Walt Disney Classics

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The first logo of Walt Disney Classics, from the 1984 opening sequence

Walt Disney Classics is a brand name used by Walt Disney Studios on their home video VHS releases of Walt Disney Animation Studios features from 1984 to 1994. The last title in the Classics line was The Fox and the Hound. With the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, all of the existing titles in the Classics line were replaced with the Masterpiece Collection line, and the Classics line was cancelled in the United States and Canada. Cassette copies of the original Classics series became highly sought-after and are very popular with collectors, since most retailers had the first home video release for Disney animated features in their stores until the label was discontinued.[citation needed] Animated features (such as Mary Poppins and Pete's Dragon) continued to be released under the "Walt Disney Classics" label and its foreign language equivalents until around 2007 throughout Europe, and "Walt Disney Meisterwerke" – the German equivalent series – is still in operation as of 2010 through its broader "Special Collection" range.


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" label.
  • 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.
  • Live action features which contain fully animated sequences or characters. Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Pete's Dragon are examples.

Some of the animated package films and live-action films featuring animation were released on home video in the early 1980s, such as The Three Caballeros and Fun and Fancy Free, but most of them were not big sellers.

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.

These 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 – had only been shown at theaters, not television or any other format. These 15 movies laid the foundation upon which the Disney company was built.[citation needed] 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 that had not yet been re-released.

All of the single-story animated features made by Disney were included in the list of 15 classics except for 2. 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 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 Notes
1 December 3, 1984 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. The cassettes were priced at $79.95 and the LaserDisc version was $34.95.[1] The film went on moratorium in 1987 then was re-released in on July 12, 1991 at $24.99.
2 July 16, 1985 Pinocchio In 1984, Pinocchio was reissued theatrically to great success, grossing over $26 million at the domestic box office. It was priced at $79.95 on cassette and $34.95 on LaserDisc in Classics packaging. In May 1985, Disney announced a July 16 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.[2] About 125,000 copies of Pinocchio were sold in July and August, then they dropped the price to $29.95 from December 3, 1985, until January 31, 1986. A newly restored edition of Pinocchio was released on video on March 26, 1993.[3] It was also sold in another cross-promotion with Crest toothpaste, allowing consumers to get a rebate of $4.00 from its $24.99 retail price.[3] Pinocchio was advertised as "Available for the last time this century", which turned out to be false, for in 1999 Disney released a 60th Anniversary Edition of the film.
3 November 6, 1985 Dumbo The price of Dumbo was also dropped to $29.95 with Robin Hood and Pinocchio in 1985. Dumbo was repackaged in 1989.
4 March 25, 1986 The Sword in the Stone Priced at $79.95 until the "Wonderland Sale" which dropped the price of The Sword in the Stone to $29.95 until the end of 1986. The Sword in the Stone was repackaged in 1989 with the release of Bambi.
5 May 27, 1986 Alice in Wonderland Alice in Wonderland was brought back from moratorium and was released in the Classics packaging.
6 October 14, 1986 Sleeping Beauty Sleeping Beauty was the first title to be released in VHS Hi-Fi and in stereo sound. It was released at $29.95. The film became the centerpiece for Disney's $6 million promotional campaign, "Bring Disney Home For Good" which featured all the six animated Classics.[4] 1.2 million copies of Sleeping Beauty had been sold and it became the best-selling videocassette of 1986. It was withdrawn from the collection in 1988.
7 October 6, 1987 Lady and the Tramp Following the success of Sleeping Beauty, Disney released Lady and the Tramp at $29.95. It had 2 million pre-orders, and eventually sold 3.2 million copies, making it the best-selling videocassette at the time. Along with Sleeping Beauty, the film was withdrawn from the collection in 1988.
8 October 4, 1988 Cinderella 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. A limited edition lithograph, created by animator Marc Davis was available to anyone who pre-ordered the title between July 11 and October 3. It was announced in advance that the title would be withdrawn from distribution on April 30, 1989.
9 September 28, 1989 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 November 1989) by sending in proofs of purchase of two tubes of Crest toothpaste.
10 May 18, 1990 The Little Mermaid Disney's March 1990 announcement that The Little Mermaid would be released on video in May surprised people since the film was still in theaters at the time. It was priced at $26.99, the same as Bambi, but this time a $3.00 rebate was available from Disney with no additional purchase required. Disney promised its biggest TV advertising campaign ever, along with extensive print advertising.[5] 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.[6] The film went into moratorium on April 1, 1991.[6]
11 September 21, 1990 Peter Pan Peter Pan had sold about 7 million copies, according to the Los Angeles Times.[6] A cross-promotion with Nabisco, available from the release date through the holiday season, allowed consumers a $5.00 rebate with the purchase of three boxes of crackers, bringing the effective retail price under $20.00. The film went into moratorium on April 1, 1991.[6]
12 May 3, 1991 The Jungle Book The Jungle Book sold at $24.99; a $5.00 rebate was offered by Nabisco, reducing the price even further.
13 September 20, 1991 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 went on moratorium on April 30, 1992.
14 November 1, 1991 Fantasia Roy Disney originally objected to Fantasia being an animated Classics on video because 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). The domestic release was limited to 50 days; the international market for 100. Despite the Classics logo preceding the film on video copies, there was no reference to it being part of the collection in its packaging; it was referred to as "Walt Disney's Masterpiece" instead. Fantasia would eventually sell 14.4 million videocassettes and discs.
15 April 10, 1992 101 Dalmatians 101 Dalmatians went on moratorium on March 31, 1993.
16 July 17, 1992 The Great Mouse Detective The Great Mouse Detective went on moratorium on April 30, 1993.
17 September 18, 1992[7] The Rescuers The Rescuers went on moratorium April 30, 1993.[7]
18 October 30, 1992 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 the fall of 1993, 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 2, 1993.
19 October 1, 1993 Aladdin Aladdin is the best-selling release in the Classics line. 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.[8] Aladdin went on moratorium on April 30, 1994.
20 March 4, 1994 The Fox and the Hound This was the last film released in the Walt Disney Classics line and remained in stock until April 30, 1995.[9]


  1. ^ "Ottawa Citizen - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 2018-08-04. 
  2. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (1985-05-18). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 
  3. ^ a b "`Pinocchio' Is The Winner By A Nose". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-08-12. 
  4. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (1986-08-09). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 
  5. ^ McGowan, Chris (March 17, 1990). "Disney's 'Mermaid' to Hit Stores in May." Billboard (pp. 59, 66)
  6. ^ a b c d CERONE, DANIEL (1991-03-19). "The Seven-Year Hitch". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-08-04. 
  7. ^ a b "`Rescuers` Leads Classic Kid Stuff". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-08-04. 
  8. ^ McGowan, Chris (May 21, 1994). "Disney titles expected to join Laserdisc's top sellers." Billboard, page 60.
  9. ^ Liebenson, Donald (1995-02-19). "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. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-09-20.