Before we talk about the history of Disney Classics and TV, we have to go back to 1944. It was World War II and Disney needed to make up for the box office failures of Pinocchio and Fantasia overseas. To make up for this, Disney decided to re-release Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs back into theaters to give people a chance to see the film in theaters again; whether it's people who have never seen it, or people who wanted to see the film again. Nonetheless, the 1944 re-release of Snow White made a lot of money and set forward a tradition of re-releasing the Disney classics every ten years.
It was Christmas Day 1950 and it was the first time Walt Disney appeared on television with the special "One Hour in Wonderland" on the ABC network. The special was a one-hour party hosted by Kathryn Beaumont (the voice of Alice) with guests Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd, Bobby Driscoll, and Walt Disney. Also shown here were clips from Walt's films and shorts including "The Silly Song" (from Snow White), "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" (from Song of the South), shorts Clock Cleaners and Bone Trouble, and the "Mad Tea Party" sequence from the latest animated feature Alice in Wonderland. This special as well as "Operation Wonderland", helped set forward Walt's entrance into television.
The sequel to this special would be aired one year later in 1951 for one time only. That special was called "The Walt Disney Christmas Show" and would also star Kathryn Beaumont and Bobby Driscoll for a Christmas party held at the Walt Disney Studios. Like the previous special, there were extracts from various Disney films and cartoon shorts but this time there was a multilanguage reel (the first of its kind) showcasing the 1938 dubbings of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as well as a clip from the Hindustani dubbing of Bambi. Instead of Alice in Wonderland being the film shown at the end, it was Peter Pan as that was the next film being developed by the Walt Disney Studios.
On October 27th, 1954, the first episode of the Disneyland television program premiered on ABC with the episode "The Disneyland Story." A look into the development of the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California hosted by Walt Disney himself. There were also segments from various Disney animated features and shorts including the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment from Fantasia, the "Laughing Place" segment from Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and shorts including Plane Crazy, Lonesome Ghosts, and The Pointer. Alice was shown as a preview for the next episode of Disneyland on November 3rd, 1954. For the next episode, Alice in Wonderland was condensed into an hour showing in Fantasyland introduced by Walt Disney. For Christmas 1954, The Three Caballeros was edited down into a TV showing for one hour called "A Present for Donald." There were several differences between the film and the TV showing including the changing of context from Donald's birthday presents to Donald's Christmas presents and the end was changed to "Merry Christmas."
For the first episode of the second season of Disneyland shown on September 14th, 1955, the 1941 animated classic Dumbo was shown in an edited down for TV performance and was also introduced by Walt Disney. Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland were the only two Disney classics shown on TV at this point.
For the rest of the animated classics, portions were shown on Disneyland but never as full length versions as they were being re-released to theaters for monetary gain; while others (such as the package films) were shown as separate segments. For example, The Wind in the Willows segment (from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad) was shown alongside The Reluctant Dragon segment on February 2nd, 1955. Bongo (from Fun and Fancy Free), was shown independently on September 28th 1955 with narration from Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) instead of Dinah Shore (who narrated the film version.)
"The world is a carousel of color." This is what greeted viewers on September 24th, 1961 when watching the new season of the Walt Disney Anthology series on NBC networks. Walt Disney introduced a new feature to his series; that feature being that his show was now in color. The series was moved to NBC as ABC did not have color at the time. Helping Walt Disney present in color was the new character Ludwig von Drake. He played a big part in The Wonderful World of Color and is still being used today. While no new animated classics were premiered on The Wonderful World of Color, several of Disney's live-action films were shown as two-parters. Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland were shown in color for the first time on television at this time.
On April 18th, 1983 at 7:00 AM, The Disney Channel was launched to the American public as a premium subscription service. With the cost of $10 a month, viewers could enjoy classic Disney cartoons, live-action films, and original programming such as Good Morning, Mickey!, You and Me Kid, Welcome to Pooh Corner, Mousercise, Epcot Magazine, and Disney Studio Showcase. The only Disney animated films that were shown at this time were Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, and Make Mine Music as they were not counted towards the main animated features. Dumbo and Alice were shown on TV and Music was a package film. It wasn't until 1985 when the Disney Classics started to be shown on The Disney Channel. The first Disney animated classic shown on the network aside from the aforementioned films was 1973's Robin Hood in Spring 1985.
As The Disney Channel was moved to basic cable, things were changing. For one, the network was being changed from a network for the entire family to one being targeted towards young girls ages 8-12 with programs such as Lizzie McGuire, The Cheetah Girls, and Hannah Montana. Another was that the premieres of the animated classics were moved to STARZ (a premium channel which is similar to what The Disney Channel used to be.)
As 2015 came around, the rights to show the premieres of the Disney animated classics on STARZ had expired. The rights were bought by Netflix and all premieres were moved to Netflix starting with Zootopia in 2016.
