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Disney animation leaps into DVD

Pix expected to push players

In a major boost for the DVD format, the Walt Disney Co. has announced it will release nine animated films on DVD.

“Pinocchio,” which was the studio’s first animated classic to be released as a video in 1985, will debut on DVD Oct. 26.

The releases, planned for October, November and December, are expected to drive sales of DVD players for this Christmas season.

Disney’s release of its animated films on video in the 1980s is widely credited with popularizing VCRs, and many observers expect its move to DVD will have a similar effect on that format.

Disney has skedded three pics for release on Nov. 11: “101 Dalmatians,” “Hercules” and “Mulan”; while “Lady and the Tramp,” “Peter Pan” and “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride” will launch on Nov. 23.

In December, Disney will launch “The Jungle Book” and “The Little Mermaid.”

60-day sales window

Buena Vista Home Entertainment will release the nine popular Disney films on DVD as part of what the company calls a “once-in-a-millennium celebration.” Each of the titles will be available for a 60-day period, and most of the offerings will then be placed on moratorium for up to 10 years.

With Disney finally ending its holdout, nearly all the major studios and filmmakers have made their pictures available in the DVD format. Two notable exceptions are George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, who have preferred not to allow DVD release of such blockbusters as the “Star Wars” quartet, the Indiana Jones trilogy and the “Jurassic Park” duo.

By the end of the year, nearly 15 million households are expected to have a set-top DVD player or a computer capable of playing DVDs.

“We are very excited about the DVD format,” said Dick Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Motion Picture Group. “We feel it’s a perfect opportunity to begin releasing our animated classics to allow the DVD format to expand beyond the specialty marketplace and enable the family marketplace to be as good as it can be.”

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