This article was written by our good friend and contributor, Michael Wermuth.
Michael Wermuth- There’s a lot of Disney things I like to talk and think and read about. I’m sure we all have those Disney things we like to talk about, and those that we really like to talk about. So today, I present a list of the top ten Disney things that I most like to talk about, but don’t always know the answer to. Share your thoughts below on your biggest Disney ponders.
1) The Pre-Mickey Mouse history
Walt Disney’s history before the creation of Mickey Mouse is fascinating, with the Laugh-O-Grams (which I really don’t know anything about. Does Disney still own the rights to those? Do they still exist?), Alice Comedies, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. One of Walt Disney’s famous quotes is, “I hope we don’t lose sight of one thing, that it all started with a mouse”, but actually, it started with all these. Yeah, the Disney company as we know it seems to have taken off with the success of Mickey Mouse, but if it weren’t for Disney initially losing the rights to Oswald and not wanting to compromise the pay increase he wanted, Disney animation (maybe even animation in general) might not be what we know today.
2) The History of Disney’s Muppet Ownership
Both the history when Jim Henson tried to sell the Muppets in 1989 and when Disney actually bought the Muppets in 2004, and all the Muppet stuff that has come out since then. As well as what all Disney actually owns, what Muppet productions are owned by other companies (distributor-wise), the history of the Muppet attractions at the theme parks and Disney’s pre-2004 works with the Jim Henson Company. The Muppets have a long history with being purchased by Disney, and a years-old attempt to buy the company, which led to two theatrical partnerships in the 90s, finally came true in 2004 with the purchase of The Muppets properties and Bear in the Big Blue House from the Jim Henson Company.
3) The Black Cauldron being such an odd part of history
The Black Cauldron is an interesting part of Disney history. It is one of the companies least successful films, one that the company has been ashamed of for years, one that many Disney fans seem to dislike, is the only theatrically-released animated Disney film from the 1980s to have never been rereleased in theaters, took more than a decade before it was released on video, and was the first animated Disney film to be rated PG, something that would not happen with other animated Disney films until a decade and a half later. I think it’s also the first animated Disney film to actually have end credits.
I first heard of this movie in 1995, when I went to Walt Disney World and picked up a Disney trivia book, which had pages for every movie from Disney’s animated canon, including this one. It’s not the only movie I first heard of via this book, but it is interesting that they put in trivia questions for a movie that hadn’t been seen in nearly a decade. I’ve seen it two times, and I thought it was alright, I’m not a big fan of fantasy adventure films, but there are things I like about this film (like Gurgi, and John Hurt’s voice acting as the Horned King), though when I finally saw it I think I liked it a lot more based on the fact that it was a former rarity than anything else (and I think it had been on video for two years before I got around to finally seeing it).
4) The Fact That Disney Kept Certain Movies from Home Video Releases for So Long
When the concept of home video started to take off in the early 1980s and Disney was releasing its films on home video, it was decided not to release the majority of its animated films on video, on the grounds that the company was still rereleasing its animated films in theaters every several years. I’ve heard that there was even a list of movies to not release on video, I think the only non-package films on that list were ones that actually had been broadcast on network TV, which I wonder what the big deal is (I assume they were broadcast back when people didn’t have VCRs).
But over time, less and less movies would be on that list, and by the end of the 1980s Disney movies would come to video within a year of being released (or rereleased) in theaters, with some movies (such as The Fox and the Hound, The Aristocats, Fantasia, and The Rescuers, not to mention The Black Cauldron) coming to video without a recent reissue. During the early 1990s, a handful of Disney films that had already been released on video (Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty) were re-released in theaters, I’d be interested in seeing what the box office was like for those reissues. And quite a few of the 1990s movies have eventually gotten re-releases at some point, whether it’s an IMAX release of Beauty and the Beast or 3D versions of some of the movies.
And I wonder what made Disney more-or-less “repeal” the policy of not releasing everything on video, though I do have some suspicions. The sudden success of The Little Mermaid probably had something to do with it, not to mention that the 1980s was a time when Disney’s new releases were not as successful as their classics, so the revenue from rereleases of classic films that consumers couldn’t just buy and enjoy anytime they want was probably needed. Or maybe it was just the popularity of home video in general and expectations that anything in theaters would soon come to video.
And if only Disney wasn’t this way in 1986, the last time Song of the South was released, we might have gotten that on video…
5) Why Hasn’t Disney Afternoon Been Re-Released in its Entirety?
