December 10, 2019

What's Inside the Disney Vault?

“If you spend any time on Twitter, it was all but impossible to avoid being barraged a few weeks back with a seemingly unending thread from one of the biggest companies in the world. The official account for Disney+, the long-touted streaming platform that finally launches on Tuesday, spent the morning of Oct. 14 individually listing every film, TV movie, and show that would be available for its subscribers, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the new Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian. This deluge of titles promises a treasure trove for Disney fanatics and amateur film historians. However, the streaming service also promises a potential series of unexpected and unwelcome surprises for casual viewers.

Reactions to the Disney+ tweetstorm, which in addition to the studio’s greatest hits, included such forgotten titles as Davy Crockett and the River Pirates and Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, ranged from sly sarcasm tor straight-up confusion. (Among the befuddled was Josh Gad, the voice of a Disney-branded snowman who loves warm hugs.) For the dedicated Disney fan, the new service offers an unprecedented level of access to the Walt Disney Co.’s archives, a dramatic break from the “Disney Vault” strategy of rotating titles in and out of availability in order to build up demand. Movies like Pinocchio, The Jungle Book, and the original Lion King, which were at points out of circulation for the better part of a decade, will be available on Disney+ from Day 1, and a Disney spokesperson confirmed last week that once a title is added to the service, it will stay there for good.

This unprecedented bonanza will make many Disney fans happier than Scrooge McDuck in a pile of gold. But it may also lead to a jarring wake-up call for people who regard certain Disney movies as pillars of their childhood but haven’t actually watched them in years. One of Disney+’s offerings is a live-action/CG hybrid remake of Lady and the Tramp, similar in style to this summer’s Lion King. But the nearly 65 years between versions means the new Lady and the Tramp has to make more of an adjustment than casting Beyoncé. The original’s infamous “Siamese Cat Song,” which draws heavily on Asian stereotypes, has been cut entirely. But there’s more ethnic shorthand in Lady and the Tramp ’55, outside of that scene. We all remember “Bella Notte,” the swooning ballad sung while Lady and the Tramp share a plate of spaghetti and eventually an unexpected kiss. Some people may not, however, remember that the song is preceded by some faux-comic business between the owners of the Italian restaurant where the dogs have their date; at one point, one of the two men says to the other, unironically, “What’s-a-matta-you, I break-a you face!” That, too, has not been replicated in the remake, for obvious reasons.”

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