‘Bambi II’ dear on DVD

Toon sequel tops Oscar entry on disc

An Oscar-nominated title couldn’t outdraw a DVD premiere last week.

Disney’s “Bambi” sequel easily topped rival toon “Wallace & Gromit” — and every other DVD newbie — selling more than 2.5 million units under a massive Mouse House push emphasizing its limited availability for 70 days. “Bambi II” is the first direct-to-disc title launched under Disney’s longstanding moratorium program.

Under this strategy, established during the VHS era, animated classics are released for a limited period before being retired for the next generation.

Initial sales have exceeded expectations and rival the original’s initial sales when it bowed on disc last March.

Disney released “Bambi II” theatrically overseas, but Disney Toon prexy Sharon Morrill said the title was never intended as a theatrical release Stateside. Pic’s perf casts a welcome spotlight on Disney Toon, a division with an uncertain future in the wake of the studio’s Pixar deal.

Yet to be determined: whether Disney will extend the moratorium strategy to other direct-to-disc titles. Disney’s top-selling title of this kind is “Lion King 2,” which sold 14 million units, but lately sales have sagged, with Disney reporting softer-than-expected sales of “Tarzan II” and “Lilo & Stitch 2” in its fiscal fourth quarter.

The studio last retooled its homevid moratorium strategy in 1999, early in the DVD era. Disney then established a line of 10 platinum toons to be released once every 10 years. A few titles that skew younger — like “Dumbo” — have shorter moratorium periods to avoid missing any generations.

The DVD battle between “Bambi II” and “Wallace & Gromit” reps the latest toon showdown between the Mouse House and DreamWorks. “Wallace & Gromit,” an Oscar nominee in the feature animation category, is said to have sold more than 1 million units, though DreamWorks declined comment. Other major new releases included “Doom,” “Just Like Heaven” and “Elizabethtown.”

“Walk the Line” will join other Oscar nominees on DVD the week leading up to the ceremony. Fox homevid will release the Johnny Cash biopic, nominated for five Academy Awards, including actor and actress, on Feb. 28 as a single disc and a collector’s edition boasting three extended musical sequences.

“Crash,” “Cinderella Man,” “Hustle & Flow” and “The Constant Gardener” all saw DVD sales rise after their noms. Fellow nominees “North Country” and “Pride & Prejudice” arrive in coming weeks.

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