Walt Disney Classics

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The first logo of Walt Disney Classics, from 1984 to 1988

Walt Disney Classics (also known as The Classics from Walt Disney Home Video and Disney's Black Diamond edition) is a discontinued video line launched by WDTNT to release Disney animated features on home video.[1] The first title in the "Classics" line was Robin Hood which was released towards the end of 1984. This was followed by 19 other titles until early 1994, with The Fox and the Hound. Disney followed up on the "Classics" series by porting over the released titles to the "Masterpiece Collection" line. Starting in the 2010s these videocassettes also dubbed "Black Diamond" became highly sought-after due to a public misconception about their rarity and actual value.


Disney has used the word Classics to describe three types of feature-length films that include animation:

  • Animated features that contain one continuous story; these are most-closely identified with the Classics line.
  • Films made up of several shorter, self-contained animated stories. This includes the six package films produced from 1942 to 1949, most of which include live-action characters. Another example is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, released theatrically in 1977, which was a compilation of several shorter Winnie the Pooh films that had been released previously. The one exception is Fantasia where its segments' titles were told by the narrator without title cards hence included in the Classics line above.
  • Live action features which contain fully animated sequences or characters. So Dear to My Heart, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Pete's Dragon are examples.

Disney's Classics category was originally defined during discussions for the April 18, 1983 launch of Disney Channel. While the people at Disney were looking through their inventory of films to see what was available for the new cable channel, they decided that they could air some fan-favorite films such as Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins, but that 15 other animated movies would never be aired.


In 1980, Disney established its own video distribution operation as part of Walt Disney Telecommunications and Non-Theatrical Company (WDTNT) with Jim Jimirro as its first president.[2] Home video was not considered to be a major market by Disney at the time. WDTNT Co. also handled marketing of other miscellaneous ancillary items such as short 8 mm films for home movies. Disney's first releases on videotape were 13 titles that were licensed for rental to Fotomat on March 4, 1980.[3] This first group of titles on VHS marketed under the Walt Disney Home Video brand included 10 live action movies and 3 compilations of short cartoons: Pete's Dragon, The Black Hole, The Love Bug, Escape to Witch Mountain, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The North Avenue Irregulars, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Hot Lead and Cold Feet, On Vacation with Mickey Mouse and Friends, Kids is Kids starring Donald Duck, Adventures of Chip 'n' Dale. Numerous other titles and re-releases were released at later dates throughout the early 1980s. These all came in a while clam-shell case which gave a distinctive appearance.

Walt Disney Classics[edit]

The Walt Disney classics include 15 animated feature films – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Rescuers and The Fox and the Hound – which had only been shown at theaters, not television or any other format (except for The Sword in the Stone, which aired on television in 1985 for the first time).[4] These 15 movies laid the foundation upon which the Disney company was built. During each re-release to theaters (on a roughly seven-year cycle), they earned money comparable to new releases; it was thought the company would lose this revenue if they released the feature films on video or television. By the time the Masterpiece Collection replaced the Classics collection in the domestic market, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Aristocats were the only two of the original 15 classics (and in fact, the sole two pre-1985 single-narrative animated features) that still had not yet been released to video or shown on television.

All of the single-story animated features made by Disney were included in the list of 15 classics except for two. The exceptions were Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland, both of which had been shown on television at the earliest opportunity. The Disneyland TV series began with The Disneyland Story, but the very next thing to be aired was Alice in Wonderland (broadcast November 3, 1954), which was edited to fit into the one-hour TV time slot. The following season began on September 14, 1955, with a one-hour version of Dumbo. Both of these movies were released on video within the first two years of the creation of Walt Disney Home Video; the videos were only briefly available for rental before they became available for sale. Despite always being available, Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland have made millions of dollars in subsequent home video releases.

