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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shedding Light on Disney's Vault

The animated films from the Walt Disney Company are some of the best known and beloved of all time. These timeless classics are often shared with children by parents who originally saw and fell in love with the films as children themselves. Sales and rentals of Disney DVDs and Blu-rays are generally robust. However, finding Disney films on DVD and Blu-ray isn’t always a simple matter.

The Vault’s History
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made its theatrical debut in 1937. As an effort to raise profits during World War II, the company rereleased the film into theaters again in 1944. The success of this venture led to Disney’s policy of rereleasing their films to theaters every seven to ten years.1

This process continued through the mid-1980s, when the burgeoning home video market offered another potential outlet for Disney films. With the release of Sleeping Beauty on VHS in 1986, Disney switched its efforts from theatrical releases to home video releases.2 As the home video market has evolved from VHS to DVD and now Blu-ray, Disney has sought to replicate their strategy by limiting the length of time films are available for sale or rental, and keeping their titles on a rerelease schedule.

So What’s in There?
Films subject to Disney’s vault process are their “animated classics.” This includes a whole list of titles; notables include: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, The Fox and the Hound, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.3 Note that Pixar films (such as the Toy Story films and Finding Nemo) are not part of the vault program.

The most recent Disney releases from the vault are Beauty and the Beast and Bambi, both of which are now available on both DVD and Blu-ray.4 As for upcoming releases, look for a 70th Anniversary Edition of Dumbo in September, and The Lion King will be available again in October. Both titles will be available on Blu-ray for the first time in addition to their DVD versions.

Double-Edged Sword for Libraries
When a Disney film goes into the vault, it means it will be unavailable for sale or retail rental for several years. However, due to the films’ classic nature, there is always a certain level of demand, especially as parents want to show the movies to their children before their interest wanes. The library is a perfect solution to this conundrum. While Disney films are unavailable from other outlets, libraries can continue to circulate their copies during the moratorium period.

Of course, on the flip side, any copies that are lost or damaged while the film is in the vault will be unavailable for replacement. So it never hurts to keep an extra copy or two on hand in case of emergencies.

Midwest Tape will do our best to keep you informed of titles that are going into or coming out of the Disney vault. For example, in the April DVD Buyer’s Guide, we advertised three Disney titles that were about to be discontinued, along with the last date they could be ordered.

What Do You Think?
What do you think of Disney’s policy of placing films in the vault for several years? Have you noticed an increase in lending when these titles are discontinued? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.



  1. This is really helpful, thanks! I've always wondered what the story was with the vault.

  2. Very helpful article. In our library's experience there is always demand for Disney's animated classics. Occasionally we still have to explain to a patron why we only have the VHS version of a classic or why we can't order a replacement DVD (all because of Disney's vault policy) and most people understand the situation we are in.

  3. Thanks, Jenny, for sharing your library's experience with Disney Vault titles. Do other libraries encounter situations similar to that of Jenny's?

    Be sure to keep an eye on our Buyer's Guides and our website for titles coming out of the Vault, or contact us with specific questions:


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