Monday, February 8, 2016

The Case of 'The Jungle Book' Demo Tape and Other Things...

Two years ago, my Disney VHS collector friend Aubrey got a copy of the demo VHS of The Jungle Book. The one that was made to promote the film's Classics release, the video debut of the 1967 classic...

His copy was strange in that it had one of the weirdest video editing errors I've ever seen on a Disney VHS tape...

The demo VHS begins with the dark red FBI warning screens that Disney introduced in 1986 and scarcely used in the ensuing years. Then it contains a preview of the film itself, the usual previews made for demo tapes meant to convince store owners to buy up batches of tapes, just in case the Disney name itself and the sales of previous releases did not...

After that preview concludes, the film starts, complete with the Buena Vista logo attached. The actual Buena Vista card too, because the film's 1997 LaserDisc and 1999 DVD release use a different one. The 2007 DVD restored the logo it actually had.

Aubrey's copy of the demo tape is an extremely rare, glitched copy... Though it does carry a legitimate 2/5/1991 print date, so we know it's not a bootleg. As the film starts on his copy, the "Walt Disney presents" title card from the film's opening credits is interrupted by a flash of the green 1991 anti-piracy warning screen, and then the 1986 Walt Disney Home Video logo. Then the film starts again, but without the Buena Vista card.

Now, Aubrey found another copy many months after I posted about the glitch copy. That second copy, which he sent to a friend, doesn't have any of the aforementioned editing errors. That copy doesn't cut to the warning screen or the WDHV logo as the film begins, the film plays without any issue.

Now that's really weird in itself. Why would a spare master of The Jungle Book open with the green anti-piracy warnings and the 1986 WDHV logo? Why would it be sitting around the studio in early 1991?

The Jungle Book was a Classics title, like any Disney animated film on video at the time. Perhaps a different master was prepared for the demo tape and they accidentally spliced it with the master they ultimately used for the demo tape? After all, the proper demo tape master begins with the Buena Vista card that Disney usually omitted from the films on video back then. Jungle Book's original video release, like I said earlier, doesn't have the card. Perhaps it was a last-minute, "Oh wait, this is the way it should open!" move. Some of the demo tapes of Classics titles from the era also contained the 1986 WDHV logo, rather than the Classics logo. My Fox and the Hound demo VHS has the 1986 logo.

The green anti-piracy warnings' earliest appearance was on copies of the 1991 Robin Hood VHS that were printed roughly around September 1991. They were ready as early as February 1991?

However... There's The Jungle Book LaserDisc release to take into account. The Jungle Book's LaserDisc counterpart was released in February 1992, and the opening is the same as the one that smash-cuts onto Aubrey's demo tape: 1991 green anti-piracy warnings, 1986 WDHV logo, then the film itself without the Buena Vista card.

Now, a side of the LaserDisc (probably Side 2) ends at the scene where Baloo delivers the one-liner after King Louie's ruins collapse. The next side, of course, begins with the nighttime conversation Baloo and Bagheera have about Mowgli. Aubrey said that on his glitched tape, there is no gradual transition between those two scenes. In the film proper, there's a fade out and fade in... On his tape, the scene jump cuts to the next one! When the film ends, it abruptly stops!

So it's clear that the LaserDisc master was prepped sometime in early 1991, but somehow the LaserDisc ended up not coming out until early 1992! Why is that?

That is something I don't know yet, but would love to know...

But the bigger question is... Why did Disney, if the LaserDisc master for Jungle Book was ready for the film's May 1991 home media debut, wait on releasing the film on LaserDisc?

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