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"Song of the South" to go on sale in '06

Jim Hill

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"Song of the South" to go on sale in '06

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I know that it's been a really rough winter so far. But who would have thought that Hell was gonna to freeze over?

"What do I mean by that?," you ask. Well, I just got word that Buena Vista Home Entertainment will be releasing "Song of the South" on DVD in the Fall of 2006.

That's right. "Song of the South." The Academy Award winning film that former Disney Feature Animation head Thomas Schumacher once told Roger Ebert was on "permanent moratorium" has reportedly been greenlit for release late next year. A special 60th anniversary edition that -- thanks to a plethora of extra features -- will try & put this somewhat controversial motion picture in historial context.

"Why -- after all these years -- did Disney finally give in?," you query. It's simple, really. "Song of the South" 's 60th anniversary was simply too good a promotional hook for the Mouse's marketing staff to pass up. More to the point, Buena Vista Home Entertainment could really use a hit right about now.

Don't believe me? Then go check out Disney's financial reports for the first quarter of 2005. Where you'll discover that the Mouse's accountants actually blame the 20% drop in revenue that the company's Studio Entertainment division recently experienced on lower DVD sales of current-year films.

Given that Disneyana fans have been clamoring for a "Song of the South" DVD for nearly a decade now, BVHE execs are hoping that all of this pent-up demand will eventually translate in really big sales for this disc. Disney is hoping to sell at least 10-12 million units of this particular motion picture.

"But aren't Disney Company execs concerned about how the African American community may response to 'Song of the South' 's release of DVD?," you continue. Yep. I won't lie to you folks. There's a lot of people in the Team Disney Burbank building who are very concerned that -- by releasing this much maligned motion picture on home video & DVD -- that the Mouse House is potentially opening itself up to a ton of bad publicity.

With the hope of avoiding that, BVHE reportedly plans to really pile on the extra features with "Song of the South." Among the ideas currently being knocked around is producing a special documentary that -- through use of clips from that TV movie version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella" that Disney produced back in 1997 as well as sequences from "The Proud Family" & "That's So Raven" -- would demonstrate that a person's color really doesn't matter at the modern Walt Disney Company. There's also talk of including Walt Disney Feature Animation's seldom-seen short, "John Henry," as one of the disc's special features.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment is also supoosedly toying with approaching a prominent African-American performer to serve as the MC on the DVD version of "Song of the South." You know, someone who could then introduce the film, explain its historical significance as well as re-enforcing the idea that "SOTS" was a product of a much less enlightened time in Hollywood's history. I'm told that -- up until recently -- Bill Cosby was actually at the top of Disney's wish list. But now that Dr. Cosby has been accused of inappropriate behavior with several ladies ... Well, let's just say that Bill is no longer Mickey's top choice for this position.

Anywho ... There's one other aspect of this "Song-of-the-South"-soon-on-on-DVD saga that I guess I should mention. Which is why Buena Vista Home Entertainment is low-balling its predictions of the number of units that "SOTS" might sell (I.E. 10-12 million versus "Finding Nemo" 's 39 million+ units). Why is that, do you suppose? Mind you, it's not because "Song of the South" is decidedly old fashioned (Well, what do you expect from a 60 year-old motion picture?), but rather .... Here, why don't I let my source inside BVHE explain:

"This movie isn't nearly as good as people seem to remember it being. Sure, the animated sequences are charming. But the pace of the rest of the picture is so damned pokey.

Which is why I seriously doubt that we'll get all that many letters about "Song of the South" 's racial content. The way I figure it, most kids & adults will be nodding off 30 minutes into the thing. And people who are sleeping can't write letters of complaint."

Well, I don't know about that. But what I can tell you folks is to stop bidding NOW on those black market "SOTS" DVDs that keep popping up on eBay. For -- if you can just wait another 17-18 months -- you can actually purchase a really-for-real authorized version of Disney's "Song of the South" of your very own.

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