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.
Yours sincerely, respectfully and hopefully,
William Jardine -- Editor-in-Chief, A113Animation