Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why No Title Card?

Walt Disney Home Video has had a rather weird habit of editing the opening title cards out of feature films, and in fact they still somewhat do this to this day. Yes, this kind of ties in with their recent egregious logo plastering (basically, replacing the original logo with a more current one), but as far back as the good ol' days, you didn't get all of Disney's films in 100% complete form. I mean, yes, it's only a logo… But the absence of the logo means you're missing a tiny portion of the complete film.

Starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney feature films and short subjects were distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. Starting with Pinocchio, the credits sequences were preceded by a custom RKO title card. In Pinocchio's case, it was carved into wood. Dumbo's had a circus poster-looking one, Bambi's resembled the credits' minimalist forest paintings. And so on… Each film had its own unique RKO title card.

Then RKO had become a mess after Howard Hughes had taken over, multiple troubles ensued, Walt and Roy O. Disney then formed their own distribution company, naming it after the street where the studio was located. To keep going with the tradition of showing the distributor name before the "Walt Disney presents" title cards in opening credits sequences, Disney basically created a title card for their brand new distribution division. It looked like this…

This was one of the two common versions of the logo. It can be seen on many films released from 1953 to 1965, and re-issues from around the time. Some post-1965 films use it, too.

This brighter-looking variation was the second common version, which was used from the mid-1960s up until 1979, only one or two titles used this after that year.

There was no "common" RKO title card. Each one was different, but most of the time, Disney used the above BV title cards for multiple films and short subjects. Other times, they'd create cool variations. This mostly occurred in the 1950s, most of the 1960s and 1970s Disney films use the blue gradient logos.

Anyways, here are some BV title cards that were custom-made for their respective films…

When the various Disney films were released on home video in the early 1980s, most of the time, the Buena Vista title cards would be absent. RKO? Forget that, an RKO title card wouldn't be restored until the 1990s. (The earliest example I can think of is the 1992 VHS of Treasure Island.)

In the early 1980s, some titles like Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland contained the BV cards, complete with the blue MPAA screen before them!

In the mid 1980s, they were very hard to come across!

Also, theatrical re-releases around this time either moved the BV cards to the end, or removed them altogether!

Judging by the 1999 VHS and 2003 DVD, the 1989 theatrical re-issue prints of The Rescuers open with the 1985 Walt Disney Pictures logo (no music, instead the thunder clap noise that was heard over the BV card in the original version) and end with a silent BV logo. One Hundred and One Dalmatians' 1991 re-issue, judging by the 1992 VHS, opens with the 1990 Walt Disney Pictures logo and the BV card shows up at the very end of the film.

Reader attmay discovered what I assume to be a 1987 Cinderella re-issue print; attmay says it ends with the 1979 BV card but opens with the 1985 Walt Disney Pictures logo. My best guess is that a 1979 BV card was added to the end of the film on the 1981 re-issue prints, and it wasn't edited out of the updated 1987 prints.

Now, I assume that all 1980s-era re-issues of Disney films had the BV logos at the end of the films, and the home video editions edited them out.

So… Why did Disney move BVs to the end of the films in the 1980s?

Disney replaced the RKO logos on their films in the 1950s for a simple reason: The company had the distribution rights to all of its films, RKO no longer did. That being said, they still kept the opening credits fanfares when replacing the logos. Disney clearly didn't want to omit the opening beats from credits songs…

For example, Pinocchio originally opened with the RKO logo back in 1940. A four-second composition plays over it, a piece of music that's part of the opening credits song, "When You Wish Upon a Star". For its post-1953 re-releases, Disney simply swapped the RKO logo with the BV logo. The same music plays over the BV logo. Props to Disney for wanting to preserve the full opening credits themes for their films; creating a still logo/title card was the best way to replace the RKO logo and keep the music at the same time. Modern Disney needs to take cues from this Disney. Why? We'll get to that in a few!

Prior to 1985, Disney didn't have their own logo. No big mountain, no golden tower with searlights around it, no spinning globe, no lady with a torch… Each Disney film would begin with an RKO or BV title card, and then the text "Walt Disney presents"/"Walt Disney Productions presents" would be part of the credits sequence. There was no true Disney logo…

Disney finally created one in 1985, which made its debut in the opening seconds of Return to Oz. On that film, it's silent (no cheery music) and the only animation in it is the curved line going from the "y" to the "W". The Black Cauldron, released the following month, uses the full version we all know and love with the music intact. Around this time, Disney films now had end credits rather than opening credits, so "Distributed by Buena Vista" was mentioned at the end of the credits. No title cards! (Except the Roger Rabbit shorts.)

