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Disney is exiting physical media in Australia

Thanks to The Digital Bits, it has been revealed that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is pulling out of the Australian home media market in relation to physical media releases. The article, quoted below, states that Disney is following similar moves it’s made in Asia and Latin America, mostly due to the downturn in the purchases of physical media in those countries and the growing use of streaming services such as Disney+ and Starz. The move will restrict Australia from accessing physical versions of films from Star Wars, Pixar films, Marvel films, FOX Films, and lots more…

The Digital Bits have confirmed today with multiple industry, distributor, and retailer sources in the region that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is indeed pulling out of the Australian market in terms of physical media. This follows similar moves in Asia (save for Japan) and Latin America, and the reason is apparently down to the gradual collapse of physical disc sales in the region, the growth of Disney+ Starz streaming, and also the rise of global retailers (think Amazon, Zavvi, etc). None of that will be of any comfort to disc fans in Australia, who will now have to pay a hefty shipping premium to import titles from outside the country. But it is true that Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 3 will be the last new-release Disney title to get a physical release in the region. Previously-released titles may continue to be available for purchase until the end of the year, but that will be up to individual retailers.

While some people have confused this news with Walt Disney Home Entertainment being just Disney-produced movies, the truth is that this will affect the whole distribution line from the company brand, which works for the following sub-brands:

  • Disney
  • Buena Vista Home Entertainment
  • Marvel Studios
  • Lucasfilm
  • Freeform
  • 20th Century Studios/Television
  • Searchlight Pictures
  • Hollywood Pictures Home Video
  • Touchstone Home Entertainment
  • Dimension Home Video
  • Miramax Home Entertainment
  • DIC Toon-Time Video
  • ABC Video
  • Jim Henson Video/Muppet Home Video

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When you look at all the content that Disney now owns, there are tons of major franchises that are being removed from store shelves and gatekept behind the Disney+/Starz paywall. Big Disney releases like The Little Mermaid live-action remake, the recently released Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the upcoming Deadpool 3, and many more titles will not be released in the land down under, keeping Disney fanatics from adding these titles to their collection… Or adding long-vaulted Disney animated titles to their Bluray collections.

Walt Disney Home Entertainment reps have stated that they will still be able to import Disney and other brand physical media through international online media suppliers such as Amazon to keep their collections growing. However, this presents problems that most Australians will tell you about: Region locks and import prices.

Australia is a landlocked country, we have no linking countries that share borders with us except New Zealand. When it comes to DVD and Bluray releases, Australia falls into a specific region. Region 4 for DVD and Region B for Bluray. While being in Region B isn’t such a big issue as it would lump Australia into the UK/Europe releases, it becomes a problem due to price. At the time of writing, the UK Pound is sitting at £1 = $1.92 Australian (If the site is using Euros, it’s €1 = $1.67 Australian). So Australians will pay almost double the UK price, plus shipping (add another 25% of the price) to import a Bluray movie. If you want a DVD… Good luck. Region 4 DVDs are dead through Walt Disney Home Entertainment as the only other country is Latin America, and they don’t get WDHE DVDs anymore.

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The only way Australians will be able to access Walt Disney Home Entertainment releases after the remaining stock of WDHE releases has been sold will be to either pay extortion prices by importing titles from overseas, which as described above comes with a few regional issues, or even worse… Disney+ subscriptions.

Disney+ isn’t a bad option… It’s just an annoying one.

Australia’s version of most streaming services is not on par with international versions, especially in the United States. Due to long-term contracts with Cable company Foxtel, a lot of content that should be on Disney+, Starz, etc are still locked to the Foxtel service first, then eventually come onto the streaming services that they call home elsewhere. Not to mention that Starz, Hulu, MAX, Paramount+, and many other streaming services are not actually available here in Australia without the use of VPN services.

Once content arrives on Disney+ (I’ll stop mentioning Starz as that service is not available here), you run into the problems that plague current-era services: censorship and “updated for current audiences” edits. For example, Lilo & Stitch (See screenshots above) has been at the center of the changes Disney makes to its own movies for the sake of modern audiences. There are long lists online of the changes made to Disney and other studio movies, such as:

  • A Goofy Movie, Aladdin (1992), Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Deadpool
    • Sexuality was toned down.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gargoyles, Falcon & The Winter Soldier, Marvel’s Inhumans
    • Violence was toned down
  • Bluey
    • The show was made more American.
  • Darby O’Gill and the Little People
    • Removal of Irish language and accents
  • Darkwing Duck, DuckTales, Goof Troop, The Simpsons
    • Specific episodes are banned due to content.
    • Scenes that have either flashing lights or fast-moving backgrounds have to be slowed downed or darkened.

It is understandable that Disney+ would want to clean up its family-friendly image by making changes, but a lot of them could be avoided by a content warning which they do use for a few films on the service. Not to mention that episode, and sometimes complete show, removals are the reason why so many people prefer physical media over streaming media. You can’t alter physical content without making a whole new print of the media, and in a way, it is a better archive of media at the time it was produced than anything streaming or online media can ever be.

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Walt Disney Home Entertainment’s final release in Australia will be the Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which will be available in Australian stores on August 9, 2023. A fitting send-off to not only the Marvel physical movie releases in Australia but a fitting end of the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy of movies.

That being said… Fuck you Disney, I’m still not going to subscribe to your shit service.