Monday, September 28, 2015
'Robin Hood' on Television
Last December, the very release that launched the Classics line had turned 30. The very film that started the line was Robin Hood...
Not too long after the video release, the film was then shown on television via The Disney Channel...
As a lot of us knew for a long time, The Sword in the Stone was shown on television prior to its first North American home media release.
Back when Robin Hood was on its way to home video, there were discussions at Walt Disney Home Video on what would be next in the line. Their marketing director at the time, Richard Fried, said that The Sword in the Stone would be next.
Why that film? Why was Robin Hood first anyway, out of all the Disney animated classics?
For those who aren't in the know, Disney was hesitant to release any of their animated classics sans a select few to home media. They were holding on to Walt Disney's rule, as Walt did not believe in showing his animated films on television. He wanted to keep theatrically re-releasing them so they can make more bank, especially films that didn't go over well on their initial releases, such as Pinocchio and Bambi. Films that were mostly the victim of unfortunate circumstances.
Disney kept these films locked away, and would only bring them out when theatrical re-releases were planned. The cycle would be roughly every 6-10 years. Walt, however, opted to show two features on television, albeit in edited form: Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland. My guess is that he chose those two because the former made its money back on its initial release and was a very short feature at 64 minutes, while the latter was a critical/commercial failure. Supposedly Walt himself wasn't happy with Alice in Wonderland.
There were also the package features. The individual segments of those were shown on television instead, for the full unedited features didn't see theatrical re-releases. The Three Caballeros was re-released in edited form in 1977, or as Disney marketing called it, "Featurette Form".
This all explains why Dumbo, The Three Caballeros, Fun & Fancy Free, Alice in Wonderland, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh were released on home video prior to the launching of the Classics line...
With a line meant for the Disney animated classics created during the growth of the home media industry, what would be chosen first? Disney didn't want to take a huge risk, they decided to gamble with a not-as-well-liked picture. Robin Hood certainly has its fans, but among the Disney animated films made up until the early 1980s, it wasn't the best-received by critics though it was a smash hit back when it was first released. It was certainly no Snow White or Pinocchio...
Like Robin Hood, The Sword in the Stone was also a film that wasn't met with the same love that the likes of Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, what have you, got. It made sense that this was going to be the next title, but when Robin Hood was coming to home media... Disney had changed.
The management was mostly gone, with Michael Eisner fresh from Paramount taking over as CEO of the company. He saw big money in home media, and argued that Pinocchio was making nothing sitting in the vault. Pinocchio had recently been theatrically re-released, so the company's sights were now on making what is commonly called the greatest animated film of all time the next Classics release... And did they...
The Sword in the Stone was instead shown on the Disney Channel, and its listing in that ad was mostly likely the world premiere. The Sword in the Stone would get the Classics treatment months later, in March 1986.
Alice in Wonderland is interesting because its initial home media release (which arrived in 1981) went out of print sometime in 1983 or 1984. Dumbo didn't, neither did the package features. I guess TV airings were the only way to catch Alice if you didn't own the video release back then, unless you knew someone who had it. Alice in Wonderland got the Classics treatment in May 1986, and didn't go out of print for a long time after that. Pinocchio, after a strong run from summer 1985 to spring 1986, was later shown on the Disney Channel sometime in 1986 as well.
Also... Notice what's below The Disney Channel logo? "For the family. All of it."
Where is that Disney Channel nowadays?