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To date, there have been nearly a dozen different types of DVD releases from Disney and, for many, it's quite confusing to figure out what's what. To further complicate matters, since this article was first published, Disney has ended the "Gold Collection", "Vault Disney", and "Collector's Edition" lines, as they try to find the nomenclature and design which best serves their customers and sales. The article has been updated as well as it can be, but there's definitely gray areas and leeway to classifying their DVDs these days, when "Special Edition" can refer to about half a dozen, vastly different releases.

Disney was one of the last studios to jump into the DVD format, with its first DVD releases being live-action films in the fall of 1998. For several years, live-action Disney movies would, for the most part, only see standard single-disc releases with few extras.

Limited Issue
The Little Mermaid - Limited Issue The Jungle Book - Limited Issue Lady and the Tramp - Limited Issue

It wasn't until the Fall of 1999 when Disney decided to open up its vaults and release some of their Animated Classics on the DVD format. Their inital plan called for 9 movies (8 "Classics" and 1 direct-to-video title) to be released on a weekly basis. Each title was to only be available for a number of weeks, at which point it would go out of print. These Limited Issue titles were ridiculously priced at $39.99 retail, contained few or no extras, and widescreen releases were not enhanced for 16:9 TVs. This plan was a disaster: even the "Limited Issue" banners across the cases could not sell these movies. At this point, the studio realized that it would have to put more effort into their DVD releases. These nine initial DVD releases (The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Mulan, Hercules,and The Lion King II: Simba's Pride) are now all out-of-print and extremely difficult to find. Three of these Limited Issues were quickly re-packaged as Gold Collection titles (Pinocchio, Hercules, and Mulan) the following year. One (Peter Pan) was upgraded to a Special Edition DVD release in 2002 and again to a Platinum Edition in 2007. The Lion King II was re-released as a 2-Disc Special Edition in August 2004. The remaining four (Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, and The Little Mermaid) received two-disc Platinum Edition releases between 2006 and 2008.

Gold Collection
Hercules - Gold Collection Pinocchio - Gold Collection Pete's Dragon - Gold Collection

After the failure of the Limited Issue line, Disney devised the Gold Classic Collection as a new plan for DVD releases. These would basically contain the same few number of extras, but would be released permanently, with an unlimited time window in which they would printed. Generally, these Gold Collection DVDs would be marked by features like interactive read-alongs, simple trivia games, and sing-along songs. The majority of Disney's catalogue of Animated Classics were released as these Gold Collection DVDs with a few extras and at a retail price of $29.99.
(Many of the DVDs have since undergone price reductions to $19.99 retail price.) Three of the Limited Issue titles -- Mulan, Hercules, and Pinocchio -- were repackaged with the Limited Issue discs in new Gold Collection cases.

Future Gold Collection titles were released on one selected day each month. However, the "Gold Collection" name and line were not as successful as Disney had hoped and the studio decided to discontinue the line. As a result, when Dumbo was released Fall 2001 on DVD, it was billed as a "60th Anniversary Edition", rather than Gold Collection, and the disc was packed with extras, including an audio commentary. In addition, the original story about Gold Collection titles being available indefinitely also turned untrue, as at the end of January 2002, the Gold Collection DVDs for Pinocchio and Mulan went out of print.

Although Disney discontinued the "Gold Collection" name in 2001, they did not stop the Gold Collection-type releases altogether, though their newer non-specified "Gold Collection"-like DVDs featured a bit more supplemental content. The 2002 DVD releases for both The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Oliver & Company were both NOT "Gold Collection" DVDs. While practically identical in design, Hunchback was simply labeled as "The Original Animated Classic" and Oliver was given the same "Special Edition" name as the Peter Pan re-release. The May 2003 release of The Rescuers was also much like a "Gold Collection" release in everything but name, as it was given no designation.

New Disney movies that debut on DVD the same day as on video are often released in one version, which can be classified as standard Disney DVDs with no particular designation. Animated films like Valiant and live-action works such as Snow Dogs are the types of films that receive non-catalogue "standard" DVD treatment. These standard releases also include direct-to-video movies like Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas and Lilo & Stitch 2. For a while, Disney offered many new live action films (such as The Pacifier and Ice Princess) in separate full screen and widescreen versions upon release. The practice has faded as Disney has grown more confident in the public's acceptance of widescreen.