North American release history[edit]

No. Release Date Title Initial cost (USD) Copies sold
Short summary
1 December 3, 1984[5] Robin Hood
Disney thought the idea of releasing any of its animated classics might threaten future theatrical reissue revenue. Robin Hood, however, was viewed as a good first choice because it was not held in as high esteem as some of the other titles.[7] The film went on moratorium on April 30, 1987, then was re-released on July 12, 1991.[8] By the time the movie was re-released on July 12, 1991, the issue price had dropped by $55.[9]
2 July 16, 1985[10] Pinocchio
Pinocchio was reissued theatrically in 1984 to great success, grossing over $26 million at the domestic box office. In the following year Disney announced a July 16, 1985, release date for Pinocchio, with a $1 million advertising campaign which they claimed was the first national network TV spot campaign for a single video title.[10] The VHS price was lowered considerably for the re-release which ran from November 5, 1985 to January 31, 1986.[7][8] A newly remastered edition of Pinocchio was released on video on March 26, 1993.[11]
3 November 5, 1985[7] Dumbo
The price of Dumbo was also dropped to $29.95 along with Robin Hood and Pinocchio in 1985.[7] Dumbo never went into moratorium, and was repackaged in 1989 with additional promotions in 1991.[9]
4 March 1986[13] The Sword in the Stone
The Sword in the Stone was repackaged in 1989 with the release of Bambi and was repromoted with another VHS re-release in 1991.
5 May 28, 1986[16] Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland was repriced for sell-through for the first time. This movie was never placed on moratorium and was repromoted in 1991.[16][9]
6 October 14, 1986[17] Sleeping Beauty
1,000,000+[18] Sleeping Beauty was the first title to be released in VHS Hi-Fi and in stereo sound. The film became the centerpiece for Disney's $6 million promotional campaign, "Bring Disney Home For Good" which featured all six of the animated Classics released up to the end of 1986.[19] The film went into moratorium on March 31, 1988.[20]
7 October 7, 1987[21] Lady and the Tramp
Following the success of Sleeping Beauty, when Disney released Lady and the Tramp on October 7, 1987 the VHS already had 2 million pre-orders. Lady and the Tramp eventually sold 3.2 million copies, making it the best-selling videocassette at the time.[18] It later lapsed into moratorium on March 31, 1988 along with Sleeping Beauty, having grossed $100 million in sales revenue.[20][22]
8 October 4, 1988[23] Cinderella
A limited edition lithograph, created by animator Marc Davis was available to anyone who pre-ordered the title between July 11 and October 3, 1988. It was announced in advance that the film would go into moratorium on April 30, 1989.[23] Cinderella was another success for Disney having grossed $108 million in sales revenue.[24]
9 September 28, 1989[25] Bambi
Bambi was the first Disney video to have a cross-promotion. The price of $26.99 could be reduced with a $3.00 rebate (available until the end of January 1990) by sending in proofs of purchase of two tubes of Crest toothpaste.[25] The film went into moratorium on March 30, 1990.[27]
10 May 18, 1990[28] The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid was priced at $26.99, the same as Bambi, but this time a $3 rebate was available from Disney with no additional purchase required. Disney promised its biggest TV advertising campaign ever, along with extensive print advertising.[30] By July 30, 1990, The Little Mermaid had sold 7.5 million cassettes, and it eventually sold 10 million units, making it the top-selling video release of 1990.[31] The film went into moratorium on April 30, 1991.[31]
11 September 21, 1990[32] Peter Pan
Peter Pan was released with a cross-promotion with Nabisco, available from the release date through the holiday season. This allowed consumers a $5.00 rebate with the purchase of three boxes of crackers, bringing the effective retail price under $20.00. The film later went into moratorium on April 30, 1991.
12 May 3, 1991[33] The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book was originally sold for $24.99; a $5.00 rebate was offered by Nabisco, reducing the price even further.[33] The film later went into moratorium on April 30, 1992.
13 September 17, 1991[35] The Rescuers Down Under
The Rescuers Down Under was priced at $24.99 with a $5.00 mail-in refund available from Procter & Gamble. It later went on moratorium on April 30, 1993.[37]
14 November 1, 1991[38] Fantasia
Roy Disney originally objected to Fantasia being released on VHS as part of Walt Disney Classics series as he felt it was too important to the family's legacy. Michael Eisner was eventually able to convince the Disney Family to let the film be released. Fantasia was Disney's first animated film to be released simultaneously worldwide (in North America plus 46 international territories).[38] Fantasia and The Great Mouse Detective were the only two animated films in the Classics line to not be reissued in either the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection or Gold Classic Collection lines.
15 April 10, 1992[40] 101 Dalmatians
101 Dalmatians went on moratorium on April 30, 1993.[43]
16 July 17, 1992[44] The Great Mouse Detective
The Great Mouse Detective went on moratorium on April 30, 1993.[43] This movie along with Fantasia are the only two animated films in the Classics line to not be reissued in either the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection or Gold Classic Collection lines, although a restored VHS release of the film occurred in 1999.
17 September 18, 1992[37] The Rescuers
The Rescuers went on moratorium April 30, 1993.[43]
18 October 30, 1992[45] Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast sold 20 million cassettes and brought $200 million in revenue. Disney opted to delay the laserdisc release for the theatrical version of Beauty and the Beast until September 29, 1993,[47] making a film festival-screened "work-in-progress" print on disc available in the interim. It was the first Disney animated film to have a widescreen laserdisc release. Beauty and the Beast went on moratorium on April 30, 1993.[43]
19 October 1, 1993[48] Aladdin
Aladdin is the best-selling release of the Walt Disney Classics line. The VHS was first released on October 1, 1993.[48] By early 1994, it had sold more than 25 million cassettes with over $500 million in revenue. Disney delayed the laserdisc release of Aladdin for nearly a year; it was eventually released, in both letterbox and pan-and-scan formats, on September 21, 1994.[51] Aladdin went on moratorium on April 30, 1994.
20 March 4, 1994[52] The Fox and the Hound
This film was the last film released in the Walt Disney Classics line and went on moratorium on April 30, 1995.[54]


