Why Is Disney+ Running Commercials From 1977?

Illustration for article titled Why Is Disney+ Running Commercials From 1977?
Screenshot: Disney+

With the Covid-19 pandemic shutting completely down film and TV production, streaming services are getting creative when it comes to sourcing new content. If you’re a Disney+ subscriber and search for The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World, you’ll be treated to a thinly-veiled hour-long ad for the theme park that appears to have been captured from an old VHS recording, complete with vintage commercials.

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The 1977 special was found by Rob Sheridan who shared his wonderful discovery on Twitter, complete with a screenshot of a classic Shake n’ Bake commercial which was preserved in one of the special’s ad breaks.

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Sheridan speculates that The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World had been digitized from an old VHS recording of the special which originally aired on November 20, 1977, just a few months after VHS and VCRs were first introduced in the United States by JVC. Over the years the special was also rebroadcast on the Disney Channel three times in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s when VCRs would have been more popular, but it’s doubtful the original 1977 commercials would have been included then—Disney would have undoubtedly spliced in new content and not wasted the opportunity to sell new stuff to nostalgia seekers.

The quality of The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World isn’t great, it has all the signs of being an old tape recording, but the quality looks slightly better than what consumer-grade VHS cassette tapes were capable of. The special could have definitely been cleaned up and color graded during the digitization process, but more likely it was sourced from a recording on a professional grade tape format like Betamax—potentially an archive made by a local TV station when the special first aired. We’ve reached out to Disney for comment about the vintage ads and whether or not they were intentionally included.

Is that an Atari Computer Space arcade cabinet in the background?
Is that an Atari Computer Space arcade cabinet in the background?
Screenshot: Disney+

What’s certain is that if you have any appreciation for vintage Disney and its theme parks, this special is worth an hour of your time. The plot, which is a generous description of this hour-long commercial for the Walt Disney World resort that opened in 1971, features the New Mickey Mouse Club arriving at the park for a live stage show and then running into an endless series of misadventures that, to the surprise of no one, often center around specific attractions.

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The included ad breaks feature commercials for old Tonka toys, the Canon G-III film camera, a Litton microwave (a brand we’ve never heard of), and even the original Johnson & Johnson Reach toothbrush featuring an angled design that was presumably revolutionary at the time. But the special itself is also a treasure trove of vintage finds, including a scene that takes place in an arcade with an old Atari Computer Space arcade cabinet lurking in the background that’s impossible to miss.

Disney take note, until new episodes of The Mandalorian are available, we’d be totally content streaming hours and hours of classic The Wonderful World of Disney if you include all the old TV commercials.

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DISCUSSION

I would pay for a channel where you can watch 70s and 80s programming, including the original commercials.