Collector's Editions
Tarzan - Collector's Edition The Emperor's New Groove - Collector's Edition Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Collector's Edition

From 1999 to 2002, Disney's latest animated classics were released both as Standard DVDs and Collector's Edition DVDs. Atlantis: The Lost Empire was the seventh and final Collector's Edition release, and like the other Collector's Edition titles, was available in a less expensive standard release with fewer extras. (The six earlier Collector's Editions were A Bug's Life, Toy Story & Toy Story 2: The Ultimate Toy Box, Fantasia & Fantasia 2000: The Fantasia Anthology, Tarzan, Dinosaur, and The Emperor's New Groove.) Outside of the Platinum line (which was reserved for just the 10..., ultimately 13 best-selling animated classics), the Collector's Editions were the best animated Disney DVD releases. These multi-disc sets contained audio commentaries from the filmmakers, plus a slew of other extras, such as deleted animation, trailers and TV ads, and extensive making-of footage.

What might have been an eighth Collector's Edition - Monsters Inc. - received just one release: a 2-disc Collector's Edition, $29.99 SRP, as did Pixar's Finding Nemo in 2003. But subsequent animated classics such as Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet were only initially released as standard one-disc DVDs, with a modest amount of supplemental content.

This temporary shift to single-disc release of new animated classics appeared to have ended, with Brother Bear's only DVD release being a 2-disc set in Spring 2004. This wound up being a fluke, as each subsequent animated classic (from Home on the Range through The Princess and the Frog) has received only a standard single-disc.

In any event, the dual-release pattern has long ended, and this "Collector's Edition" label will be unfamiliar to most.

Platinum Editions
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Platinum Edition Beauty and the Beast - Platinum Edition The Lion King - Platinum Edition Aladdin: Platinum Edition (Collector's Gift Set) Bambi: Platinum Edition
Cinderella: Platinum Edition Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition Peter Pan: Platinum Edition The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition

Perhaps the most special and noticed Disney DVD releases were those in the Platinum Collection. These were Disney's best-selling video titles released as two-disc special edition DVDs at a rate of twice a year (generally in early March and early October). Originally, there was just one Platinum release per year, as October 2001 brought the hugely-successful Platinum Edition debut Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and 2002 saw Beauty and the Beast as the second 2-disc Platinum set.

Early on, the trend with some of the Platinum titles was to re-release the film to IMAX theaters at the end of the year prior to the DVD debut. Beauty and the Beast came to IMAX theaters New Year's Eve 2001, and 2003's Platinum Edition title - The Lion King played in IMAX theaters beginning Christmas 2002. While Beauty added a new musical sequence ("Human Again") for the theatrical re-release, The Lion King received a new sequence ("The Morning Report") brand new for the DVD.
Plans called for the 2004 Platinum title - Aladdin - to arrive in IMAX theaters Christmas 2003 prior to its October 2004 DVD debut. However, these plans subsequently changed, reportedly due to underperforming box office returns for the two previous IMAX engagements. Aladdin, while completely 'enhanced' for IMAX exhibition, made its DVD debut in October 2004, without being released to large-format theaters first.

The Platinum Collection was originally comprised of Disney's 10 best-selling home video titles: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, Bambi, The Jungle Book, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians. On May 1, 2003, Disney announced they would be adding Pinocchio, Fantasia, Peter Pan, and Sleeping Beauty to the Platinum Collection for a total of 14 titles. (Ultimately, Fantasia would never get to be a part of the line.)

Initially, Disney would put the title treated to the one yearly Platinum Edition DVD on moratorium at the end of the January following the fall release, where it would remain for ten years. The company's revised plan called for TWO Platinum Edition DVD sets a year (one in March, one in October), so that all original 10 titles would be released by the fall of 2007, which some forecasted (quite inaccurately) the next home video format might truly begin to flourish. (Though Peter Pan was subsequently rescheduled to arrive in March 2007, to capitalize on the direct-to-video Tinker Bell film that was due to arrive summer '07, but ended up being delayed until October 2008.) In addition, moratorium periods were shortened to just five years, a period not strictly adhered to.

Like The Lion King, Aladdin was also offered in a Collector's Gift Set, with companion book, animators' sketches, and a film frame. Will all future Platinum Editions be accompanied by Collector's Gift Set editions? Apparently not. Bambi, the fifth Platinum title, arrived on March 1, 2005 with no Collector's Gift Set offered. However, Cinderella was released on October 4, 2005 in both Platinum and Collector's Gift Set editions. And then Lady and the Tramp did not. If a trend appeared to emerge, it is was that the fall release would be accompanied by a Gift Set, but the "spring" (really winter) release would not be. But then, The Little Mermaid was released in October and offered no Gift Set option.