Decades after their release there has been a public misconception that every "Black Diamond Edition" title from the Walt Disney Classics VHS line are rare and valuable. According to Kodak, "Tapes don't last for long due to remanence decay of the magnetic charge, causing blacked-out scenes, discoloration and eventually, entire loss of footage." They also gave a time frame by saying that tapes "degrade 10% to 20% throughout 10 to 25 years".[55] Kristy Ambrose from "The Gamer" called the phenomenon a "craze" which might be driven by nostalgia, and also stated that "Consumers have been learning some hard lessons about market manipulation and the power of trends".[56] Rain Blanken from WDW magazine called the ebay listings "bogus" and "hyped up" warning people that "Every outlet is saying these are listed for high prices… not sold."[57] This is also mentioned by Snopes which call the claim "Are 'Black Diamond' Disney VHS Tapes Worth Thousands of Dollars?" mostly false. They state that no buyers are bidding anywhere close to those asking prices for the tapes. Those that did sell for thousands of dollars are described by Snopes as a "rarity/fluke".[58]

In terms of consignment, Heritage Auctions has placed in their "Vintage VHS Tapes Value Guide" that the most desirable VHS tapes released between 1979 and 1990 are still in their original factory shrink wrap.[59] Further value is added if studio watermarks are present on the wrap. In regard to Disney "Black Diamond Editions", Heritage states that aside from a couple of titles, Disney animated films released on VHS after 1990 are not worth anything significant, and "Only the earliest of Disney VHS produced prior to 1985 hold any value to most collectors."[59] Things to look for on their guide include a sealed tape, a studio logo on the shrink-wrap, and if the latest year listed on the back of the cover is prior to 1986.[59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ These figures are limited to original VHS releases. The first four films (up until The Sword in the Stone) were later re-released under the "Classics" name.
  2. ^ The LaserDisc version was $34.95.[6]
  3. ^ This figure is for July/August 1985. Pinocchio was later re-released on March 26, 1993 and sold 13.5 million copies.[11][12]
  4. ^ A special $26.99 price was available until the end of November 1988, after which the price went up to the $29.95 price point of the other Classics.[23]


