If you are like me and a member of the Disney Movie Club, chances are the only reason you are a member of the DMC is for their DVD Exclusives. These of course are titles Disney Home Entertainment for whatever reason feel just might not sell enough volumes to warrant a traditional retail release, but might do well enough to attract would-be-customers to their DVD and Blu-ray by-mail-club. And let’s be honest, the Exclusives are an important part of the club. It’s a hard sell to many to join a by-mail-club if the only stock you have are retail titles that fans can get faster and cheaper at their local Target or Wal-Mart stores. For Disney’s part, they really want customers to pick up their copies of Frozen or The Force Awakens from the DMC instead of at Target or Wal-Mart, as they are able to cut out the middle man that way and keep more of the profits. The idea with the Exclusive really then is if you are already ordering a title like The Weekenders on DVD from the DMC online, you might be more willing to just add Frozen to your shopping cart as well. And of course if you are a member, again only joining for the Exclusives, you also might forget to reject the “movie of the month” title even after you end up charged and the film comes to your door step, not caring enough to send it back. So really, the Exclusives are a BIG deal to the DMC business model as they help to attract and retain customers. Here however is where the DMC is dropping the ball with their Exclusives: They are not capitalizing on the 90’s nostalgia movement.
While these titles are generally not titles DHE normally have faith in for retail release as we established, they still want to make sure they put out titles that will be strong enough that it will attract new members to the DMC and keep preexisting ones. So what sells the best? That’s a hard question to fully answer as Disney does not share sales numbers with the public, however there are clues as to titles that seem to do better than others. An example would be about a decade ago when the DMC started selling colorized copies of Walt Disney’s Zorro on DVD, those seem to sell out quickly. To this day, now out of print, those same DMC Exclusives DVD’s sell a lot of money on the second-hand market as apposed to other DMC Exclusives that are also out-of-print. Another example are Exclusives that DHE end up releasing in to retail anyway.
What, what? Yes, you heard it, sometimes these titles DHE lack faith in end up released in retail anyway. How does that work you might be asking? Well, in the very early days of the DMC Exclusives, after sometime all of the Exclusives would ultimately end up sold in small amounts in retail stores anyway, lining the DVD section of places like Wal-Mart. It didn’t take very long however for this practice to come to an end…almost. Very few Exclusive suddenly found their way into retail. What conclusions can we draw from this? Simple, that in the early days DHE had a different business model for the Exclusives that didn’t work out. So they scaled it back to instead move titles to retail if they sold well as Exclusives first. So as the last decade rolled on, the list of DMC Exclusives that moved over to retail grew smaller and smaller.
Flash forward to 2013. After slow sales during 2005 to 2007 for their Disney Afternoon titles on DVD, DHE were giving the Disney Afternoon a second life on DVD, and it made so much sense. The economy had rebounded some from the late 2000’s when the original wave of Disney Afternoon titles had been released and the children of the 80’s and 90’s who had grown up with these beloved cartoons had finally put enough distance between now being adults and their childhood; the nostalgia bug had finally hit in full swing. So, after a six-year absence, DHE released four Disney Afternoon themed DVD sets in the form of two Goof Troop volumes, the final TaleSpin volume and the long-awaited second half of Gargoyles season two. And these four volumes were in fact follow-ups to two volumes (and thus the complete series) of the One Saturday Morning era show The Weekenders. Again, while it’s hard to know for sure without exact numbers, these six releases, especially the Disney Afternoon based ones, seemed to do amazing business. On the now removed DMC store that had been on online retailer eBay in 2013, the sales numbers there could be seen publicly and the Disney Afternoon titles were easily the best-selling of the DVD Exclusives sold. Further, two years later the four 2013 Disney Afternoon titles, in addition to the previously released DuckTales: The Movie and Goof Troop Christmas, made their way to retail stores, which as of this opinion piece is the last anyone has seen from “official” DA on DVD releases.
So what happened? Most likely the retail versions didn’t sell as well as DHE had hoped based on the previous sales of the same titles via the DMC and once again has bailed on vintage Disney TV cartoons. But is that really fair of them? Not really. If the retail versions of these releases didn’t do as well, a lot of that is probably due to the fact that a good quantity of the fanbase had already bought the titles from the DMC. The slightly lower price tag and shinny new covers just were not enough to convince a lot of fans to double dip for the exact same DVDs. Further, long before they even knew what the retail sales would be like, 2013 clearly brought high sales from these titles. The logical step would have been to release more vintage Disney TV Animation on DVD via the DMC Exclusives in 2014. They probably would have sold just as well, maybe even better depending on the titles. Currently, the DMC is focused 100% on theatrical films on Blu-ray, and while it’s great to get movies like Operation Dumbo Drop is the proper aspect ratio in HD, DMC doesn’t have to choose between the two, they can do both: release theatrical Blu-rays AND Disney TV Animation on DVD.
In the same year DMC released the last six DTVA titles in question, they also released other titles. Imagine if over the last three years (2014, 2015 and 2016), the DMC had dedicated six more DTVA titles per year to release. That would have been 18 additions titles by now. Even if the number had been cut to four a year, that’s still 12 additional titles by now. Either count would be more than enough to finish the final DVD release of Gummi Bears, DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles and Goof Troop, as well as 2002’s Kim Possible, which had two season sets released earlier by the DMC and still have two more to go, as well as release the first volume of a few new shows that are lacking any kind of DVD release currently. With many of these older titles reaching milestone anniversary the last few years, DMC could have cashed in even more by slapping a “25th” or “30th Anniversary” logo on the various sets, and then just sat back and watched the money roll in. Imagine if last year for example the DMC had released Gummi Bears: Volume 2 and The Wuzzles: The Complete Series on DVD for the two show’s 30th Anniversary? This year they could have put out what probably would be the last two volumes of Darkwing Duck (a serious fan favorite!) for the show’s 25th Anniversary, the last volume of Goof Troop next year for its 25th, and so on and so forth. Possible cross promotional tie-ins could even be utilized. What a crazy idea if DMC has released the full One Saturday Morning era show The Legend of Tarzan on DVD as cross promotion with the Warner Brothers live action film of the same name? DHE is finally releasing the 1992 hit Aladdin on Blu-ray you say? Follow that up with at least a few volumes of Aladdin: The Series on DVD! Such releases would bring many new customers to Disney’s DMC as well as sell a lot of copies of DVD’s to a lot of 80’s and 90’s nostalgia starved fans.
Most of Disney’s main TV cartoon rivals from the 80’s and 90’s have put their cartoons fully out there on DVD. Warner has found a way to releases shows like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs in full on DVD in retail sets, while less popular shows like Histaria! and Road Rover have found their way onto DVD via the Warner Archive Collection, while Nickelodeon has licensed out most of its Toon Nick 90’s shows to SHOUT! Factory, who has happily released them as full series sets, and even shows like Garfield and Friends and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has enjoyed full releases on DVD for a while now. Yet despite this, Disney still seems to be a deer in the headlights when it comes to releasing their big shows, even though a lot of them are just as big, if not bigger than the competition shows that have full release on DVD. It’s not yet too late for Disney however. Since clearly retail seems to not be working for them and the DMC clearly has, Disney needs to start cashing in on the 90’s nostalgia craze by putting these classic TV toons on DVD as DMC Exclusives in full force before the money trains runs out. Come on Disney, do the right thing and put these shows out on DVD while interest is still at its highest. You’ll make the fans happy AND make tons of stupid money for your by-mail club. A win-win if ever such a thing excited!