I enjoy many of the Disney Afternoon shows, especially Darkwing Duck, but also DuckTales and Tail Spin. Not to mention shows I didn’t really watch much, like Gummi Bears, Goof Troop, and The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa, and I do like to talk a little about Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers, which I watched a lot but don’t really feel the same way about as some of the other shows that I watched. I like thinking about how surprised I was to learn certain shows (Quack Pack, 101 Dalmatians: The Series… Wait, that last one did air on the channel, right?) aired as part of the block (my local station that ran The Disney Afternoon became the local affiliate for The WB in 1995 and replaced it with the Kids’ WB block, so I saw those other shows in other places). It would be cool if they’d release a Disney Afternoon boxed set, maybe a two-disc release with each disc representing the line-up from a certain year, with the Disney Afternoon opening and such.
6) What’s the Deal with Package Films?
Disney’s package films from the 1940s, made in part because three of Disney’s first five animated films did very poorly at the box office during their first releases, and in part because of financial scarcities during World War II. These films – including Saludos Amigos, Fun and Fancy Free, and The Three Caballeros – feature multiple animated segments in one film. Sometimes the segments are close to the length of a typical animated short, sometimes they’re more the length of a television special, and for the most part segments from these would later be shown on television and home video outside of the films they originate from (have any of the four segments from Saludos Amigos been featured anywhere outside of that film?). And in a reversal of this, the three short featurettes that make up The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh were actually released on their own first.
And one thing I wonder about is why Fantasia doesn’t seem to be considered one of these package films, since it is composed of multiple animated segments. Of course that was made before Disney needed to save money by making package films (and was one of the initial box office flops resulting in this need).
7)How Fantasia and Mary Poppins are such long films
Fantasia and Mary Poppins are two Disney films that seem kinda long for children’s movies (of course, these days, a lot of movies in any genre seem to be longer than they used to be, but these came out long before the recent trend of making movies, even family films, longer). I saw them both at young ages and felt back then that they were long. I got Fantasia on video for Christmas in 1991, started watching it but turned it off before it was over, and I don’t think I got around to watching the rest of it for three years (but then I did start watching it a little frequently after that). With Mary Poppins, I rented it, thinking that the majority of the movie would be part animated, but the animated sequence seems to end an hour or so before the movie does. And like Fantasia, I wouldn’t see the movie again until a few years later, but at that point I was able to sit through it all and appreciate it (of course, around that time I was really getting into the Disney Sing-Along Songsvideos, and was especially enjoying the clips from the movie that were included in those videos, so I was really desiring to see the whole movie). So maybe their length is too long for a 7-year-old but not a 10-year-old.
8) Certain Song Lyrics:
It’s common for me to randomly break into song and sing lines from certain Disney songs (not just Disney songs, but many in general, but since this is a Disney fan site…). I’ve mentioned this a bit in my various articles on best Disney songs from different eras. After all, a lot of Disney songs have quotable lines.
9) Recent Disney films being so nostalgic
For the last decade, it seems like a lot of Disney’s more recent movies have had a real nostalgic feel. Of course there’s the sudden flood of live action movies based on films that Disney already made classic animation adaptations of, but there’s also 2011’s Winnie the Pooh, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is very nostalgic for Star Wars fans (and I expect future Star Wars films to be so as well), the last two Muppet movies heavily feature Muppet nostalgia (such as being the only theatrical Muppet films to involve The Muppet Show), and Saving Mr. Banks is a movie about the production process of Mary Poppins, as well as the first Disney film to feature an actor in the role of Walt Disney. And then there’s the recent Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse, which features a mix of black and white and computer animation, features the original Mickey and Minnie designs, and even has existing audio of Walt Disney as Mickey.
10) Disney fairies don’t include more established fairies
Two of Disney’s biggest franchises are Disney Princesses and Disney Fairies, but while the Princesses consists of princesses from its classic movies (and come to think about it, the franchise pretty much spoils the ending of certain movies by including characters who don’t become princesses until the end of the movie… Hmm, maybe that’s why non-princesses Pocahontas and Mulan are included), but aside from Tinker-Bell, the fairies franchise consists entirely of new characters. No Blue Fairy, no Fairy Godmother, none of the fairies from Sleeping Beauty? Now, I really do like Tinkerbelle, but it would be great if those other fairies could be included. I know, the Blue Fairy and Fairy Godmother are human-sized, but they are good characters (The Blue Fairy more for her attractive-ness, the Fairy Godmother more for how humorous she seems), and if the fairies have to be small, then couldn’t the Sleeping Beauty fairies at least be included?