  1. ^ Lizardi, Ryan (2017). Nostalgic Generations and Media: Perception of Time and Available Meaning. Lexington Books. p. 86. ISBN 9781498542036. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  2. ^ Froke, Marlowe (December 12, 1989). "Oral History Collection – James P. Jimirro" (Interview transcript). The Cable Center. Retrieved September 19, 2006.
  3. ^ "Walt Disney – Fotomat Announce Video Tape Programming Pact". Dow Jones News Service – Ticker. March 3, 1980.
  4. ^ "List of movies aired on Disney Channel – Nickandmore!".
  5. ^ "Disney Video Bows "Classics"" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 96, no. 41. December 3, 1984. p. 78. Initial order date will be Nov. 15, while the title will ship to distributors on Dec. 3 and retailers three days later.
  6. ^ a b "Ottawa Citizen - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Levine, Martin (September 7, 1985). "Disney on Parade". Daily News.
  8. ^ a b "Some Of The Greatest Gift Ideas Of The Year Are On Video Store". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Archived from the original on January 28, 2018. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c McCullagh, Jim (May 18, 1991). "'Robin' To Perk Up Midsummer Nights" (PDF). Billboard. p. 78. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Jim McCullaugh (1985). "Disney Home Video Plans July Release for Pinocchio". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.
  11. ^ a b Stevens, Mary (March 19, 1993). "'Pinocchio' Is The Winner by a Nose". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  12. ^ "International pace-setter". Screen International. October 22, 1993. p. 16.
  13. ^ "Newsline". Billboard. Vol. 98, no. 6. February 8, 1986. p. 46. Sword In The Stone is the latest classic due out... ...will be in March at a $79.95 list price.
  14. ^ "Top Kid Video Sales". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1986.
  15. ^ "1986 ITA Gold Awards". Billboard. Vol. 98, no. 44. November 1, 1986. p. 47-48.
  16. ^ a b c Seidman, Tony (April 12, 1986). "Prices Tumble as Disney Enters its Wonderland Campaign". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Order closing date on the sale is May 6; street date for the product May 28.
  17. ^ a b Joe Logan (August 25, 1986). Videos On Sale for Holidays. Spokane Chronicle.
  18. ^ a b c Yarrow, Andrew (February 22, 1988). "Video Cassettes Pushing Books Off Shelves". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 6, 2023. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  19. ^ Tony Seideman (1986). Disney Putting $6 Million Behind Yule Video Campaign. Billboard.
  20. ^ a b c Stevens, Mary. "'LADY AND THE TRAMP' GOING BACK TO VAULT". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  21. ^ Leonore Fleischer (August 31, 1987). "Sales&Bargains". New York Magazine. Vol. 20, no. 34. p. 67. Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp available in stores October 7
  22. ^ Hadden, Briton (1988). "Is That All There Is?". Time. Vol. 132, no. 19–26. p. 589. Disney asked Lee last year to help promote the release of the Lady and the Tramp cassette, paying a $500 "honorarium" — her only share of the video's $100 million in revenues.
  23. ^ a b c "It's Christmas In July As Disney Tells Of Holiday Promotions". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 15, 2018. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  24. ^ a b "Cinderella (1950)". JP's Box-Office. Archived from the original on November 28, 2018. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  25. ^ a b c Mary Stevens (September 22, 1989). "'Bambi' Making Leap Into Your Video Store". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on January 22, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2023. Bambi begins its limited home video release on Thursday
  26. ^ Bierbaum, Tom (September 6, 1989). "'Bambi,' 'Rabbit' eye hv records". Variety. p. 1.
  27. ^ a b Mike Pearson (March 22, 1990). "Disney Blockbuster Hits Video Stores This Week". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 7, 2023.
  28. ^ Hahn, Don (2009). Waking Sleeping Beauty. Burbank, California: Stone Circle Pictures/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
  29. ^ Nichols, Peter M. (September 12, 1993). "The New Season: Home Entertainment". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
  30. ^ McGowan, Chris (March 17, 1990). "Disney's 'Mermaid' to Hit Stores in July." Billboard (pp. 59, 66)
  31. ^ a b c CERONE, DANIEL (May 18, 1990). "The Seven-Year Hitch". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved August 4, 2018.[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ a b Terry Atkinson (September 21, 1990). "Disney Releases 53 Peter Pan". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 31, 2023.
