Some interpreted this sudden move in a cynical way, as a last-ditch attempt to milk some money from the physical media market before the international launch of the Disney+ streaming service, but there’s no need to see it that way. What’s most likely simply happening is that Disney is remastering its whole back catalog in 4K HDR, and Disney’s Ultra HD Blu-ray release roster gets to piggy-back on that effort.
Now, the outline of a next batch of titles is becoming visible. This time they’re not Pixar animation movies but Disney’s own animation films: Moana, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Zootoptia, and Big Hero 6. All are due for release (in the U.S.) November 5.
Separately, slightly sooner – on October 27 – Disney’s Frozen will be released on UHD Blu-ray. The timing for this is no doubt related to the premiere of its sequel. Similarly, we’ve had Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 reissued in the run-up to Toy Story 4, and before that The Incredibles as prelude to Incredibles 2.
More Pixar reissues also
The next batch after that, to be expected towards the end of 2019 (no concrete date specified yet) looks like it will consist of Pixar animation movies again. Note that the Ultra HD Blu-ray listings for these movies at the time of writing are not yet up. These are A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc, Monsters University, Up, and WALL-E.
The first sign of a rumored title after that (likely early 2020) is again a Disney animation Beauty and the Beast (1991). One can expect the latter to be part of another batch of at least five Disney animation movies. Not all titles will arrive in batches though. This year we’ve already had the original animation movies of Aladdin and The Lion King released, timed of course to coincide with the premiere of their live actionremakes. And although a remake is still a fairly long way out, we’ve also got The Little Mermaid already. There’s no doubt we’ll also see Mulan reissued on Ultra HD Blu-ray before that film gets its live action remake.
Or perhaps not. The logic does not always seem to apply. Where, for instance, is the original Cinderella animation on Ultra HD Blu-ray, when the live action remake is already here?
More to come
Of course, this leaves many titles yet to be reissued on UHD BD. We’re seeing only a fraction of the 400-plus titles Disney’s been preparing for their Disney+ service. Sure, not all of those have been given the 4K HDR treatment probably, but all the A-list movies have.
There are countless others, both in Disney’s animation catalog and Pixar’s. There’s little doubt we’ll see those in 4K on disc before too long. Disney spreading these out over time makes sense, in a way. Apart from the fact that it’s logistically quite impossible to release 400 titles on physical media at the same time, they would flood the market and sales per title would be pretty low. Offering a few at a time likely pushes up sales for each. When launching a subscription streaming service with an all-you-can-eat menu however, a deep catalog is essential, otherwise visitors will leave again very quickly.
If you also like collecting great movies on media that you actually own, i.e. physical discs, there are a lot of Disney and Pixar movies to look forward to, and enough time left to do some necessary saving.