Relax, there are no naked torsos or satanic messages secretly embedded in this text. We’re a family publication, mostly. Of course, a ”family” label hasn’t been much of a guarantee recently. On Jan. 8, Walt Disney announced that it was recalling 3.4 million copies of the newly remastered video version of The Rescuers, its 1977 animated mice-capade. The reason: A bare-breasted woman appears in the background of exactly 2 of the movie’s 110,000-plus frames. The pair of images zip by so quickly that they can’t be seen at normal speed (24 frames of film per second). Still, Disney pulled the tapes to ”keep our promise to provide the best in family entertainment,” says company spokeswoman Claudia Peters. One video-distribution executive estimates that the recall could cost Disney between $7 million and $10 million.
Hidden images have caused problems for the studio before. Some early video editions of 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit contained what looked to be a brief flash of Jessica Rabbit sans underwear (corrected in later versions). And the original prints of The Little Mermaid apparently contain a passing glimpse of Mickey Mouse and a menacing knife. Such scenes are sometimes inserted by animators as inside jokes; in the case of The Rescuers, the culprit is nearly impossible to identify, since the film was made more than 20 years ago. And though such jokes are no longer so inside, thanks to freeze-framable home videos and laserdiscs, the publicity surrounding the recall seems to ensure that the practice will continue. ”Disney’s not going to get all the tapes back,” says Kirk Kirkpatrick, executive vice president of marketing for distributor Waxworks/Videoworks. ”It’s instantly turned into a collector’s item.”