  33. ^ a b c Mary Stevens (April 26, 1991). "The Jungle Book Coming From Disney". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 13, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2023. will arrive on video for a limited time May 3
  34. ^ "Top 20 Sell-Through Units Shipped". The Hollywood Reporter. 320 (18–34). Wilkerson Daily Corporation: 533. 1991. Archived from the original on June 3, 2021. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  35. ^ a b Eileen Clarke (September 16, 1991). "Videos". New York Magazine. Vol. 24, no. 36. p. 100. Release date 9/17
  36. ^ "Animated Pics: Adding It Up". Variety. January 13, 1992. p. 89.
  37. ^ a b c Stevens, Mary (September 18, 1992). "'Rescuers' Leads Classic Kid Stuff". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  38. ^ a b c Richard Christiansen. "'Fantasia' A Hit With Video Audience". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 26, 2012. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  39. ^ McCullaugh, Jim (August 1, 1992). "Weathering "Desert Storm," Basking in the Sell-Through Reign". Billboard. Retrieved February 27, 2011 – via Google Books.
  40. ^ Hunt, Dennis (January 17, 1992). "Digital Cassette Becomes the Talk of the Town". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 10, 2018. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  41. ^ a b "Top Video Sales" (PDF). Billboard. October 9, 1993. p. 80. Retrieved April 30, 2022.
  42. ^ Harris, Kathryn (June 12, 1992). "A Nose for Profit: 'Pinocchio' Release to Test Truth of Video Sales Theory". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  43. ^ a b c d "Disney Will Disappear Video Tapes". Reading Eagle. February 11, 1993. Retrieved December 7, 2023.
  44. ^ a b Martie Zad (July 5, 1992). "Disney Offers Six Videos To Fill The Gaps of Summer". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 31, 2023. The Great Mouse Detective also makes its video debut on July 17. The 74-minute movie is listed at $24.99...
  45. ^ Beauty and the Beast (A Walt Disney Classic) [VHS]: David Ogden Stiers, Jerry Orbach, Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale: Movies & TV. ASIN 6302526574.
  46. ^ McCullaugh, Jim; Goldstein, Seth (October 9, 1993). "Disney Uncorks A Monster Hit With 'Aladdin'" (PDF). Billboard. p. 6. Retrieved April 30, 2022.
  47. ^ "Beauty and the Beast (1991)". LaserDisc Database. September 29, 1993. Archived from the original on October 26, 2021. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  48. ^ a b McCullaugh, Jim; Goldstein, Seth (October 9, 1993). "Disney Uncorks A Monster Hit With 'Aladdin'" (PDF). Billboard. p. 6. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
  49. ^ a b "Top Video Sales (5/21/94)". Billboard. Vol. 106, no. 21. May 21, 1994. p. 54.
  50. ^ "Movie-game links continue to get stronger". Screen Digest. Screen Digest Limited: 272. 1993. Major video game players Nintendo and Sega are both pushing hard to cash in on game spin-offs from Disney blockbuster animated feature Aladdin. In US, Sega (...) shipped 800,000 units of Virgin-developed Aladdin for Genesis/Mega Drive in same week as some 30m sell-through video units hit the street (10.8m selling through in three days).
  51. ^ Chris McGowan (1994). Disney titles expected to join Laserdisc's top sellers. Billboard. p. 60.
  52. ^ "Videos Released in 1994". The Numbers. Retrieved December 31, 2023.
  53. ^ Fox and the Hound. Walt Disney Records. 1992. ISBN 978-1-55723-019-5. In early March 1994, ten million The Fox and the Hound home videos were released.
  54. ^ Donald Liebenson (February 19, 1995). "How to Outsmart Disney's Moratorium: Frustrated buyers can get around the firm's policy of pulling its animated classics off the market. It takes a little digging--and some serious cash". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 7, 2023.
  55. ^ Anthony Robledo (September 15, 2023). "'Back to the Future,' 'Goonies' and classic Disney VHS tapes are being sold for thousands on eBay". USA Today. Retrieved December 7, 2023.
  56. ^ Kristy Ambrose (July 18, 2023). "Disney VHS Tapes Worth A Fortune Today". The Gamer. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
  57. ^ Rain Blanke (October 21, 2022). "Are Disney VHS Tapes Worth Really Anything? Sadly, No". WDW Magazine. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
  58. ^ Kim LaCapria (June 2, 2016). "Are 'Black Diamond' Disney VHS Tapes Worth Thousands of Dollars?". Snopes. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
  59. ^ a b c "Vintage VHS Tapes Value Guide". Heritage Auctions. Retrieved December 8, 2023.