Maybe it started off, as most things do, with good intentions. A cool way to showcase some of your favorite childhood musical memories in the vinyl format. Along with many other 90s titles, many vinyl soundtracks from that decade have become the things of legend among collectors. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc. all received some sort of European or Japanese vinyl pressings upon the release of the original films, but were scarce-at-best or often-enough, low quality bootleg pressings.
So, beginning around late 2013, early 2014, picture discs to some of these elusive Disney film titles began popping up at Hot Topic retail stores and online. And again, at first, they seemed like a great idea. Who doesn’t want to relive “Kiss The Girl” or “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” on their turntables? Who cares if they don’t sound great?
When I was a kid, I heard all of these songs on a tape (take your pick, cassette or clamshell VHS), and they sounded just fine to me. Plus, these new Disney pic discs kind of looked gorgeous! So, there I am. Sitting in some mall in the suburbs, on a dust covered floor. Dance Gavin Dance blasting mercilessly over the Hot Topic speakers…teenagers behind the counter arguing over who they think is the “Best metal band of all time, Falling In Reverse or Slipknot?”
I’m holding a Peter Pan picture disc in my hand. It says $26.50. “Can I even name two songs off of Peter Pan? ‘Never Gonna Grow Up?’ No… that was the stage play…how about…wait, wait…no, that was Pinocchio.” I argue with myself. “Oh, who cares? Gotta complete the set, man…you never know, it could end up being my daughter’s favorite record out of all of ‘em! And when she grows out of ‘em, I could sell the complete….” And the folly continues, until I relent and finally just decide to plunk down.
Herein lies the trouble. These stupid things are irresistible to some, while just laughable to others. Ultimately, they are just an overly expensive piece of eye candy.
The sonic fidelity on these releases ranges from poor to average. Dynamic range on the score portions of these soundtracks stays pretty flat and dimensionless. Lead vocals tend to run on the softer side, while background or chorus vocals tend to overpower. If you’re lucky enough to possess a picture disc of any of these releases that plays through without a single incidental crack, pop, or outright skip, count yourself among the lucky. In all 15 current releases (The Jungle Book and Snow White have just been announced), I would say only two in my current possession play through flawlessly. I have one other “Dad” collector friend who has burdened his pocketbook by collecting all of these, and his sentiments echo mine. These things are pretty dull sounding.
Perhaps the one saving grace to these records would be that the graphics are really sharp. When compared with their 1983 Disneyland Records’ picture disc counterparts, they pop out and catch the eye of children and adults alike. Colors are vibrant, and I have very few complaints regarding the aesthetic compositions chosen for the set (okay, side B of The Hunchback of Notre Dame seems pretty hastily-arranged and sloppy).
As is typical with most picture discs, the plastic “cover/sleeve” that these discs are housed in is meant to accent the beauty of the image on the actual disc. What it actually succeeds in accomplishing is falling apart, breaking, or tearing at almost every seam.
No download codes are offered. No bells. No whistles. If you want a great alternative offering to satisfy your Disney soundtrack/collector’s enthusiasm, go with the CD version of the Disney Musical Legacy CD Box (sorry A Goofy Movie, Tangled, or Frozen fans…you’re kind of out of luck if you want a “complete” modern anthology).
To offer a true critique of the entire concept of these records, it would be the “limited” or “exclusive to Hot Topic” nature of the series. Originally upon the release of the first several discs in the series (those being The Lion King, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Little Mermaid), there were pressing quantities explicitly stated online, along with a “Hot Topic Exclusive” sticker included on the front of the plastic vinyl cover (“Limited to 4,500” tended to be the common language found when researching online). In subsequent releases, these discs were pressed in greater quantities, to be sold at Disney theme parks, through major distributors, and online. As a result, they changed the verbiage on the sticker to a deliberately too-vague-to-actually-define, completely meaningless “exclusive” sticker.
Exclusively what? Exclusively released everywhere? Exclusively waiting to be marked down in clearance bins? Exclusive from picking legitimate soundtracks to press as a part of this series (Pinocchio, Alice In Wonderland… hell, even High School Musical would do better than listening to that shotgun blast from Bambi!)?
Also… as just a final piece of “screw you” to all fans of Disney music, and human decency alike, Toy Story’s Greatest Hits from the first three movies contains only 6 songs (none of which are “You’ve Got A Friend in Me”), with no musical score, for $26.50…. just a perfect example of how lazy/idiotic these things have become.