Sunday 11 November 2012

An Open Letter to The Walt Disney Company

Cc: Hollywood

To Mr. Rober Iger, Mr. Alan Horn and whomever else it may concern,

Let me preface this by saying I am a huge Disney fan, it formed my childhood, and it and its subsidiaries continue to shape my present and, hopefully, my future. That said, there is one particular area of Disney that I am not a fan of: excessively delayed 'foreign' release dates.

By this I don't mean cases where the film comes out a few days later here in the UK than it does in America (as with DreamWorks' upcoming Rise of the Guardians), nor do I, really, mean a delay of a month or less - although these cases seem a little pointless - what I'm referring to are the several month long, extended delays between the original US theatrical release, and whenever it eventually winds up elsewhere. With the best will in the world, the excitement and anticipation doesn't quite hold over for four months.

Here I cite the most recent case: Wreck-It Ralph. Wreck-It Ralph's been out over in America since 2nd November, and is making its rounds across the world release date-wise, but, here in the UK, we have to wait until 15th February! That's almost three and a half months - an extended and significant delay that has infuriated and upset many UK Disney fans to the extent that it's almost all they have to say when the film's mentioned now. This comes on the back of having to wait until this February for The Muppets after it was released the November before in the US, and the year before we had almost exactly the same deal with Tangled (released in November in America, and January in the UK). I imagine we will have similar problems with next year's Frozen and The Muppets 2.

The delaying of a release makes sense, market-wise, in some cases. Take for instance Laika's ParaNorman, it was delayed a month from its August US release, to September for here, to coincide with the end of our school summer holidays. This makes perfect marketing sense, I'm not going to pretend it wasn't still a little irritating, but I get it. But moving a film from a prime winter-market release to the middle of February makes no sense to me. There may be some commercial factors that I'm oblivious too, but I'm pretty sure, in fact I can almost guarantee, that you'll make more money off releasing a film (especially a Disney film. A highly anticipated Disney film at that.) around Christmastime, than you will releasing it early into the next year - a time when people are less eager to head to the cinemas.

Allow me to use another example: Brave, released this year on 22nd June in the US, but then not released until 13th August here. The wait was absolutely torturous! Fortunately, through my capacity of running this blog, I was able to catch an early screening of it in July (and absolutely loved it), but my friends didn't have this luxury, friends, I might add, who were very, very eager to see the film too. Last year with Cars 2, and the year before with Toy Story 3, Pixar's films were released in July, and I'm pretty sure that you did reasonably alright by that; Toy Story 3 was unsurprisingly a particularly massive hit here. So why increase the wait for Brave? Again, there may be factors I'm unaware of, but the usual one month wait was hard enough, please don't increase that!

3D re-releases are particularly late as well. The Lion King 3D was released in America in September of last year, and we had to wait until October. Again, this one I get, it was timed to coincide with UK half term break, but it was still annoying. Beauty and the Beast 3D was released in January this year, but we didn't get it until a whopping four months later! This was particularly infuriating because I was so eager to see the Tangled short film preceding it. Finding Nemo 3D which came out on 14th September in America, still hasn't arrived here yet, and it doesn't arrive until the very end of March 2013! This one, in particular, makes absolutely no sense to me: September is very lucrative cinema time in the UK, delaying it half a year into the middle of nowhere won't help it's chances. We even get Monsters, Inc. 3D (US release, 19th Decmber) before that, on 18th January - which is still before Wreck-It Ralph as well.

I'm an ardent, unwavering and lifelong fan of Disney, and supporter of, almost, everything you do, but this move, this frequent release date postponement, does annoy me. As well, piracy, as I'm sure I don't need to tell you, is a huge problem, and the cold, hard fact is a lot of people will just watch the film online if the wait is too long. Then, when the film rolls around to their country, they'll have no incentive to go see it; you're doing yourself a disservice with this tactic!

Your greatest source of pride, I hope, is your films; the stories and characters beloved the world over, great stories like The Lion King, Aladdin, Toy Story, The Muppets and The Avengers, with more and more, like Wreck-It Ralph joining those ranks each and every year. Why, then, should only a certain few in certain countries get to enjoy these characters from the start? Why pick and choose which countries can see your wonderful films when the excitement is there for them? Kids of all ages love Disney, it's something that made my childhood so wonderful, so why tell the children of one area of the world that they're not as important as those in another?

I don't mean this to read as being bitter towards America, or Americans; in fact, I know, and get on greatly with, many Americans who share the same confusion and distaste for this tactic. Because it works in reverse sometimes too: last year's Winnie the Pooh opened here in April, but not in the US until July. There was a similar case with The Adventures of Tintin, where we got it in October and our American friends had to wait until December - and I know how infuriated those in the States were at that! I throw the last example in to make the point that it isn't solely Disney who do this (far from it), but because you are Disney, because your films are the hallmark of quality, and because we all look forward to your next film so greatly, these extended pauses are felt more greatly, and not appreciated in the slightest. I can tell you right now as well, that if there's an extended delay for the UK release of Star Wars: Episode VII - although, to your credit, there's been no instances of this with Marvel films (the reverse in fact!) - you will have a lot of angry fanboys on your hands!

