It was 21 years ago on October 26th, 1999 that Disney started to release their animated classics on DVD in the United States. In order to test the waters with then new DVD format, Walt Disney Home Video released nine of their animated classics on DVD for a 60 day availability window.
The films are as follows :
101 Dalmatians (11/09/1999)
Peter Pan (11/23/1999)
Lady and the Tramp (11/23/1999)
The Lion King II : Simba's Pride (11/23/1999)
The Jungle Book (12/07/1999)
The Little Mermaid (12/07/1999)
Let's start by going over these individual releases and what makes them unique among the other DVD releases that came later.
Pinocchio - Includes the original theatrical trailer, French 1995 partial redub track, and French localized texts as a bonus. THX certified, and is presented in its original 1.33:1 (full screen) aspect ratio. Uses the 1993 laserdisc transfer as the video source. A brand new transfer was given to this title in 2003 outside of North America which restores the RKO logo to the film (the Limited Issue DVD uses the Buena Vista logo; which was also used on the 1993 restored VHS and Laserdisc) and uses a different color palette. Of all of these releases, Pinocchio was the only one to be given a VHS release alongside a DVD release. In 2000, this edition was reprinted under the "Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection" banner. However the contents of that release are identical to the 1999 Limited Issue DVD release with the only difference being the front cover was changed to the "Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection" banner.
Below are two TV commercials advertising the 1999 "60th Anniversary Edition" VHS and the Limited Issue DVD release.
101 Dalmatians - Includes the theatrical trailer for the 1991 re-release (the only home media release to do so), French and Spanish voice tracks in Dolby Surround (2.0) (with localized texts for both), THX certified, and is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio (full screen.) The French localized texts are completely unique to this release (as well as the 1999 Canadian French VHS.) The Spanish version does not contain the dub cast; it only contains the "Walt Disney Presents" card, film title card, and "The End" in Spanish. The Spanish cast was included on the European DVD release.
Hercules - Includes "The Making of Hercules" featurette, Canadian French and Latin Spanish voice tracks (with localized texts and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound), THX certified, and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (which is the same as the laserdisc release.)
In 2000, Hercules was re-released under the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection" banner. Unlike Pinocchio, it was given updated packaging and disc art. But aside from that, the contents and presentation were identical to the Limited Issue DVD release.
In 2014, Hercules was given a Blu-Ray and DVD release. This release was presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 instead of the 1.66:1 aspect ratio from the Limited Issue DVD release.
Mulan - Includes the music videos for "Reflection" by Christina Aguilera and "True to Your Heart" by 98 Degrees & Stevie Wonder, original theatrical trailer, Canadian French and Latin Spanish voice tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (with localized texts and credits for Canadian French only, the Latin Spanish credits appear as images at the end of the film), THX certified, and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (widescreen) or 1.33:1 (full screen) depending on the viewer's choice. Mulan is the only Limited Issue title to offer a choice between widescreen and full screen versions. In 2000, Mulan was given a re-release under the "Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection" banner. Like Pinocchio, the DVD contents are completely identical to the 1999 Limited Issue release with the only exception of the front cover being changed to the "Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection" banner. In 2004, Mulan was given a brand new DVD release with 2 discs. This release was presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1.
Peter Pan - Includes the French 1992 voice track in Dolby Surround (2.0) (with localized texts) and English track in Dolby 4.0, and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Uses the 1998 Laserdisc as the video source. Not THX certified however the previous 1998 VHS and Laserdisc was THX certified. The film re-released on DVD multiple times each with different color palettes; first in 2002 to promote Return to Neverland, in 2007 for the Platinum Edition line, and in 2013 for the Diamond Edition line. The Diamond Edition uses the same transfer as the Platinum Edition.
Lady and the Tramp - Includes the French 1997 and Latin Spanish 1997 voice tracks in Dolby Digital (5.1) (with localized texts), and is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (widescreen.) Another thing to note about the Limited Issue release is that it includes the Latin Spanish 1955 credits instead of the Latin Spanish 1997 credits. Uses the 1998 widescreen Laserdisc as the video source. Not THX certified however the previous 1998 VHSes and Laserdiscs were THX certified.
