The "Disney Vault" was the term used by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment for its policy of putting home video releases of Walt Disney Animation Studios's animated features on moratorium. Each Disney film is available for purchase for a limited time, after which it is put "in the vault" and not made available for several years until its re-release.
The practice is the modern version of Disney's practice of re-releasing its animated films in theaters every ten years, which began with the reissue of 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. During the 1980s and 1990s, when the home video market was dominated by VHS systems, Disney films would be reissued every ten years (a time gap equal to that of their theatrical reissues). With the transition to DVD technology, the moratorium period was continued. Television commercials for Disney home video releases will alert customers that certain films will be placed on moratorium soon, urging them to purchase these films before they "go back into the 'Disney Vault'", in the words often spoken by Mark Elliot. Some direct-to-video Disney films, among them Bambi II, have also been released with a pre-established window of availability.
Fantasia is released as a separate "Special Edition" along with its sequel every ten years as a "momentous" occasion. Keeping with the initial intention to release the original film for ten years as an 'event'. Despite this, like in Alice, the film has been announced at one point as a Diamond/Platinum release. It has been "officially" put in the Vault in 2011 but was available on Netflix until January 5, 2018.
Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo were among the first movies to be released on home video. Keeping the "tradition" of their success on television and therefore its seldom theatrical releases; they were among the first Disney films to be released on TV (chosen because Dumbo's short length made it palatable, and Alice because it was initially a disappointment). Disney has kept a "tradition" of keeping them out of the vault, despite the fact that they are very successful and critically acclaimed, equivocal to that of movie in the Disney Vault. However, at the end of the 2000's they were both announced to be released on Platinum/Diamond edition. Nonetheless, they were only released on a Special Edition. Today they are currently available on digital and occasionally on certain streaming devices but are incredibly hard to find in stores.
Aladdin was put into the vault and unavailable on DVD for a long time before its 2015 Blu-ray release. However it has been aired on television and was available on some "on demand" devices during this time.
Pinocchio was announced to be a part of the Diamond line up but has been canceled for unknown reasons.
Because Disney is notorious for changing their scheduled releases and because the films are as successful as the others, the possibility of them being released in the Vault cycle is very likely; the fact that they were officially announced and changed at the last minute is also proof that this might happen again. Therefore all three are still considered part of the "Vault" for safe assumption.
The Walt Disney Company itself states that this process is done to both control their market and to allow Disney films to be fresh for new generations of young children. A side effect of the moratorium process is the fact that videos and DVDs of Disney films placed on moratorium become collectables, sold in stores and at auction websites such as eBay for sums in excess of their original suggested retail price. The practice also has made the Disney films a prime target for counterfeit DVD manufacturers.
Disney's live-action films, Pixar films, DisneyToon Studios flims, and films released by Disney's other film divisions/labels (Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, Dimension Films) are not held to this rule, generally only being discontinued when a newer edition is released (or in the cases of Doug's 1st Movie or Recess: School's Out, when the show the movie is based on is cancelled).
However, Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (which are from Pixar) were once in the "Disney Vault" until 2005 where newer editions were released for those particular films, a 10th anniversary edition for Toy Story and a special edition for Toy Story 2. Certain Disney animated sequels are part of this rule, though not all the time. Despite this, The Disney Vault does not apply to any of the Pixar movies.
The following films are currently considered as being in the cycle of movies which are subject to the rules of the Disney Vault, all of which have been announced in recent years to be in the Diamond/Platinum line up.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
- Pinocchio (1940)
- Fantasia (1940)
- Dumbo (1941)
- Bambi (1942)
- Cinderella (1950)
- Alice in Wonderland (1951)
- Peter Pan (1953)
- Lady and the Tramp (1955)
- Sleeping Beauty (1959)
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
- The Jungle Book (1967)
- The Little Mermaid (1989)
- Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- Aladdin (1992)
- The Lion King (1994)
These are movies that Disney releases as a commercial tie in to their respective major vault release (though are not given the standards of a Vault release, as most are not critically acclaimed and none make the amount of money that their respective vault releases make). As of 2017, if the main film returns to the vault, the sequels stay in general release.
- The Return of Jafar (1994)
- Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996)
- Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)
- Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World (1998)
- The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998)
- Fantasia 2000 (1999)
- The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000)
- Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2001)
- Return to Never Land (2002)
- Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002)
- 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure (2003)
- The Jungle Book 2 (2003)
- The Lion King 1½ (2004)
- Bambi II (2006)
- Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)
- The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (2008)
In October of 2001, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney started releasing these films on DVD in Platinum Edition sets. This continued until 2005, when the release rate was increased to two films per year, in 2006, three films per year, in 2007, four films per year, and finally in 2008, twenty films per year. The range, then containing Aladdin instead of Fantasia was completed in March 2009 when Pinocchio was released. This, and the previous release of Sleeping Beauty, were also released on Blu-ray.
In October of 2009, again beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney relaunched the range for Blu-ray under the banner Diamond Edition. These releases will be released alongside Special Edition DVD sets. The Diamond Edition line was completed in October 2015, when Aladdin was released.
- Main article: Disney Special Editions
Disney Vault Princesses
Disney Vault Villains
Disney Vault Fairies
Disney Vault Characters
Mickey and Friends
- Walt Disney Platinum Editions - Disney's first "Disney Vault" DVD line
- Walt Disney Diamond Editions - Disney's second "Disney Vault" DVD line
- Walt Disney Signature Collection - Disney's third "Disney Vault" DVD line
- Disney Special Anniversary Editions
- Disney Special Editions
- Ultimate Disney - List of movies in the Disney Vault