Monday, October 7, 2013

The Classics Logo... Examined!

A couple of days ago, this very logo turned 25 years old... The Walt Disney Classics logo.

First introduced on the premiere video release of Cinderella on October 4, 1988, this logo appeared on multiple videocassettes and LaserDiscs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Many people who grew up with Disney films on VHS will remember this logo like it was yesterday, I certainly grew up with it, being a 1992 baby. Us collectors love it and it's generally regarded as one of the best home video logos of the era.

The well-known and well-remembered Walt Disney Classics logo came in three different variations, but all retained a similar color scheme and look...

The CLG Wiki, of course, described these logos and many others in great detail... But I'll take my belated stab at it... Well, I've been saying a lot of this about these logos for nearly a decade. After all, I began collecting in 2005, geeked out about it online in 2006, and posted my first video of my collection in 2007... So yeah. Thanks to us, who were there from the beginning plus many dedicated sites, something like "1989 Walt Disney Classics logo" is a Google search suggestion among many others. Yes, even "Paramount Television Closet Killer" is one.

This is what the Classics logo originally looked like, and apparently Walt Disney Home Video's staff didn't care for this color scheme because it was seen on only one release at the time... Cinderella, the first tape to use the brand new Classics logo to begin with. But oddly enough, it showed up on random prints and demo tapes in the future... We'll get to that!

So the next Classics tape to sport this fine-looking logo (it still looks pretty good today, I say) was Bambi -released in September 1989 - which was released nearly a year after Cinderella's first home media release. And...

The people at the company must've liked this one, because you saw it on nearly everything under the Classics banner from 1989 to 1992. Oh wait... It was redone again?

Anyways, gone was the black/blue gradient background and the more metallic-looking diamond. This one sported a full blue background, and the diamond looked more like a frame than a shiny, solid diamond... A frame with blackness around it. A portal to some dark void... (I'm getting ahead of myself here.)

On a side note, when I first saw the 1988 Classics logo, I was shocked since I was only familiar with the 1989 and 1992 versions. I immediately was like "Whoa! This is different!" when the background changed to the black/blue gradient, as opposed to a full blue background.

And this is what you saw from 1992 to 1994... Either the brightness was amped up to eleven, or the logo was given a lighter scheme of blue... But even the lettering looks more bluish. Mickey looks a hell of a lot brighter too! My old theory was that they significantly brightened the 1989 logo, and did some tweaking to the color... But man, talk about a logo that went through quite a few revisions! Still pretty to look at nonetheless, unless if there was a variant where it had like a brown background or something.

However, I came across this discussion on DVDizzy's forums recently (I used to post there,  infrequently). User drfsupercenter presented some theories on why this logo changed over the course of six years...

His theory is that the logo, or the master of it at least, got "screwed up" and it was just used on the last string of Classics VHS releases whilst the LaserDiscs used the 1986 Walt Disney Home Video logo. This makes so much sense now that I think about it, and I never even considered this in my 8 years of Disney videocassette collecting. For many years, I was confused as to why most of the LaserDiscs used the standard WDHV logo other than the the Classics logo. This could also explain the whole "Walt Disney's Masterpiece" deal on the early 1990s video releases of Fantasia and Pinocchio.

Fantasia's video release, which came out in November 1991, used the Classics logo on both the VHS and the LaserDisc. The next Classics release, One Hundred and One Dalmatians (April 1992), would use the bluer Classics logo. There was no LaserDisc edition.

The Great Mouse Detective, released three months after Dalmatians, got a LaserDisc edition. It opens with the Walt Disney Home Video logo, the VHS uses the overly-blue Classics logo.

The Rescuers came next in September 1992... The VHS opened with the overly-blue Classics logo, and its jingle sounded like it was pumped up with bass steroids! drfsupercenter adds that the master might've worn down and got distorted by this time. All VHS Classics releases after The Rescuers contained this logo. But if the master wore down, how come Pocahontas' early printings use the 1989 Classics logo - complete with clean-sounding music?

We'll get to that.

The LaserDisc of The Rescuers on the other hand...

Video courtesy of my good friend/collector Andrew Vickers...

Look at that! The prototype/metallic (I've been calling it that since 2006, along with several other collectors) Classics logo made a comeback! This also appeared on the demo tape of The Rescuers as well (found by fellow collector Matthew C.), also...

Later printings of the 1991 video release of Robin Hood oddly use this logo (the later printings also omitted the two 1991-era previews and replace the red-orange warning screens with green ones). It also appears on the later printings of The Rescuers Down Under's 1991 video release from early 1992-ish... In Canada only, though.

