Clothes makers call them knockoffs: imitation designer garments at cheap prices. But when kidvid tape suppliers dress up classic fairy tales in deceptively Disneyesque duds, are they knockoffs — or rip-offs?
”We release a cartoon feature, and suddenly all these budget copycat versions come out,” says Tania Steele, a spokeswoman for Disney Home Video, pointing to such titles as last year’s versions of The Little Mermaid from Saban Entertainment and Sony’s The Jungle Book. Sometimes these tapes are misleading because they are shipped to video stores right after a Disney movie release; sometimes they use advertising that Steele says is ”not unlike the feel of our advertising.” In 1990, the release of the old Mary Martin Peter Pan TV special by GoodTimes Home Video hit stores the exact same day as Disney’s much anticipated animated version, sporting remarkably similar packaging. ”Consumers buying these are almost always duped,” Steele says. ”They think it’s what they’re waiting for.”
Disney is particularly unflattered by the latest imitation, a Beauty and the Beast tape from GoodTimes released earlier this year with cover art misleadingly reminiscent of Disney’s feature. The back cover illustrates what’s actually inside, a crudely animated half-hour installment of Encyclopaedia Britannica’s ”Tales Around the World” collection, featuring three versions of the Beast story. Of course, Disney itself added to the confusion last month by introducing a video featuring Beast sing-along songs months before the full-length feature’s scheduled tape release Oct. 30. Until then, beware the wannabeasts.