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Kevin Krock, editor
MousePlanet at VSDA 2001 in Las Vegas! - Part I

VSDA

Ah, Las VegasÖ

Home to massive themed hotels, major-league gambling, and the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) conference Ė the annual meeting and exhibition for home video rental and sales representatives. What a mix! This year, the conference was held from January 7th Ė 10th at the Sands Convention Center and the Venetian Hotel and Casino. It was the first time Iíve had the opportunity to attend, and Iím glad I went. I learned a lot and met a number of people that I hope will help broaden the scope of our family video entertainment coverage.

VSDA
A small part of the VSDA exhibition floor.

The Exhibition

Since this was my first VSDA show, I didnít quite know what to expect on the exhibition floor. However, I did know, from previous reports from The Digital Bits and The DVD File, that at least the studios had booths where they would be showing their latest and future video releases. As I quickly learned upon entering the exhibition hall, this was also the place for video rental and sales folks to get the latest on store carpeting, sun tanning booths, loss prevention hardware, popcorn, and on and on. Very interesting stuff but not much for the home theater (the popcorn and Ben and Jerryís ice cream were good, though!).

VSDA
Here's the convention hall lobby outside of the exhibition floor.

Indeed, the studios were present but not as many as I had expected. Evidently, several of the studios had decided to have hospitality rooms in other parts of the convention hall or hotel rather than a booth. This made it a bit more difficult to track down the information I was looking for, but I did get my exercise! Also, some discussions in the pressroom indicated that because the much larger Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was also in town, the VSDA show was a bit smaller than it had been in past years. That didnít matter too much to me since there was more than enough for me to do this trip!

VSDA
The entryway into the exhibition.

After taking some time to develop a plan, I started making the rounds at the studio booths and hospitality rooms. I collected all sorts of information, press kits, tidbits, etc., during my trip. For ease of organization, I divided the information into two basic categories, large studios and small studios. Iíll start with the information from major studios and then move on to the smaller ones in the next installment.

VSDA
The VSDA exhibition floor.

The "Big Name" Studios

These are the studios that we are all familiar with, for the most part, and they are also the ones that are generating a large percentage of the DVDs in the market today. Unfortunately, a few of the major studios, like Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox, were not on the exhibition floor, and I didnít have time to visit their hospitality rooms. For the ones I missed, Iíll be contacting them for additional information, and Iíll pass that along to you as soon as I receive it!

Buena Vista Home Video (BVHV)

I figured Iíd start with the obvious one first... Before I left for Vegas, I created a big list of questions that I wanted to pose to the various studio representatives, and because Iím most familiar with Disneyís catalog, it was by far the longest. Fortunately, after poking around a bit, I was able to talk to one of the marketing folks who was kind enough to run through my list with me.

VSDA
The BVHV booth with one of the previously mentioned sun tanning booths in the foreground... see, I wasn't kidding.

While not quite as encouraging as I had hoped (Buena Vista is usually pretty guarded about future release information), there were a few encouraging tidbits. Also, Iíll admit that some of the material I was asking about may not have the high marketability of their feature animated titles, but I think it still has strong historical / nostalgic appeal for Disney fans and families alike.

My first question was about classic Disney TV series being transferred to DVD. Currently, DVDs with full seasons of shows like The X-Files, Monty Pythonís Flying Circus, and The Twilight Zone are selling quite well, and Iíd love to see the old Disneyland, Wonderful World of Color, Walt Disney Presents, and Mickey Mouse Club TV series transferred to DVD collections. However, BVHV currently does not have plans for any TV anthologies. Maybe someday...

Then I asked about some of the classic animated-short collections on DVD, like Goofyís "How To" series, Disney's World War II animation, or the Space series (Cosmic Capers, Man in Space, Man in Flight, etc.). This is classic Disney animation, and, fortunately, some of it is showing up as bonus material on other DVD titles, like Toot, Whistle, Pluck and Boom and Melody on the Fantasia 2000 DVD. Again, BVHV has no immediate plans to transfer this material, and most of their effort and DVD replication time is being spent on big name titles. Maybe someday...

And, to round out my "Maybe someday..." list, I moved on to the migration of the Disney Archive Collection Laserdiscs to DVD. For those unfamiliar with these titles, they were laser disc special editions of several animated features, like Pocahontas and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, with tons of bonus material. The BVHV representative was not familiar with these, so he couldnít really comment on them. He hadnít heard anything about them being transferred, so my guess is that they fall into the same category as the material in the previous two questions Ė theyíre just not profitable at this time. Hopefully, as the cost of producing DVDs drops over the next couple of years, consumers may have a better chance of seeing these titles. Maybe someday...

Closer to the realm of reality are the Gold Classic Collection DVD releases for the rest of 2001. Currently, BVHV has only announced two titles through March: The Sword in the Stone and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I came up with a list of animated titles that have yet to be released or announced and posed it the BVHV representative. Hereís how they shook out:

Dumbo Look for a late 2001 release
The Reluctant Dragon Nothing planned in 2001
Song of the South Never ("but never say never")
Peter Pan Already available as a Limited release from 1999 Ė no plans to update
Sleeping Beauty Nothing planned in 2001
The Rescuers Yes, at some point in 2001
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ?? (rep didnít comment on it)
Tron Already available as Widescreen release Ė no plans to update
The Great Mouse Detective Nothing yet
Oliver & Company Nothing yet
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Nothing yet
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Already available as a Limited release from 1999 Ė no plans to update

Finally, I asked about the Platinum Classic Collection DVD release for 2001. During the DVD piracy hubbub that erupted last year, there were rumors about Michael Eisner pulling the Platinum Collection titles for fear of losing Disneyís Crown Jewels of animation to digital thieves. Well, it looks like cooler heads prevailed, and come fall, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will make its appearance as the first Platinum title. The bonus material has not been finalized, but based on the old laser disc set, thereís a lot of stuff to draw from. Hopefully weíll get all of the previously released material plus a bunch of new stuff. Nothing was mentioned about the 2002 or beyond Platinum releases.

