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Disney animated movies

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Disney releases it’s “classic” animated films on DVD and video, then pulls them from the shelves, for up to 10 years apparently. This sunk in the other night as I was watching a commercial for Beauty And The Beast. From what I’ve garnered in my reasearch, this has been Disney’s policy for years and years. I had never noticed until the line “This is your last chance to own this enchanting DVD, then it goes into the vault for 10 years!” caught my attention.

In my travels to understand this particular marketing strategy, I came across this bit in an old E! Online News article:

The Mouse House used to keep its ‘toons on moratorium for up to 10 years, taking them out of circulation to build demand for the next release.

Over the next two years, the company will put the bulk of its animated library–films like Dumbo, Sleeping Beauty, The Hunchback of Notre Dame–out simultaneously on DVD and video and keep them on store shelves for good. Twenty-six films in all will be permanently available.

But Disney will set aside 10 other films–the company’s crown jewels–as the so-called “Platinum Collection,” which will rotate in and out of stores. Only one Platinum title will be released a year, beginning with Snow White in the fall of 2001. Other Platinum titles include Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Bambi, The Jungle Book, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians.

Another article I found, which is a transcript from the Wall Street Journal, at digital bits, goes on to state that this is a radical departure from the previous strategy:

:That would be a major departure from the company’s longtime strategy of rotating its animated films in stores, keeping each title off the market for a period of seven to 10 years.

Disney’s longtime video-release strategy was based on the idea that keeping each film out of circulation for a few years would create demand for a re-release every few years. Now, Mr. Eisner says: “My sense is that we have to keep 15, 16, 17 movies on a 10-year cycle, with the other movies maybe available more on demand.”

There are more articles out there with basically the same concepts. Most of them also state that at the time this decision was made, the video sales numbers were disappointing to Disney. It would seem to me that as you release and/or re-release a title on video/DVD, you should do a huge marketing blitz, then leave them on the shelves. I for one, don’t necessarily run out and buy a title when they are strongly marketing it. Sometimes, it takes me quite a while to get around to buying it, for whatever reason. If you only have them on the shelves for a limited time, then pull them, it doesn’t give the opportunity for the slowpokes to get around to buying them. There have been times when I’ve been in a store for something completely different and ended up walking out with an old movie on DVD, simply because it caught my eye.

I think it’s a simple concept that if you have the title available people may buy it regardless of marketing. If you don’t have it available, they can’t buy it. Additionally, with the advent of digital technology, aren’t you just encouraging the movie pirates to make it available on their own? I would think that keeping them on the shelves would generate sales, even if you don’t have a strong marketing campaign behind the movies at that particular time.

I’m just very confused at the aim of this strategy. Does pulling them off the shelves and re-releasing them after 10 years generate more income than simply leaving them on the shelves for that same period of time and letting the “line of site” sales generate income? Does it make the re-release more of an affair? I know that many movies that are being re-released are generating piles of revenue, simply because of the DVD format and the “extras” that are usually included on the DVD release. I for one, have bought titles on DVD that I previously had on video, simply to have all the extras. It would seem to me that simply re-releasing each title on DVD with the extras would be enough to generate additional sales.

Even taking into account the vast number of titles in the Disney catalogue, only having them available “for a limited time” seems like a flawed strategy to me. It might generate more short-term sales, but doesn’t it seriously impede long-term sales?

The current list of “disapearing classics”:
Beauty And The Beast
Beauty And The Beast: Enchanted Christmas
Cinderella II: Dreams Come True
Peter Pan
Return To Never Land
The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea

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About Jim Schwab

  • Dew

    I agree, I did not notice the practice until I was forced into watching Lion King and fell in love with it, only to realize its nowhere to be found. I have waited a better part of 6 years for the re-release (now DVD release) of Lion King and October 7, I get my wish.

    I must admit for the most part the strategy is a good one. Had I been able to buy the VHS when I was in tenth grade when it was first release I would probably not be buying the Special Platinum Edition of the release in October. And I know 3 of my friends doing the same.

  • You seem to miss the point of the strategy.

    If you only have them on the shelves for a limited time, then pull them, it doesn’t give the opportunity for the slowpokes to get around to buying them.

    The whole point of this would be exactly to motivate the slowpokes to jump on it while the getting is good.

    The point about piracy, however, is well taken. That point alone might cause them to have to re-think this strategy.

  • michael

    its no fun to collect something that is on the shelf everyday at the store. et and back to the future also go on the shelf for a limited time. the point is to have fun collecting them and cherishing them and share with your family. not to get upset because you dont have it and make illegal copies of it.

  • Eric Olsen

    Like everything else with Disney, the point is to control the terms, and since they have the goods, they can get away with it. This is why many take such glee from a Disney bomb: imperiousness only works if people feel they need your stuff.

  • EbayMom

    You can always get them from Amazon or eBay, however, this costs more. What’s a mom to do? My 3 year old won’t want to watch Beauty and the Beast when she’s 13.

  • michmich

    I just came across this myself and like “e-bay mom”, I have a 4-year old who won’t want Beauty and the Beast when she’s 14 either. 10 years is a LONG TIME especially when you’re a kid. I don’t get it!! These movies are for KIDS!!!!