I'm guessing when Disney finally got their own studio logo, they wanted that to be the center of attention - none of this Buena Vista business. The title card wasn't the most appealing thing ever, either nor did it scream "Disney"; a nice castle and a rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star" is definitely more appealing. They probably figured that moving the cards to the final seconds of the classic films was enough, because BV had to be mentioned somehow. The plan was smart actually, they could show off their new logo while still making mention of the real name of the distributor. Problem is, many Disney films had the beginnings of their opening credits themes playing over the RKO or BV title cards. By cutting out the card and using the WDP logo with its music, they chopped off 4 seconds of the opening fanfares.

Just watch a VHS of a Disney animated classic from the 1980s or 1990s. The 1988 videocassette and LaserDisc of Cinderella opens with the '85 Disney logo, followed by the "Walt Disney presents" title card. No RKO or BV card, no music. Just watch… The credits music just abruptly starts up! Bambi's VHS from 1989 doesn't have an RKO card or BV card, just a blank screen with the fanfare playing over it before "Walt Disney presents" shows up. The 1990 Peter Pan VHS opens with the 1985 Walt Disney Pictures logo and then the "Walt Disney presents" title card, the LaserDisc tacks a Buena Vista logo to the end of the film; more evidence that Disney moved the BV cards to the film's endings on re-releases in the 1980s.

I just wonder, why did Disney go to great lengths to hide this logo? Moving it to the end of the films to make the 1985 and 1990 Walt Disney Pictures logos the center of attention is one thing, but editing them out altogether?


By the early 1990s, things began to slowly change.

Dumbo's updated tape master from 1991 opens with the Buena Vista logo, with the music intact. This is also preserved for the 1994 video release. The 2001 DVD and VHS restored the original RKO logo. The Sword in the Stone's updated master from 1991, like Dumbo's, also opens with the Buena Vista logo with the music intact.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians' earliest printings - this is an early 1992 release - end with the silent Buena Vista logo. Later on, the video editors put Mark Elliot's voice and the weird variation of the Walt Disney Home Video logo over it for some odd reason. More on this on another blog post…

The 1992 video release of The Rescuers opens with the Buena Vista logo, complete with the classic castle thunder sound effect. The 2012 Blu-ray actually reveals that the logo was longer, it was silent for a couple seconds and then the thunder crashes.

The 1993 video release of Pinocchio, lifted from the restoration used for the 1992 theatrical re-release, opens with the Buena Vista logo w/ music.

The 1994 video release of The Fox and the Hound keeps the logo intact as well. It was silent on that film, though the ending one is omitted. The Blu-ray has that, not sure about the 2000 and 2006 DVDs.

We began to see the RKO logos on various films, until most tapes and DVDs had them intact. By 2000, we'd get a lot of the films complete with their original title cards. Thumbs up for Disney right there.

But yet errors still occurred well into the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection era…

Bambi's 1997 VHS has the RKO fanfare, but no logo. The LaserDisc on the other hand has the logo intact. Cinderella's 1995 VHS uses the BV, the LaserDisc uses the RKO card.

The Jungle Book's 1997 VHS doesn't open with the Buena Vista logo nor contains the music. The DVD, after urging from home theater buffs, slightly corrected this. The 1999 DVD uses the wrong Buena Vista logo (the 50s one as opposed to the mid 60s-late 70s logo), as recently evidenced by what's on the 1990/1991 demo tape of the film that was used to promote the film's initial 1991 video release.

Some films still had no logo. This also includes live action films.

Even now, Disney can't seem to get every title right.

The 2011 Diamond Edition of Bambi is the worst offender. There's no RKO title card, there's no BV, there's no shortened Walt Disney Pictures logo from 1990… Nope, we get the 2006 CG castle logo with the fanfare playing over it! This contrasts heavily with the era the film was made in, plus it clashes with the opening credits. Where was the RKO card? If it was on the LaserDisc from 1997, why wasn't it on here? Heck, why wasn't it on the 2005 Platinum Edition DVD?

Luckily, the other Diamond Edition titles restore the RKO and Buena Vista cards. The Platinum Edition DVDs were also very good in this department as well, save for a few titles. Some titles added the 2006 WDP logo before the Buena Vista (such as One Hundred and One Dalmatians) and at the end, but otherwise, this series was pretty consistent.

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