A few other tidbits from the press kit included:

  • The Kid, with Bruce Willis, is being released on DVD on January 23 with a commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and is presented in anamorphic widescreen. Suggested retail price is $29.99, and itís rated PG.
  • Dinosaur will be released on DVD on January 30 in single and Deluxe Collectorís editions. The single DVD will retail for $29.99 and the deluxe edition will retail for $39.99. Itís rated PG.
  • Lady and the Tramp II: Scampís Adventure will be released on DVD on February 27 with separate Spanish and French language tracks, a filmmaker commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette with archival footage of Walt Disney, an interactive game, and classic Disney cartoon shorts, and it is presented in anamorphic widescreen. Suggested retail price is $29.99, and itís rated G.
  • Toy Story will be released as a single DVD on March 20 in the same configuration as the currently available 2-pack. Suggested retail price is $29.99, and itís rated G.
  • Toy Story 2 will also be released as a single DVD on March 20. Suggested retail price is $29.99, and itís rated G.

VSDA
Artwork © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Paramount

While Paramount did not have an exhibition floor booth, they had a hospitality room in the convention center. I was fortunate enough to sit down and chat for a while with Paramountís Vice President of Publicity for home entertainment.

One of the first things we talked about was one of my sonís favorite TV shows: Blueís Clues. The only Blue's Clues DVD release by Paramount was the Blue's Musical Adventure, which was released last year. There are no plans to transfer the current VHS collections of TV episodes to DVD because they have found the low price point to be more important to the target consumers than high quality video and audio or bonus material. Additionally, there are no plans for additional direct-to-video Blue's Clues movies.

They also see Blue's Clues as a somewhat mature property (it has been around for a while), so they want to start introducing some new children's "franchises" into the market. One of the first will be the release of Rugrats in Paris: The Movie on VHS and DVD at the end of March. While intended for the kids, this DVD will sport 5.1 Dolby Digital, bonus material, and more. I'll get more info on this shortly.

Other Nickelodeon properties making their way to video in the Summer of 2001 are Dora the Explorer and Bill Cosby's wonderful animated series Little Bill. They will probably be released on VHS at first, but they may eventually make their way to DVD. Dora tends to grate on my wife's and my nerves, but my whole family loves Little Bill, and if you haven't seen it yet, check it out.

I also asked about the DVD release of some of the additional Dr. Seuss animated shorts that have been produced over the years. Currently, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the only title, but it appears that Paramount will be repackaging and releasing several titles that were originally prepared by 20th Century Fox. No firm date on the releases.

Moving on to another one of my personal childhood animated favorites, I asked about the rest of the classic Peanuts TV shows appearing on DVD. Many of them were released late last year, and we'll be reviewing the three disc set in the near future. However, there were several educational shorts and some other seasonal shows that have not been released yet. It now appears that Paramount will be releasing these in the near future. They'll release the seasonal shows first, like It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, and then they may follow those up with the others. Another option is to include the educational shorts with the longer TV shows, like they have done on the previous DVD releases.

Finally, I asked about a few personal favorites that are not really "kid" titles, but many folks are still interested in them. The first was the Indiana Jones Trilogy on DVD. Well, we're not going to see it in 2001, period. Maybe 2002... but no official timeframe has been announced. The other titles were Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2. Yea, they're pretty silly, but Mike Meyers knows how to make me laugh. It looks like, before the end of 2001, they'll be on DVD in one form or another.

Warner Brothers

Unfortunately, Warner was not present in the exhibition, and nobody seemed to be at their hospitality room when I stopped by. So, I didn't gather much info. They appear to have a few animated VHS releases on February 27th: Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies, Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement, and The First Easter Rabbit (a 1976 feature narrated by Burl Ives). On March 6th, they will be releasing several Scooby-Doo "adventures" on VHS. However, more info will follow.

Fox

Fox was another one of the studios that only had hospitality rooms, and unfortunately I didnít make it up to visit with them. However, during one of the seminar sessions, a Fox DVD producer confirmed that he had just completed assembling the bonus material for The Simpsons DVDs. No specifics were mentioned, but I would expect to see them before the end of the year. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

MGM

Here was another studio that didn't have a floor booth and I couldn't get to their hospitality suite in my short timeframe. However, I was able to find out about some new releases in the next few months:

  • All Dogs Go To Heaven and All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 will appear on DVD on March 6th. No details at this time.
  • The Secret of NIMH and The Secret of NIMH 2 will also be released on DVD on March 6th. No details at this time.

Hopefully I'll have some more release info soon for the rest of 2001.

Universal / Dreamworks

VSDA

While Universal had a floor booth, they didn't have much in the way of family release information available. Of the information they had, they announced that they will be bundling The Prince of Egypt DVD with their direct-to-video DVD release, Joseph: King of Dreams, in March for $29.95. Also, the live-action theatrical feature The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas will be released on DVD on March 6th. Finally, the entire An American Tail series will be released on VHS on March 6th, but nothing has been announced about those titles on DVD.


In Part II, Iíll cover Digital Leisure, Anchor Bay, Lyric, WGBH Television, and more, so stay tuned!

 
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