The original Platinum Edition schedule was as follows: Bambi (2005),The Jungle Book (2006), Cinderella (2007), The Little Mermaid (2008), Lady and the Tramp (2009), and 101 Dalmatians (2010). The actual schedule ended up looking like this...

Disney's Platinum Edition timeline, from 2001 to 2009

The last two Platinum Edition releases (Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio) simultaneously debuted on Blu-ray as well in a combo pack including the first of the DVD counterpart's two discs.

Diamond Editions
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition

With Disney pushing its promotional efforts away from standard DVD and onto Blu-ray, the Platinum Collection appears to have officially ended with March 2009's release of Pinocchio.
In October 2009, Snow White became the first entry in the Diamond Collection, which will treat best-selling animated titles to Blu-ray releases. The name is attached only to the Blu-ray release; Snow White's second DVD release was staggered seven weeks after its Blu-ray debut, underadvertised, and dubbed merely a "2-Disc DVD". The evident successor to the Platinum line, Diamond Editions are supposed to be released at a bi-yearly rate. However, 2010's titles haven't upheld the spring/fall approach.

Beauty and the Beast is expected to become the second Diamond Edition Blu-ray release. It is currently scheduled for a Blu-ray combo pack (consisting, like Snow White, of two Blu-ray discs and one DVD) release on October 5, 2010, following a 2-disc DVD on November 23, 2010. Like Snow White, Beauty's combo set will be packaged both as a Blu-ray + DVD, and quite deceptively, as a DVD + Blu-ray, allowing Disney placement in two retail sections and unobservant DVD customers not to notice two of the three discs they're buying may well be inaccessible for them.

Snow White's Diamond Edition Blu-ray was also offered in a number of premium collector's sets: Collector's Book Set, Seven Dwarf Plush Gift Set, and Limited Edition Collector's Set. It remains to be seen whether this will be the norm or if the deluxe treatment was exclusively to Disney's still highly-regarded first feature.

Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 are currently expected to share the third Diamond Edition release, with information pointing to a December 2010 debut. Other titles announced to comprise the Diamond Collection are The Lion King (expected fall 2011), Bambi, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Sleeping Beauty, and Pinocchio. All were declared part of the expanded Platinum Collection line-up, along with Aladdin, which has curiously been dropped from the ranks.

Special Editions
Sleeping Beauty - 2-Disc Special Edition Mulan - 2-Disc Special Edition Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition Pocahontas: 10th Anniversary Edition - May 3

"Special Editions" represent the loosest of Disney's lines, if it even can be called a "line." What I wouldn't include in this group are the number of DVD titles which have been labeled "Special Edition" but aren't particularly loaded with bonus features, such as Oliver & Company and James and the Giant Peach. Then there are also the new Vault Disney releases which now bear the Special Edition name, but are something else. (See below for more on that line.)

Then what most comprises the "Special Edition" line are DVDs with a significant amount of bonus features which do not fit into any other line. Into this class, I would include the single-disc Peter Pan reissue, the 2-disc Sleeping Beauty set released fall 2003, the double-disc Mulan reissue, the Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition, Pocahontas' 10th Anniversary Edition, and the upcoming re-release of The Aristocats. Though these double-disc sets don't differ much from the Platinum Editions or the one Masterpiece Edition that we've seen, they are not given those particular labels.

If you treat this group as a catch-all for Disney's non-specific special edition DVDs, you could conceivably place 2-disc sets of recent live action films, like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Miracle, Ghosts of the Abyss, and The Princess Diaries into this class. Nonetheless, there seems to be no consistency to the naming or layout of these and a few of these are given titles of their own.

Walt Disney Treasures
Silly Symphonies - Walt Disney Treasures (Wave 1) The Complete Goofy - Walt Disney Treasures (Wave 2) Mickey Mouse in Living Color: Vol. 2 - Walt Disney Treasures (Wave 3) The Complete Pluto: Vol. 1 - Walt Disney Treasures (Wave 4) Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts - 1920s-1960s - Walt Disney Treasures (Wave 5) More Silly Symphonies, Volume 2 - Walt Disney Treasures (Wave 6)

Walt Disney Treasures are limited edition 2-disc tins (retail price $32.99) which compile episodes of old cartoons and television programs. The first wave of four WD Treasures sets was released in December 2001. This was made up of The Complete Davy Crockett Televised Series, Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Disneyland U.S.A., and Silly Symphonies. For a list of all the Walt Disney Treasures with details and reviews, check out our Walt Disney Treasures page.