The Present (2020s)
In September 2019, Disney launched the Disney+ streaming service; marking an end of premiering their films on Netflix. With Disney+, the (almost) entire Disney library is available for customers to view for only $6.99 a month. The first Disney animated classic to premiere on the streaming service was 2019's Frozen II.
The following are the premiere dates of the Disney Classics on US television.
(this is a work in progress, so if anyone has more dates, please let me know.) :)
03/06/2010 (ABC Family)
03/20/2010 (The Disney Channel)
09/20/1986 (The Disney Channel)
Never shown in full, segments were shown on TV in various programs but not the film in proper.
12/29/1963 (The Wonderful World of Color)
06/03/1983 (The Disney Channel)
02/03/1991 (The Disney Channel)
06/09/1989 (The Disney Channel)
01/10/1987 (The Disney Channel)
but the film was re-edited as "A Present For Donald" on 12/22/1954 (in black & white) 12/26/1965 (in color).
08/03/1983 (The Disney Channel)
05/02/1987 (The Disney Channel)
Segments were shown on varying dates
Mickey and the Beanstalk
There are two versions. One with narration from Sterling Holloway and another with narration from Ludwig von Drake with Herman.
03/26/1989 (The Disney Channel)
Segments were shown on varying dates
10/01/1984 (The Disney Channel)
Segments were shown on varying dates
The Wind in the Willows
The Legend of Sleepy Hallow
10/14/1989 (The Disney Channel)
12/20/1964 (The Wonderful World of Color)
01/01/1984 (The Disney Channel)
09/15/1991 (The Disney Channel)
05/07/1988 (The Disney Channel)
10/03/1987 (The Disney Channel)
04/17/1993 (The Disney Channel)
Presented as a part of The Disney Channel's 10th Anniversary.
08/04/1985 (The Disney Channel)
(shown on TV before its first release on home video in 1986)
05/03/1992 (The Disney Channel)
Presented as part of the "Summer of Animation" block on "The Magical World of Disney." Michael Eisner recorded a special introduction and was shown before the premiere of the film.
07/12/1997 (The Disney Channel)
06/02/1985 (The Disney Channel)
03/16/1986 (Network TV)
1980s (The Disney Channel)
01/02/1988 (known showing) (The Disney Channel)
Featurettes were shown on varying dates
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
03/10/1970 (Network TV)
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
11/30/1970 (Network TV)
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too
11/28/1975 (Network TV)
02/06/1994 (The Disney Channel)
11/05/1995 (The Disney Channel)
??? (The Disney Channel)
10/??/2003 (Toon Disney)
08/01/1993 (The Disney Channel)
11/15/1997 (The Disney Channel)
06/01/1990 (The Disney Channel)
05/05/1991 (The Disney Channel)
11/01/1992 (The Disney Channel)
Was shown during "The Magical World of Disney" block.
05/15/1994 (The Disney Channel)
05/14/1995 (The Disney Channel)
09/08/1996 (The Disney Channel)
11/06/1996 (ABC Network TV)
The Lion King was the first Disney animated film to be shown on ABC network TV aside from Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland.
On network TV, some of the credits were moved to the beginning of the film. One of the sponsors was the 1996 VHS release of Toy Story. Newspapers also advertised a new song and never before seen animation. The "new" song is an alternate take of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" with Timon and Pumbaa's verse presented in storyboards. So the "never before seen" animation and song is a stretch. A sneak peek of Hercules was shown after the film.
04/06/1997 (The Disney Channel)
03/01/1998 (ABC Network TV)
The network TV premiere on ABC was the first version to show "If I Never Knew You" on TV. Also shown was a look at Pocahontas II : Journey to a New World and the song "Where Do I Go From Here ?"
03/14/1998 (The Disney Channel)
10/18/1998 (ABC Network TV)
When aired on ABC network TV, The Hunchback of Notre Dame received poor ratings of 5.7 (percentage of 99.4 million TV households in America) and 9 share (percentage of sets in use.)
02/27/1999 (The Disney Channel)
05/23/1999 (ABC Network TV)
02/12/2000 (The Disney Channel)
05/14/2000 (ABC Network TV)
04/29/2001 (ABC Network TV)
07/22/2001 (The Disney Channel)
12/20/2002 (The Disney Channel)
09/13/2002 (The Disney Channel)
07/11/2003 (The Disney Channel)
12/12/2003 (The Disney Channel)
01/29/2006 (Toon Disney)
05/12/2006 (The Disney Channel)
08/03/2007 (The Disney Channel)
08/18/2010 (The Disney Channel)
Not shown on TV as of this writing, but was launched on Disney+ in early 2020.
03/05/2021 (Disney+ Premiere Access)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this film will be shown both in cinemas and on Disney+ Premiere Access on the same date.
Articles and Advertisements :
TV Promos / Advertisements
The Disney Channel Magazine
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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