for a generation of kids there's going to be no difference between one of the classic animated films from Disney's golden years and modern day movies like Ice Age 2 or even Barbie The Island Princess. To kids brought up in this media saturated world everything is just a DVD you pick up at Wal-Mart. The viewing experience of watching a true work of art is just the same as watching the latest made-for-DVD movie. It will be a shame if an entire generation doesn't have an appreciation for the special magic of Walt Disney's animated films. It's a problem that could hurt the Walt Disney Company later down the road.

It was common practice with Walt Disney Pictures to re-release the classic animated films every seven years. Each of the big cartoon movies were on it's own schedule so that every Spring, Summer or Christmas there would be a great Disney classic in the theatre to take the kids to. Every child's first movie going experience was something along the lines of Cinderella, or Lady and the Tramp or Pinocchio. This was done from the earliest days of the studio up until the mid-90's. It seemed with home video making it possible for people to have all their favorite movies at home that releasing 30 to 40 year old movies in the theatre wasn't quite practical. Each of the classic animated films got one last bow in theatres and then were dumped onto VHS where the money kept on pouring in. The last of the features to be re-released to theaters were Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1993 and The Little Mermaid in 1997.

I realize there is a boatload of money to be made from DVD sales, but I can't imagine that releasing Cinderella to theatres at Christmas 2005 and then putting out the DVD the following Christmas could have done anything but bring in extra money from ticket sales and raised the profile of the eventual DVD release.

No matter how you slice it, the very core of the Walt Disney Company - what makes it special, what makes it unique, what makes it magical - is the animated products. Everything else: the books, the music, the theme parks, the tv shows are all off-shoots of Mickey Mouse, Snow White and the films and characters that came after them. If people aren't allowed to take part in these films in a grand theatrical setting, the movies start to blend together with all the other media out there. And without the special-ness of these films, what magic will the Walt Disney Company have to sell to a generation or two from now?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments 100%!

If Disney had any sense, when they put a film back in The Vault from DVD sales, midway through the stay in The Vault, they should re-release the film to theaters.

Some of these films just beg to be seen on the big screen