Since a limited number of sets were produced, the Walt Disney Treasures are among the most collectible and highest-sought of Disney's DVD releases. The first year's tins were released in runs of 150,000 copies, 2002's sets 125,000, and subsequently the number of tins produced varied per title, ranging from 30,000 to 250,000, with most sets falling in the 100,000-200,000 range. Fans, including the series' producer and host Leonard Maltin himself, have repeatedly feared the demise of the Treasures line. As the amount of popular unreleased classic Disney content dwindles (along with the print runs of the most recent waves), the line's future does seem to be in question as of 2010.

Walt Disney's Legacy Collection
Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: Volume 1 - Wonders of the World Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: Volume 2 - Lands of Exploration Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: Volume 3 - Creatures of the Wild Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: Volume 4 - Nature's Mysteries

Long rumored for release in the Treasures series, Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures instead comprised the debut wave of Walt Disney's Legacy Collection in December 2006. Though different in name, the line was similar to the Treasures in design, with two-disc sets holding a number of Walt-era films accompanied by bonus material and packaged in collectible tins. One difference appears to be the limited nature of these sets, which were not given a specific print run or copy number certificate, although Volumes 1 and 4 have clearly been discontinued.

Three additional subjects planned for Legacy Collection treatment in 2007 were the Walt Disney/Salvador Dali short collaboration Destino, feature-length theme park documentary Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic (a retooling of Secrets, Stories & Magic of the Happiest Place on Earth, a disc which never made its July 2005 50th Anniversary release date), and The Adventures of Oswald featuring the shorts of Walt Disney's first cartoon star. The first remains halted until the long-awaited next release of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 (currently scheduled for December 2010), while the other two simply came as Treasures. With three years passed and no new releases, the Legacy Collection is presumed to be retired.

Masterpiece Editions
Alice in Wonderland - The Masterpiece Edition

The re-release of Alice in Wonderland in January 2004 marked the debut of a new collector's line of animated classics DVDs, the Masterpiece Editions. Its 2-disc set, with bonus features to appease the two markets that Disney sees defined - "families" and "collectors" alike, ended up being the only of its kind. Other 2-disc sets initially advertised as "Masterpiece Editions" (re-releases of Pocahontas, Lilo & Stitch, and Mary Poppins) all wound up being called something else, either a commemorative anniversary edition or something else unique.

Vault Disney / Special Editions
The Parent Trap - Vault Disney 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Special Edition The Apple Dumpling Gang - Special Edition

Vault Disney was a short-lived line featuring 2-disc sets of classic live-action Disney films. The first wave, released May 7, 2002 featured Old Yeller, The Parent Trap, Pollyanna, and Swiss Family Robinson. Though no subsequent DVDs bore the label "Vault Disney", this line seemed still alive in design, if not in name. May 2003's 2-disc debuts of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Love Bug were simply billed as Special Editions, despite being identical in design to the Vault Disney releases (even the menus read "Vault Disney").
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September 2003's Special Editions of The Apple Dumpling Gang, Escape to Witch Mountain and Return to Witch Mountain were also similar in design to the aforementioned 2-disc sets, but they were pared down to single-disc releases. Though some live-action catalogue DVDs have been accompanied by bonus features, we have not since seen the uniformity and depth to supplemental content that marked "Vault Disney" releases, even in their pared-down form. As such, the line appears to be dead.

In another move that suggests poor sales of the first Vault Disney wave, Disney issued 2-disc re-releases of The Parent Trap and Old Yeller in the fall of 2005, which contained most of the previous set's supplements with the only new addition being their respective sequels The Parent Trap II and Savage Sam. The release of these 2-Movie Collections naturally marked the discontinuation of two of the four original Vault Disney DVDs. There are currently no plans for Pollyanna or Swiss Family Robinson to be repackaged or taken out of print. Coinciding with the theatrical release of Race to Witch Mountain, Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain were reissued in March of 2009 in editions called Walt Disney Family Classics. No other DVDs bearing that banner have come, although a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea re-release has appeared on Amazon.

Choose from the eight categories below to see a listing of all Disney titles and their to-date status of being released on DVD.

Animated Classics | Other Animated Films | Live Action (1980-Present) | Live Action (Pre-1980)
Direct-to-Video | Documentaries & IMAX | Television Movies | TV Shows

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The text on this page first appeared on January 6, 2001. It was last updated on February 10, 2014.