Why "VHSes and Laserdiscs" ? Well, Lady and the Tramp was given two different VHS and Laserdisc releases in 1998. One release was in widescreen (2.35:1) and the other was in full screen (1.33:1.) What makes the full screen version unique is that it's the Academy ratio version of Lady and the Tramp which was made for cinemas that didn't have the technology to play the Cinemascope version in the 1950s. That release is still the only home media release of the Academy ratio version. The other releases with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio (including the 1987 VHS and Laserdisc release, as well as the 1.33:1 option on the 2006 Platinum Edition DVD) are in pan & scan.
The Lion King II : Simba's Pride - Includes the music video for "Love Will Find a Way" performed by Kenny Lattimore and Heather Headley, the trailer for the film, Canadian French and Latin Spanish audio tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 (Canadian French in 2.0) (with localized texts and credits, for Canadian French only; Latin Spanish contained title card in the film and the dubbing credits separately.) THX certified, and the film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. This is the only DVD release with the Canadian French dubbing; the subsequent DVD releases starting in 2004 used the European French dubbing in order to keep consistency with the Parisian voices from the first and the third film.
The Lion King II : Simba's Pride is notable for being the only film not in Disney's animated classics canon to be released in this line. As for the film itself, it is presented in its unedited form with the original color palette and is the only way to watch the film in its original aspect ratio without the alterations. The most clear examples of editing are the change in color palette and Kovu's reaction in the crocodile scene. These changes were implemented in the 2004 VHS / DVD release onward.
The Jungle Book - Includes the French and Latin Spanish voice tracks in Dolby Surround (2.0) (with localized texts) as the only bonus. Uses the same transfer as the 1997 CAV Laserdisc release which is more valued by collectors for two reasons. The first being the only way to own the film in its proper aspect ratio and the second is that the Limited Issue DVD release is still the only release to contain the original aspect ratio on a digital format. In 2007, The Jungle Book was given a remaster for the Platinum Edition series which cropped the film into 1.75:1 (widescreen) in order to fit modern displays which cut the top and bottom of the film to fit the screen.
The Buena Vista logo on the Limited Issue DVD is incorrect. The one included on the "Platinum Edition" DVD release is the correct one as proven by the 1991 Demo VHS release.
The Little Mermaid - Includes the Canadian French and Latin Spanish voice tracks in Dolby Digital (5.1), (with localized texts) uncensored, and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (widescreen). By mistake, the European French dub credits appear at the beginning of the Canadian French dub on this release. The correct Canadian French dub credits appear during the end credits for the film on the Limited Issue DVD. The correct opening Canadian French credits are included on the 1990 Canadian VHS and 1998 Canadian VHS. Not THX certified, but was THX certified on the previous 1998 VHS and Laserdisc release. Uses the 1998 master as the video source which is uncensored. When The Little Mermaid was re-released on DVD in 2006 for the Platinum Edition line, Disney went back and censored the bishop's knee which some viewers interpreted in a certain way. The Limited Issue DVD is still the only way to view the uncensored version on a digital format. Also in 2006, the film was remastered into anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with a different color palette.
These films were likely chosen as they were available on video at the time. With the exception of Pinocchio, these titles were either recently discontinued on VHS/LD or were recently released on VHS.
Most of these DVDs were issued without bonus features with some of their only bonus features being a "film recommendations" menu (which was a list of other DVDs available at the time) and "full color character artwork on disc." Some of them such as Mulan and Simba's Pride included music videos, while Hercules was given a making-of featurette.
The video transfers on these DVDs were taken from the earlier laserdisc releases and are identical. The exceptions are Mulan and Simba's Pride. In these examples, a laserdisc release was not given in the USA but were given laserdisc releases in other parts of the world (such as Japan.) On the Limited Issue DVD release, Simba's Pride is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (widescreen) whereas the VHS and Japanese laserdisc releases were presented in 1.33:1 (full screen.)
Another thing to note about the widescreen ratios on these DVDs is that they are non-anamorphic. Simply put, the video was pillar boxed to fit on a 4x3 TV screen and were not enhanced for widescreen displays. In order to play these discs on a modern display, the screen would need to be zoomed in.
While I didn't have these DVDs as a child growing up in the 2000s, I was able to acquire all of them through eBay and Amazon purchases.