Through your brands of Pixar, Marvel, The Muppets, your own divisions, and now Star Wars, you have some of the biggest and most beloved franchises on the planet. But they're not just money-making machines, they resonate with generations, with continents, with people - all over the world. Please, I implore you, abolish these ridiculous, delayed foreign releases and let us get back to the business at hand: loving Disney.

Best wishes,
Yours sincerely, respectfully and hopefully,

William Jardine -- Editor-in-Chief, A113Animation


  1. Wow William. I wil repost this and share this with my friends. Well spoken, smart and passionate. Let's get the right eyes to see this, my friend. Peace and love.

    1. Thanks Scott! Indeed, I'll do what I can to make sure someone at Disney sees this; thanks for the support.

  2. Well said William. I don't understand the delays either.

    1. Thanks Derrick! It's nonsensical and annoying, so hopefully it'll stop soon.

  3. Me feelings exactly - as a fellow european Pixar fan. At least we get to see Wreck-It Ralph in December in France.

    But this delayed release thing is a trend that has been growing over the 5 last years with Disney and other studios (Scott Pilgrim here comes to mind. Released in the US on the 13th of August 2010, and in France on December 1st. That got me a thank you tweet from Edgar Wright for waiting to see it in a theater, but that does not happen every time).

    I may not be a marketing specialist, but maybe the people who come up with these delayed release dates are not making such a good job either. If you look at the all-time box office grosses, you'll see that the movies on the top of the list had a big simultaneous worldwide release.

    Just have a look at the two biggest success this year : The Avengers opened in almost all of the markets within a month ; and TDKR within a week. The latest opening for Batman occurred only a month and 9 days after the US release.

    Yes, those were highly anticipated movies anyway, but it shows that it can be done, and it doesn't seem to hurt the grosses.

    Whereas, it appears to me that delaying foreign releases can only mean less people will want to go in a theater see it when it finally comes out. Three reasons :
    - Piracy.
    - You don't feel respected by the studio, and therefore won't bother going in a theater. Can also lead to piracy.
    - The viral marketing is over, and you may have forgotten about the movie by then.

    And yes, like William said it goes both ways. And we know how poorly Tintin did in the US (I had to bring Tintin up, didn't I ?).

    So yes, delayed releases suck. Let's bring an end to that.

    1. Yeah, I won't pretend to know all the logistics of the delays, but what I do know is it's a massive bloody pain.

      Great point about Avengers and TDKR! Yeah, for all their complaints about piracy, it's a little annoying to see them just shrug off something that could genuinely reduce it.

  4. We're getting it on Boxing Day in Australia (which I thought was a torturous wait) but this is ridiculous, I'm hearing nothing but great things about Ralph online but I can't join in on the conversation.
    Piracy is huge especially in Australia because people don't want to have to wait. However we do have a love for the cinema so a month here or there most people can live with but having to wait this long I know that a lot of people won't have the same patience as me (because I am really looking forward to seeing it for the first time on the big screen).
    It doesn't make sense to me though, it's not like these films will only entice American audiences. Especially in English speaking countries where we all love things from each others cultures. I watch British, American, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian films and TV shows. Plus simultaneous releases world wide would definitely help stop a lot of piracy as I think a lot of it comes down to people hating to wait rather than not wanting to pay.
    Great letter and I hope Disney read it and take action :)

    1. Yeah, the release date schedules of far too often bizarre and infuriating! If Disney (and others, to be fair, it's not just them) want to protect their properties from piracy so badly, then here's a chance to really reduce the risk.

      Thanks for the support, Benjamin!

  5. It's not just theatrical films that annoy me, it's the fact that in many countries, when 'The Rescuers' was released on Blu-ray over the last few months, most countries including France and Germany recieved the Anniversary version of the first film joined up with the 'Down Under' sequel. The UK? We got a blu of just the first film, and the cover wasn't the re-done cover on other country releases, but the same cover used for the previous half hash DVD release.
    I want these films on blu, but half arsed releases like these, I will not spend my money on >:(

    1. Mm, it has no logic! To be fair though, the Blu Ray releases are strange all over - we got 101 and Cinderella before the US, but they've got several titles we haven't even had a sniff off.

      And The Incredibles Blu Ray over here had very few bonus features. *sigh* it's confusing. Thanks for the comment though, Tre!

  6. Don't forget to mention that when we have to wait for filsm to come out in our countries, we can't look at anything about it on the internet if it's already out somewhere in the world in case we see SPOILERS!!! Peopel are trying to avoid spoilers more and more these days, but we shouldn't have to.