If you’re anything like me, you’ll love Disney. No matter how old you get there’s something timeless about their best movies.
Embarrassing or not, I am every bit as emotionally invested in Beauty and the Beast now as I was when I was three…if not even more so!
But, being Money Magpies, we have also spotted an opportunity to make a little money from Disney films. Disney release their classics every seven to ten years before putting them back in the ‘Disney Vault’.
This is a controversial marketing system which results in high demand for the Disney classics and artificially inflates the price of previously released editions. For example, the 3D blu-ray Diamond Edition of Beauty and the Beast is now retailing on Amazon at £79.95…yes, £79.95, and it was only released in October 2011!
Here’s our guide to making money from the Disney Vault.
- What is the Disney Vault?
- How much can I make?
- What films should I choose?
- How can I make money from the Disney Vault?
- Disney Plus – Is the Disney Vault dead?
The ‘Disney Vault’, for those not in the know, is the term used by Disney Studios to describe their practice of restricting the availability of certain home releases.
Disney have been doing similar things since their beginnings as a film studio. Before home releases existed they would often re-release their animated features in cinemas, for example they re-released Snow White, first released in 1937, in 1944.
Since the birth of home entertainment, Disney has extended this practice, only releasing a certain number of copies and then waiting seven to ten years before re-releasing it again (and, in fact, this hasn’t stopped them re-releasing classics in cinemas either. Both Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King got 3D cinema releases this decade).
This marketing strategy has angered some people who claim it’s a cynical way to create demand for Disney classics. However, this process also helps keep the classics feel like a big deal. Releasing them sparingly ensures that the movies are a brand new experience for the children watching them.
There are stories of people renting various Disney classics that were no longer available to buy on VHS or DVD and agreeing to pay the maximum fine at the rental store because it was the cheapest and easiest way to acquire a copy of the film.
Ultimately, though, the Disney Vault is good for you because you can buy a Disney classic at a reasonably low price, and then sell it on at a much higher price.
Obviously prices for the various releases will vary and, since we first wrote this article, it’s fair to say things have gotten a little more complicated. Diamond Editions have become rarer and recent releases seem to have been in much higher supply than previous DVD/VHS runs. Releases such as Snow White Diamond Edition blu-ray, Sleeping Beauty Platinum Edition blu-ray and The Lion King trilogy, which were being priced between £30-£50 once their initial supply had sold out, are now back at their original release price.
That being said, if you can find a rare release you could expect to make back three times the price you paid for it. The most obvious example at the moment is Beauty and the Beast blu-ray 3D Diamond Edition which Amazon is selling at £74.99. On release that would have cost no-more than £24.99, and it only came out in October 2011. It had tripled its value by 2014 – less than three years!
Here are a few current high-value Disney blu-rays. Note that these are often special releases in some way (Diamond Edition, Steelbook etc.) so these are the kind of things to now look out for when they’re first released:
- Fantasia Exclusive blu-ray – currently retailing at £36.21
- Cinderella Diamond Edition blu-ray – currently retailing at £50.77
- The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition Steelbook blu-ray – currently retailing at £49
Like all investing, there is some risk. VHS and DVD copies of Disney classics that were fetching upwards of £50 (some closer to £100) a few years ago radically devalued when Disney announced a blu-ray and DVD re-release, and are, for now at least, essentially worthless (though not entirely, as this Little Mermaid Platinum Edition DVD is still worth £33.90).
And things are going to get especially complicated when Disney Plus is rolled out in the UK…but we’ll come to that later.
Firstly it’s important to remember that not every Disney film is part of the Vault scheme.
Later Disney releases like Hercules, Mulan and Brother Bear, for example, don’t operate under this scheme and neither do the more modern Disney films such as Tangled and Frozen.
It is also important to remember that not every film will be as desired as others.
Classics like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King are likely to be in higher demand than a moderate success like Pocahontas.
Blu-rays seem to be gaining value quicker than DVDs (probably because fewer are produced) and blu-ray/DVD combo packs even more so (and if you can get your hands on a 3D or steelbook copy of a classic, you’re quids in!).
Frustratingly Disney don’t do many combo packs for the UK, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of buying one from America. If it’s not region free it may not work in the UK but if you’re planning on reselling it new then that shouldn’t matter.
At the moment a lot of Disney films are out of the vault and being sold cheaply, so it’s the perfect time to consider investing in a few films.
It’s never possible to guarantee you’ll make a return but if we were to invest in a few Disney films at the moment we’d go with something like
- Dumbo Special Edition Combi Pack (£9.97)
- Bambi Diamond Edition Double Play blu-ray (£20) or
- Pinocchio three disk Platinum Edition blu-ray (£19.99).
They are all relatively cheap at the moment, all classics and all special editions, so they should go up in value over the next few years.
And there you have it, an easy way to make a bit of money.
In fact, it might even be a nice way to teach your kids the basics about investment.
Just remember to buy a copy for yourself as well, the last thing you want is to have to choose between not seeing a favourite Disney movie for years or not making a profit…for me, the Disney movie always wins!
So you’ve been through your whole DVD collection and found that none of them are in the ‘Vault’. What can you do with them?
A nice easy way to make some quick cash out of them – and stop them cluttering-up your home – is to sell them on sites like Ziffit, Amazon or eBay.
With Ziffit you just swipe the bar codes on each DVD with the Ziffit app and it will say immediately how much you can get for each one. Once you’ve done them all you’ll be given the total. If you’re happy about that, you can send them off for free (they will even send a courier if you’ve got lots) and they pay you in PayPal or by cheque – whichever you prefer.
One thing very likely to disrupt the Disney Vault marketing system is Disney Plus.
For those of you who don’t know, Disney Plus is a new streaming service, much like Disney’s own Netflix, packed with Disney movies (classics and originals), TV shows and documentaries. It’s getting a lot of buzz because it will host brand new Marvel and Star Wars live action TV shows, which, to a geek like myself, is very exciting (as long as you can overlook the fact Disney is slowly gaining ownership of everything!)
Now available in the UK, Disney Plus offers ‘the entire Disney motion picture library‘, bringing about the end of the Disney Vault system.
So is the Disney Vault dead? And, if so, does that mean there will no-longer be money-making potential?
Well, let’s see.
I suspect there will always be demand for physical copies. A streaming service can remove any of their content at any time, so those who want guaranteed access to a film will want a physical copy.
Plus rare versions, whether they be 3D or steelbook, will always be in demand even if it’s just as a collector’s item. And if streaming does bring the end to physical copies being produced, existing blu-rays, DVDs and VHS copies might go up in value because they’re rarer!
Having witnessed the revival of vinyl records, despite the ease of digital downloads, I wouldn’t bet against physical copies just yet.