Also available was a limited edition box set containing all nine of the Limited Issue DVD releases. This box set was made in very limited quantities and is extremely rare. On Amazon, the box set is currently priced at $600 USD. If you are buying the Limited Issue DVDs, do yourself a favor and buy these DVDs separately or buy them in a lot, you'll save a lot of money. Especially since the majority of these DVDs don't have many bonus features and are more aimed at collectors nowadays. ;)
Here are photos of the Limited Issue DVD box set (courtesy of eBay) to give you an idea of what this set looked like up close :
Covers and Various Materials :
Around the world, the VHS tape was a very popular format for film. As such, it was very common for bootleggers to make unauthorized VHS tapes of films. In the USA, it was more frequent in theater recordings recorded directly from the movie theater projection (telecine.) The bootleggers would be caught by the police and be fined for copyright infringement and unauthorized duplication as well as distribution if they were well known in the tape duplication circle.
Worldwide, the bootleg circle was much larger as many of these countries did not have official home media releases (sometimes for many years, if at all.)
This was the case in the USSR (and other countries under communism) as they could not get the home media distribution rights in proper. As a result, voiceover translations were created (this was the translation being read over the original soundtrack) They were usually done by unknown people (usually men) voicing all of the characters.
Some countries did it differently than others. For example, many of the Serbian voiceovers that exist include multiple voices voicing over the characters.
Examples of Bootleg VHS :
Polish VHS of Bambi :
This is a bootleg VHS of Bambi I have bought on eBay a few years ago. The tape is from 1993 (?). The cover art uses the 1989 "Classics" edition from the USA and the tape master included is the 1989 USA edition (with trailers and all.) This tape contains a Polish male voiceover speaking over the original English audio. Songs are not voiced over and are left in English.
Russia is very famous for their many voiceovers. This is due to the bootlegging of videotapes of films during communist Russia. The cover art would be completely different from the official VHS cover art. This tapes contained an amateur male voice that would voice all of the characters.
The Serbian VHSes are an interesting case as these were sold in stores and would have cover art that closely matched the originals. As mentioned earlier, the Serbian voiceovers would typically include multiple voices. In some cases, some of the films would have more than one voiceover version as the VHSes have been released several times.
Some of the voices are even known in some of these versions ! Snow White is an example of one that includes known voices.
These voices include :
Татјана Станковић / Tatjana Stanković
Виолета Пековић / Violeta Peković
Горан Пековић / Goran Peković
Небојша Буровић / Nebojša Burović
The covers tend to vary in quality (some are very close to the official cover art, while others take a different direction.)
In this example, Snow White, Pinocchio and Peter Pan include extra photos that are not included on official releases; while Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, The Aristocats, Pocahontas, The Lion King II : Simba's Pride, and Tarzan use the original cover art.
Public Domain :
In some countries, some of the Disney animated films would fall into the public domain due to how the public domain laws are set up. In Japan and South Korea for example, films produced until 1960 are in the public domain. Which is why DVDs / Blu-Rays of Disney animated classics may have different cover art on Amazon or eBay (these are the public domain editions.) The dubbing included is often different from the normal dubbing circulated by Disney (they would be amateurish quality with the songs left in English.)
In Italy during the 1980s, there was a belief that some of the Disney animated films fell into the public domain and as such were released on VHS by unlicensed companies such as Eclecta Video. These VHS editions would vary in quality from very good (Snow White, which included the 1987 print in technicolor) to poor (Bambi.) Dumbo is an interesting case as it uses a print from a TV showing from the 1980s albeit washed out.
I would like to thank the following people for sending information for this entry :
(Serbian information and VHS covers)
This blog is intended to document the many retro home media releases and current media releases that I have. Whether it's VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, or Blu-Ray. :)
The Author: willdubguru
willdubguru is a collector of many home media releases (specifically retro ones) and has the largest international VHS collection on the internet.
Coming Soon :
Comparison between three VHS releases of the Thai 1991 dub of The Little Mermaid
The History of the Original Star Wars Trilogy on Home Video
Retrospective of the Disney Gold Classic Collection line
I would like to thank Chris -K from YouTube for idea of the VHS blog.
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