Unlocking The Disney Vault.



Film Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo are still continuing with their Radio 5 show despite the lock-down. During Friday's programme, Simon read out a listener email from someone who was watching their way through all of Disney's theatrical releases in order. Mark indicated what a challenge this was and then was surprised to discover that this was relatively easy outside of the duration because the whole lot is available on Disney+.

He's surprised? I'm flabbergasted. Back when in 2012-2014 when I attempted the same project, the process was much, much harder for the reasons outlined in the video above. For decades, Disney maximized their profits by running something called the vault system in which they would only release films theatrically, on VHS, DVD or BD for a very limited time, sometimes just a few months, until they'd be taken off the shelves and disappear for another five to ten years.

The upshot of which meant I had to gather the titles from a number of sources and in some cases not at all because of the asking price on eBay or Amazon. The DVD of Beauty and the Beast was so rare, I had it at the top of my Lovefilm watchlist for over six months and it still wasn't sent. Eventually it was rereleased on BD, for a limited time thanks to the 3D version turning up, costing a small fortune. Oliver and Company simply wasn't available on DVD so I ended up spending over a tenner on a shonky VHS copy.

Now there they all are in pristine HD prints on Disney+. Almost. Make Mine Music is missing although that has been censored for various reasons over the years, notably gunplay in the opening segment, so it could have been left out for content reasons.   But everything else is there, the so-called "package" films right through to the years and years of quest narratives, right up to Ralph Breaks The Internet with Frozen II appearing the UK in the next couple of months (it's already on the US version).  Wow.

Something which the above video also highlights is now Disney pioneered the double-dip.  Having released a bunch of titles as vanillas, they quite quickly brought them out again in various packages with special features and often with different extras with each new release.  Remarkably Disney+ has an extras section which includes many of these features including extended documentaries, deleted scenes and songs and a singalong versions.

That's also true across the database.  The Star Wars films have deleted scenes which as far as I can remember have never been available on shiny-disc and not been seen in public in full since the Behind The Magic CD-Rom.  The MCU titles have the One Shots in these extras sections along with director's commentaries as their own streams (notably Endgame).  Avatar has a child friendly dub.   It's quite addictive just bringing up titles to see what's hidden in there and to puzzle as to the choices.

So this is one of the few occasions when it's possible to say that yes, everything is available.  How this business model will sustain itself going forward is anyone's guess.  The shift from scarcity to the exact opposite and for a much smaller price to the consumer, an annual subscription costing the same as three new blu-ray releases seems like an incredible risk.  But with the home sale market dwindling, perhaps eventually this will the only way for some people to see these old films.

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