Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Theory Regarding the 1988 Classics Logo...

To anyone new here or anyone new to Disney VHS collecting, let me explain the Walt Disney Classics logo Disney used on their "Classics" titles from 1988 to 1994...

Three variants of this logo existed. The one above is the second, and the most common variant.

The first variant, as you might assume, isn't very common.

Starts at 1:19...

The big differences as you can see, are the gradient background, a diamond that looks more like an entirely metal plaque than a frame, and slightly different color work altogether. It definitely feels a bit more 80s then its successors. Cinderella, released on video in fall 1988, used this very variant. It was the first tape to sport the Sorcerer Mickey Classics logo, period.

A year later, WDHV releases Bambi on video. However, the second variant makes it debut here...

Starts at 1:10...

No gradient background, no metal plaque diamond, and brighter colors. Same music and animation, but with a different coat of paint. Nonetheless great-looking and great-sounding...

Now, for years, I and many collectors wondered why Disney was so quick to scrap the gradient/metal diamond variant in favor of an all-blue background version. Did they just find it unappealing? Did they make a couple of variants shortly after completing the logo, and then settled on the gradient one for the Cinderella release, only to choose the all-blue one for future releases?

I think I know why now, though again... This is just a theory.

This... Right here, is why they scrapped the gradient variant.

Believe it or not, prior to the introduction of this iconic castle logo in 1985, Disney didn't have a proper logo that started off their films! Every film would simply begin with a title card for either RKO (Disney's distributor from 1937 to the mid-1950s) or Buena Vista (Disney's own distribution arm, renamed Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures in 2007). The text "Walt Disney presents" or "Walt Disney Productions presents" (for films made after Walt's passing) would be part of the films' respective opening credits sequences.

The castle logo would be introduced right around the time of the Disney enterprise's re-branding to The Walt Disney Company...

Disney had used the castle logo for a good 21 years, finally retiring it in 2006 and introducing a lavish, all computer animated, and quite dazzling castle logo that kept true to the look and feel of this very logo. Complete with 'When You Wish Upon a Star' and a trail arching over the castle. Too bad it just says "Disney" nowadays, though. It should be "Walt Disney Pictures"!

Anyways, the original logo has an all-blue background.

I suppose they changed up the Classics logo to resemble it a bit, as that logo would mostly be following it on the tape programs. Makes for an effective transition.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Disney was apparently so happy with this logo that when re-issuing older films, they would use it to replace the Buena Vista logo. The common Buena Vista logo had a gradient blue background, which could explain the 1988 variant of the Classics logo...

The routine was to put the castle logo at the beginning of the films, and put the BV card at the very end of the film. Of course, as Disney historian would know, all post-50s re-issues of RKO-distributed Disney films plastered the BV card over the RKO. Most of the video releases using these 80s/early 90s prints, however, left off the Buena Vista card altogether. They wouldn't show up at the end! There are some exceptions, like the 1992 videocassette of 101 Dalmatians and the 1990 LaserDisc of Peter Pan. By the mid-90s, they began restoring the Buena Vistas AND the RKO logos for films that came out prior to the mid-50s.

Anyways, that's my theory. They changed the Classics logo's background color scheme to reflect the Walt Disney Pictures logo.

Now what about the diamond itself?

As a graphic designer, I can see why they made the diamond look like a frame in the later variants. With the first variant, it seemed like they were trying to emulate the look of the diamond on the packaging. The diamond on Classics packaging looks like a solid object, with a dark surface and shines. However, the 1988 variant looks a bit strange. The metal and the black don't quite mesh that well, so the frame design in the end works out better.

Then there are the two 1992 variants of this logo. Both look the same, one sounds a bit different from the other, though...

Starts at 1:39...

Starts at 3:04

Variant #4 sounds a bit thicker, doesn't it?

Why these came to be, I have no idea at this point, though I did read a good theory that the logo master wore down causing the logo to look a little more tinted. Either that, or it was a decision made by the logo-makers and Disney themselves? I don't know if I quite buy the idea that the master wore down, because the 1989 logo accidentally popped up on the 1996 Masterpiece Edition VHS of Pocahontas and looked crisp, not to mention it had the original jingle and not the bass-heavy one.

Of course, we all know about the bass-heavy version of the music that showed up in fall 1992 and was heard from then until... Early 2000... How did that come to be? Maybe they wanted something that sounded epic? Something that sounded bigger? Something for your then-cutting edge home theater system? Until I meet someone who worked on these logos, I can't answer that question. Or maybe we'll come across something one day that answers it all.

Lastly, I have a theory regarding the switch to the Masterpiece Collection. Perhaps they created a new line as a sort-of excuse to make a logo that incorporates the Disney Castle itself? As much as I love the Classics logo in all its forms, a rhombus with Art Deco text may not exactly scream "Disney". Actually, that's kind of what I love about it.

Anyways, what do you think? Have any theories?


  1. I'm betting that bass-heavy variation of the Classics theme from 1992-1994 was probably due to deterioration of the master used for the logo, having used it so many times by that point. Probably something to do with how analog video was. It could've been their main master they used, and they could've had at least one backup master (and that's what got used on the early "Pocahontas" VHS printings.)

    Of course I mentioned my fictional idea of a lavish CGI version of the 1988-1994 Classics logo reminiscent in style of the 2006-present Walt Disney Pictures logo (though it'd still use the original full-length 1988-1994 theme, of course). And given how they enhanced the 2006 Disney logo for 3D, it would sure be cool to see a 3D version of the Walt Disney Classics logo too!

    1. I don't know, it is odd. On further listens of the unaltered Classics jingle on a great sound system, I realized that the bass-heavy sound is actually in the original version! But it's mixed to the point where it's rather hard to hear, it's basically a lower-key version of the tuba-like hum that opens the 1986 Walt Disney Home Video logo. You can hear it well at the very beginning of the logo, but when the other synthesized instruments take over, it's drowned out. It's like a prolonged note.

      I now think the 1992 muffled/bass-heavy/distorted variant basically amped up that layer of the composition. It's a bit similar to how the 1986 Walt Disney Home Video logo went from a harder, denser sound to a cleaner one in the early 90s-onwards.

  2. One of my theories is that the first Masterpiece Collection tapes printed have the Sorcerer Mickey Walt Disney Home Video logo rather than the Masterpiece Collection logo. Also, the Masterpiece Collection logo has a remix of the Classics jingle or the Classics jingle itself, and the early Pocahontas tapes have the Sorcerer Mickey Classics logo on them.

    My theory is that even though it was a "new" line and had new clamshell designs with the Masterpiece emblem, the tape programs themselves would have retained the Sorcerer Mickey Classics logo before the movies before plans changed; they created the new logo just past Jeffrey Katzenberg's official exit from Disney.

    1. Regarding that, I actually have a copy of the 1994 "Alice in Wonderland" Masterpiece Collection VHS that actually has a 1993-printing tape, featuring the 1991-1994 ink label and the Sorcerer Mickey Classics logo at the start before the film. I imagine they cleared out old stock of their Classics tapes by packaging them in Masterpiece Collection cases.