Disney is deft at sales because it doesn't forget the grown-ups FOR ADULTS ONLY

March 18, 1994|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Staff Writer

We know bits of dialogue and lyrics by heart, although we haven't seen one video all the way through. We know the trivia, such as Phil Harris is the voice of the bear in both "Robin Hood" and "Jungle Book."

We are the parents of young children who watch many Disney videos many, many times. Chances are, we haven't seen any of the movies nominated for an Academy Award. Disney videos have become our adult entertainment. And yes, we'd get a life if we could.

And, like the refrain in "It's a Small World," the Disney releases never stop: "The Fox and the Hound" came out on video this month, "The Lion King" is due out in theaters this summer, and "Snow White" will be released on video this fall. Plus, a made-for-video video, "The Return of Jafar," comes in May.

Nearly 55 percent of all U.S. homes with videocassette recorders have a Disney video. Of these 40 million households, 25 million have more than one Disney video and are considered "Disney Classic collectors," according to Buena Vista Home Video in California.

Disney seemingly churns out future "classics" every other year while releasing last year's future "classic" on video this year -- with previews of upcoming "classics." Disney also re-releases old "classics" and even "mini-classics."

Take a breath; now throw in a series of "Disney Sing-A-Longs" videos, and it turns out that parents are exposed to a lot of Disney. A fact they don't seem to mind.

By design, Disney animated movies give adults something to like and laugh at, says Steven Feldstein of Buena Vista.

"Times have changed, and comedy has changed," Mr. Feldstein says. "If you call the new videos hip, that means they won't play well in 20 years, but they will."

At Blockbuster stores, "they are the overwhelming favorite," says Wally Knief, spokesman for Florida-based Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. Blockbuster has 2,400 stores nationwide -- 39 in Maryland.

For the week ending March 6, Disney's "The Fox and the Hound" sold more than any other video at Blockbuster, Mr. Knief says. "Aladdin" and "Pinocchio" were the fifth and sixth best-selling videos. Blockbuster does not release sales figures.

The home video division of Disney has ranked Disney's top-five-selling videos: "Aladdin" leads the pack with 24 million home sales.

The true measure of Disney's hold on kids, Mr. Knief says, is the fact Disney doesn't have one movie in Blockbuster's Top 10 rentals list.

It's none of this check-out-"Little-Mermaid"-for-two-days-and-return-it, Mr. Knief says.

"The reason they sell so well is because kids watch them over and over," he says. "They don't care how many times."

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