So long “Disney Vault”? Disney’s streaming service to include its animated feature films

At a recent shareholder meeting, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney+, the company’s upcoming video streaming service, will feature the entire Disney animated feature library. To quote Iger (via Vulture):

“At some point fairly soon after launch, it will house the entire Disney motion picture library,” Iger said of Disney+. “So the movies that … traditionally have been kept in a vault and brought out basically every few years will be on the service.”

If true, this is very big news for classic Disney animation fans, as the “Disney Vault” has been a major pain.

The Disney Vault

Disney Studios, Burbank
Photo by Junkyardsparkle (Wikimedia Commons / CC0)

For the unfamiliar, the “Disney Vault” is a major example of a media conglomerate creating artificial scarcity to maximizing profitability over, well, art. Basically, Disney releases a certain classic film—such as “101 Dalmatians”—for a limited time to home video in a new edition. After a period of time, Disney stops offering said DVD/Blu-Ray for sale; the film then “goes back into the vault” for years. The film will be unavailable for sale in any way, shape, or form until a future re-release; this unavailability includes in digital formats, or via streaming services.

Wikipedia lists 16 classic animated features that’re subject to the Vault policy. These includes classics like “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Lion King,” and the studio’s very first animated feature, “Snow White.” Despite Disney’s plans to release a live-action version of “Aladdin” this year, the original animated film is currently unavailable for purchase or streaming.

Paying for a subscription service isn’t ideal for those who prefer physical media, or a permanent digital copy. However, Disney+ will be a vast improvement over scouring eBay or Amazon for a copy (at an inflated price) of these classic films.

Despite online talk of such, I highly doubt the “entire” Disney animated library will include the film “Song of the South”; Disney’s withheld it from release in the US since the 80s. (It’s apparently been re-released outside the US.) Its animated characters and songs appear very sporadically in modern Disney media (such as the early 2000s’ “House of Mouse”). Still, the film itself is otherwise permanently shelved, and for good reason. Overall, it’s not a film I’m exactly dying to see.

Other stuff on Disney+

Along with the Disney animated classics, the House of Mouse will also add other material to Disney+, including:

  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, starting with “Captain Marvel” as the first film to exclusively stream on Disney+.
  • The various “Star Wars” films.
  • Various original live-action, animated series, plus various made-for-TV movies, all based on a variety of Disney properties.

Overall, we’ll see how well Disney+ ultimately does once it’s up and running later this year. I’m curious how it’ll impact Netflix, which is losing a major source of material.

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