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HIVE EXCLUSIVE: DVD Debut of 'Snow White' Could Switch Families From VHS to DVD in a Hurry

8 Jun, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Will the Oct. 9 DVD debut of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs get familiesto start buying their videos on DVD instead of VHS?

Buena Vista Home Entertainment is hoping it will. That's why the supplieris presenting the landmark Disney animated feature in a family-friendly two-disc package featuring the talking mirror as a wise-cracking "host," along with two guided tours -- through the more than four hours of bonus material -- that are simple enough for a child to follow.

"Our goal is that every family that buys this disc will tell every familythat doesn't own it, 'You've got to buy this on DVD -- don't buy the cassette,buy the DVD,'" says Chris Carey, Buena Vista's senior v.p. of video production.

He calls the Snow White disc, which also kicks off Disney's new Platinum line, "pivotal" in cracking the family market and facilitating the shift from VHS to DVD.

The price will be the same as other Disney releases, $29.99, "which meansconsumers will be able to buy it anywhere for a little over $20," Carey says.

Snow White, released theatrically in 1937 and every decade since, is thefilm that put the fledgling Walt Disney Co. on the map. It's the world's first full-length animated feature, and was so successful it gave the company the momentum it needed to carry out Walt Disney's dream of a first-class animation studio the likes of which the world had never seen.

Appropriately, the theme of the marketing campaign behind the film's DVD debut is "The One That Started It All."

When Buena Vista began making plans to release the film on DVD last fall, division president Bob Chapek says, "We went to Chris and said, 'Set yourselfback in 1936, try to imagine the wow factor people felt when they first saw it, and recreate that feeling.'"

To that end, the studio went all out with this disc. In addition to the movie, fully restored with a patented film grain reduction process, Snow White features more than four hours of bonus materials, including anexclusive music video of "Some Day My Prince Will Come" recorded by BarbraSteisand especially for the DVD; a running audio commentary from Walt Disney,pieced together from hours of archival recordings; a "Dopey's Wild Mine Ride"game kids can play on a set-top DVD player; and "Goddess of Spring," an animated short made just before Show White that marks the first time Disney animated the human form.

Carey is particularly proud of the film's restoration, noting that his initial inclination was to use the master from the 1993 restoration. In that year, Disney teamed with Kodak's Cineon division to clean up a previously restored 1987 print. Tens of thousands of frames were imported into acomputer and cleaned up, one by one, to remove the scratches and dirt thathad accumulated over the years.

But he ultimately decided to go one step further, employing advances indigital technology -- specifically, high-definition video -- that weren't aroundeight years ago.

The original Cineon computer files were converted directly into a video signal without going to film first; then, the digital files were put through a new film-grain elimination process that brought up details even theoriginal film didn't show. Lastly, artists color-corrected the frames tomirror the original cell animation.

"We showed what we had done to Roy Disney and [two of the original animators] and they couldn't believe it," Carey recalls. "No one's seen theseframes this way since the original cameramen who photographed them."

Chapek and Carey premiered the Snow White disc at Disney studios Fridayafternoon for Video Store Magazine staffers.

They also announced a new premium "Vista Series" line of live-action films, beginning with Unbreakable, which bows June 26, also at $29.99.

Chapek says Buena Vista will release two to three new theatrical films under the Vista moniker each year, working closely with the filmmakers to ensure the highest-quality sound and video possible. Buena Vista also will mine its catalog for select other films that will be spruced up andrepackaged as part of the series, often, like Unbreakable, in two-disc packages.

"We believe this is the new platform for the next generation of DVD," he says. "We want to utilize technology to create a unique experience for consumers."

Unbreakable, which stars Bruce Willis in M. Night Shyamalan's followup toThe Sixth Sense, comes packaged in an "elegant" box, Chapek says, and includes nearly two hours of bonus programming.

Highlights include seven deleted scenes, along with Shyamalan's explanations of why they ended up on the cutting-room floor; a documentary, "Comic Books and Superheroes," featuring Samuel L. Jackson; and an assortment of signed, themed illustrations by famed artist Alex Ross.

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