How come that quickly-discarded variant appeared on scattered releases in the early 1990s?

Was it accidentally used on some of these tapes and discs? Or did the editors intentionally put it on some releases because they liked that variant? Or did they get the wrong masters when putting the tapes together? drfsupercenter thinks that the masters got mixed up because they were pressing millions and millions of units, after all, Disney animated films were usually in the top five best-selling videocassettes of their respective years.

The last Classics release with a LaserDisc edition was Aladdin in 1993, the last Classics release was the VHS-only The Fox and the Hound in early 1994. The Classics logo was officially retired, the line was officially retired... In came the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection.

And more anomalies!

Many printings of the early Masterpiece Collection releases use the distorted Classics jingle for the WDMC logo. My print of Dumbo - printed Jan. 17, 1996 - has this version, some LaserDiscs even have it! Bambi and Mary Poppins immediately come to mind, and those were released in the late 1990s! This was distributed alongside the normal Masterpiece Collection logo with the new music, a more updated re-recording of the Classics logo's music.

Remember how I mentioned the early pressings of the Pocahontas' VHS and how they contained the 1989 Classics logo?

The tape was released in February 1996, long after the Classics line had been expired and there were no Classics releases in print at the time: A lot of them were replaced with repackaged Masterpiece editions in 1994 (Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland, for instance), while the others that they didn't replace had already gone out of print prior to late 1995. The Fox and the Hound was the last one to go in the spring of 1995, being the last title to be released in the Classics line.

Anyways, Pocahontas' early pressings are unusual because the tape actually contains the 1989 Walt Disney Classics logo, as opposed to the 1992 variant. The question is... Why the hiccup?

Why would the footage of a logo that was replaced in 1992 still be sitting around in the video editing bay of wherever Disney's home media releases were put together? In fall/winter 1995 no less?
- Why the rush to correct it? Was Disney that meticulous about logos that they immediately noticed this error? I mean, they just didn't let that hiccup slide...

I mean, how does something like that get on there? What, did someone there personally miss the logo and just threw it on the tape as a surprise joke or something. Or was someone given the wrong footage? What if the editor thought he/she was working with the Masterpiece logo for the tape, and maybe the wrong reel/unit of footage was sent to him/her?

Going back to drfsupercenter's theory about the logo master wearing down (hence the blue tint and the distorted-sounding bass-heavy music), this kind of contradicts it. But maybe it was a spare master of the 1989 logo laying around that the tape editors happened to find. But still... How in the world did the Classics logo get on there in the first place? Weird, weird and weird...

Anyways, the error was corrected immediately though a good amount of tapes with the 1989 Classics logo still got out. It was no big deal though, but the correction was a minor one. My copy, which opens with the Masterpiece Collection logo, has a 1/8/96 print date - so the correction was made before the official street date of the tape.

Now was that the last ever appearance of this gem of a logo? Yes, it was the last "appearance"... But you heard it long after 1996!

As I said before, the late 1990s LaserDisc releases of Masterpiece Collection titles like Bambi and Mary Poppins contain the WDMC logo with the Classics jingle - even the Poppins DVD has this! The last time the logo's music was heard was in 2000.

The Walt Disney Company's introduction that appeared on videocassettes in 1996...

Now, hear the Masterpiece Collection logo music at 0:11? Starting in 1999, they replaced that with the distorted Classics logo for music! For what reason? I don't know!

Yep... That logo stayed around in some form! I'm willing to think that someone at Walt Disney Home Video really liked that logo, and just kept it alive in some form - even into the new millennium! Anyways, that was the last time you heard the music from the logo, the last you saw of the logo was in 1996.

Here's to the Walt Disney Classics logo! Here's to its 25 years in existence!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice post! I remember also being surprised by the 1988 Classics prototype logo when I got my "Robin Hood" VHS. I knew something was a bit different when Sorcerer Mickey faded up, but I heard the Classics theme starting up instead of the 1986 Walt Disney Home Video theme. Then when that black/blue background gradient came up, I knew that it was COMPLETELY different from what I was expecting! (Naturally, since I used that VHS tape in my YouTube Poop of the film, "Disney Buys Out Hanna-Barbera," I used it, replacing Mickey with "WeeGee.")

    Now just imagine if the Classics line continued past 1994 into the present, and a new version of the logo's animation eventually came out. I can picture a beautiful CGI recreation of the logo by WETA Digital, complete with the 1988 theme music (even if it's the distorted heavy-on-bass version.)