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There might be a secret message hidden inside your copy of Treasure Island. Disney Home Video’s restored, full-length video version of the 1950 movie, which debuted at No. 16 on the sales chart last week, arrived in stores carrying a G rating on the box and on the tape itself. But by the time you read this, retailers are expected to have placed a discreet little PG sticker on the shrink wrap — even though the label on the cassette inside will still say G. What’s going on here?
PG is the rating Treasure Island nearly received back in 1975, when Disney submitted the 1950 film to the MPAA for a theatrical rerelease. Told it was too violent for general audiences, Disney reluctantly agreed to snip some graphic moments, among them close-ups of bullets piercing pirate foreheads and a scene in which a mutineer chasing young Jim Hawkins (Bobby Driscoll) is cut down by a blade across the face.
This January, a heavily promoted cassette edition of Treasure Island arrived in stores labeled ”Original Theatrical Version.” It contained the violent scenes cut in 1975, yet it sported a G rating. Entertainment Weekly spotted the discrepancy and called the MPAA. Had standards simply been relaxed in 15 years? Absolutely not, said administrative director Joan Graves. ”If what Disney’s releasing isn’t the exact version we rated G before,” she told us, ”they’re in big trouble.” Acting on our inquiry, the MPAA’s ratings board screened Treasure Island one week after its street date — and declared it PG. As a result, Disney has agreed to print and distribute PG stickers expected to reach video stores all over the country by early February. Of course, the stickers will disappear once the shrink wrap is removed, but all future copies sold to stores will carry the new rating on both the tape shells and the jackets. MPAA officials say they’re satisfied the slip was inadvertent, and a Disney Home Video spokesperson requested that the company’s official comment be simply, ”Oops.”
Wrong ratings on video boxes are rare, especially since 1988, when the MPAA empowered itself to approve (or reject) cassette-jacket art. Evidently, though, the process isn’t foolproof. ”The ratings code is an honor system,” says MPAA advertising director Bethlyn Hand. ”We don’t have a police force. But when people report mistakes, we follow up.”