Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bulgarian Conundrum: Their 'Pinocchio' VHS

This is something that's been... Well... Puzzling me, for a while.

So far, this is the oldest Bulgarian Disney VHS opening I've ever seen

Uploaded by Kristian Tranchev, this VHS of Pinocchio is apparently from 1992...

Yet its opening, with the 1992 distorted Classics logo and the re-release Buena Vista card proceeding the opening credits, looks to be lifted wholesale from the North American VHS re-release of the film... Which hit stores in March of 1993.

Though I'm not sure if it's just the quality of the tape itself (there's a warbling effect all throughout), it appears that this was either bootlegged or something went wrong during the mastering process. The picture's audio is off, and the Classics logo begins when it's a few seconds in. Makes me wonder if Alexandra Video's staff assumed that the Classics logo was actually a legitimate in-film logo for the movie! Of course, we all know the Classics ident and several other WDHV idents were meant just for home video. A Classics logo like this would've never proceeded the films themselves in theaters, but imagine that happening.

(Side note: In April 2007, I went to Walt Disney World. Back in those days, the resorts had a sort-of hidden channel that was somewhere in the upper 90s, the channel in question played non-stop Disney shorts. However, that particular run of shorts had the entirety of the Disney Sing-Along-Songs 'Heigh Ho!' volume, and it began with the green "this has been formatted to fit your screen" card AND the 1986 Walt Disney Home Video logo. Completely caught me by surprise!)

So how did this master hit in Bulgaria months before we got it?

The earliest printings of the 1993 VHS that I know of were from around mid-January of 1993. Mine was printed January 18th. I don't know of any older printings from like late 1992 or so, but masters for these things are made long in advance, as I discovered when talking about the Sleeping Beauty re-release trailer that appears on the 1992 VHS of Beauty and the Beast.

So the master for the 1993 Pinocchio VHS could be from around November 1992. It makes sense, honestly. Why's that? The Aladdin trailer on the opening preview reel is one of the theatrical trailers for the movie, and you can tell.

So, a possible timeline...

June 1992 - A little before the time Pinocchio's final theatrical re-release underperforms at the box office, Disney begins readying tape masters for Beauty and the Beast. The earliest printings have the trailer for the movie's video release at the end of the tape, after the main feature ends. ("Special Preview(s)") Later printings move the Pinocchio trailer to the beginning.

So as far back as early June 1992, weeks before the theatrical release of the restored Pinocchio, they had plans to get Pinocchio on video sometime in the future. Note that the trailer on the earliest BaTB printings is different, it begins with the Walt Disney Pictures logo, and has Brian Cummings as its announcer.

October 1992 - Beauty and the Beast is released on home video.

November 1992 - Aladdin premieres, the theatrical release follows shortly afterwards. The demo tape for the 1993 Pinocchio release, which I have, is printed around this time. (My copy: 11/10/1992)

Beauty and the Beast's tapes were printed as far as back as 4 months before the official release, so that would be June 1992. Let's apply that to Pinoke, the earliest tapes may date back to November, or maybe the master does.

That still doesn't answer the question, though... How did Alexandra Video in Bulgaria get it? Unless the uploader made a typo, this is one heck of a mystery.

European Disney VHS tapes never used American masters. Why? Simple, release patterns in Europe were different from that of American ones. Here in America, the video releases of Disney animated classics often followed their final theatrical re-releases. Pinocchio's a great example. The first video release was in summer 1985, and that followed a relatively unsuccessful Christmas 1984 theatrical re-release. The spring 1993 video release followed the summer 1992 theatrical re-release.

Lady and the Tramp, for a good example, hit VHS in several European territories in the autumn of 1990. The VHS release occurred in late 1990/early 1991 throughout the continent.

Maybe one day, we'll find out...

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