When Open Vault Disney first formed in 2010, our focus was on the Walt Disney Treasures line and various Disney Afternoon shows. The release of both on DVD had come to a halt, despite the large amount of material still “in the vault.” We wanted to see the retail release of the remainder of these collections. It did not take very long for us to discover that Disney fans wanted more than just these two collections on DVD and that attitudes towards “vintage” titles being released were changing over at Disney Home Entertainment. We widened our interest to all unreleased Disney properties, and began to face some harsh realities.
DVD, despite still being the primary home entertainment format, has been slipping in sales. The High-Def media champion Blu-ray, while looking to edge DVD out of the game, has itself not caught on quite the same way DVD did at the same age. Hollywood is not interested in spending money on traditional pressed discs that will sit on store shelves for months, if not years, unsold. Companies that sell these DVD’s and Blu-ray’s also don’t want to see product collecting dust. As a result, most DVD and Blu-ray sections in stores like Wal-Mart or Target are shrinking. This leads to fans getting the same, A-list catalog titles released over and over again as each new format becomes available, and leaving more “obscure” titles left in the cold. As much as we love films like The Lion King and Mary Poppins, we have no worries that titles like that will never be overlooked when a new format comes along. Our focus has always been on titles that never even got a VHS release, the ones that Disney seems to forget.
With all of this in mind, what is a Disney DVD fan campaign to do? In 2009, Warner Bros. provided a very strong answer: DVD-on-Demand, also known as Manufactured on Demand DVDs (MOD). DVD-on-Demand releases are recordable DVD’s (DVD-r’s) of material that the various studios believe would not sell well in retail stores. So far these titles are only available via the internet, with a number of studios opening up their vaults to this service. Disney timidly entered into the world of MOD releases in the Summer of 2011, starting with more obscure TV and theatrical films under their “Generations Collection” banner. Unfortunately, they have seemingly put it on hold. Sales weren’t strong enough because there was next to no advertising, and the DVD’s were lacking in quality. The last releases were early last Summer, only a year after the program began.
It is clear to us at Open Vault Disney that getting this program back up and running is the top priority. We believe that if Disney released whole TV shows via DVD-on-Demand, and if they put more effort into advertising, we are confident their MOD program would succeed. There were simply not enough people who knew about it and the titles released were simple too obscure to get the few fans who knew about it excited. Advertising would not necessarily need to consist of printed ads; a mention on one of Disney’s Facebook or Twitter accounts would do wonders, and would cost next to nothing for them.
Some criticisms about the quality of MOD releases are based in fact. There is some question as to how long they last compared to traditional pressed (retail) DVDs. Sometimes the cost is higher than most of us want to pay. These issues can both be addressed with a larger, stronger MOD program. With the same service Disney used on Amazon, other studios have made titles available with MOD releases, and then re-released the better selling titles on pressed disks in stores. We have little doubt that if shows such as Adventures in Wonderland or Goof Troop were given MOD releases, and they clearly sold well, Disney would be more likely to re-release them in physical stores (or more likely, via the Disney Movie Club Exclusives). As far as the price goes, with a larger collection of titles to pick from, cost would likely to go down over time, and opportunities for sales would be more prevalent.
The odds are that even with millions of fans joining us, it maybe be too challenging to petition Disney to give us these titles as traditional retail DVD’s sold in stores up front. No one here would argue that if it was possible, retail releases aren’t the most desired way to purchase our favorite titles on DVD, but we have to work with what we have. If we band together, we can save Disney’s MOD program, and even help make it stronger than before. Once that is set, we can go after more traditional methods. We have to build our rocket before we can go to the moon. The alternative, sadly, may be that we never enjoy some of these titles ever again. Now is the time to act. Please join us in 2013 as we fight for Disney DVD-on-Demand to come back, better than ever, and let us enjoy the classic, unreleased Disney titles we’ve been yearning for.-Jason M. Schlierman Head Admin, Open Vault Disney/ Disney Afternoon Forever