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Q: Hollywood, Disney, and color TV adoption ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Hollywood, Disney, and color TV adoption
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Movies and Film
Asked by: sds-ga
List Price: $40.00
Posted: 12 Jun 2002 16:37 PDT
Expires: 19 Jun 2002 16:37 PDT
Question ID: 25023
Supposedly Disney was the first Hollywood studio to embrace color
television broadcasts (where other movie studios had refused to
license movies for color broadcast, fearing it would erode their
theatrical revenues).  Can anyone substantiate this, including

(1) the studios' concern that color TV would undermine the success of
movies at the box office,

(2) their refusal to license movies to television until Disney
"broke ranks", and

(3) the studios' change of pace in response to Disney's behavior.

(The original Disney color program was "The Wonderful World of Color";
we need to know more about the other studios' fear of color TV, and the
effect Disney's embrace of color TV technology had on inducing them to
license movies for TV.)
Subject: Re: Hollywood, Disney, and color TV adoption
Answered By: mother-ga on 12 Jun 2002 22:00 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello, and thank you for your very interesting question.

I'll start with a bit of background covering Walt Disney, his interest
in television and the show that made color television history. What
emerges is that, indeed, Walt Disney was a major influence on the
ultimate success of television as a marketing and profit tool for

Attributing this influence to Walt Disney himself is cited thus: "He
pioneered a relationship between the motion picture industry and the
fledgling television industry, helped ensure the success of a third
television network, promoted the transition from live broadcasts to
film, and championed the conversion to color television in the
"Walt Disney Programs," by Sean Griffin (The Museum of Broadcast

Not surprisingly, Walt himself considers this to be true. When asked,
"What did you think of television?" he responded: "Instead of
considering TV a rival, when I saw it, I said I can use that. I want
to be a part of it. And I think I've done a good job of using it."
"Walt's Thoughts on: Television" (Disney Online)

It is this attitude that steered Hollywood's perception of television
ultimately as friend and not foe. Even his first television
productions were thinly veiled commercials for upcoming theatrical
releases. While not a huge fan of television at the beginning, like
any businessperson, he saw the benefits the medium could have for his
"Disney Television" (Disney Online)

Walt Disney started to get very interested in (but maybe not
enthusiastic about) the importance of television in the early 1930's
when early tests of transmitting equipment used Mickey Mouse cartoons.
Disney retained television rights to his films, and in the late 1940's
he resisted as other studios scrambled to sell off the  television
rights to their own productions. They were "seriously worried" about
the actual decrease in theater attendance caused by the emerging
popularity of television in people's homes.
"The Art of Walt Disney," by  Christopher Finch. Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

In 1950 for NBC and 1951 for CBS, Disney created profitable Christmas
specials containing clips and shorts. These specials set up the desire
by major networks to have Disney create ongoing series for television.
"Walt Disney Programs," by Sean Griffin (The Museum of Broadcast

In 1954, some of Walt Disney Studios past productions (for which
television rights were retained) were aired by the American
Broadcasting Company (ABC) in exchange for investment in Disneyland.
The park which was still in the planning stages, and Disney was keenly
interested in beginning construction. This 60-minute format ABC
series, also entitled "Disneyland," was filmed in color (for later
theatrical release) but aired in black and white on television.
"Disneyland" changed to "Walt Disney Presents" by 1958 and remained at
ABC, in black and white, until the 1960-61 season. In 1961 the show
switched to the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and started to be
aired in color. In fact, RCA (NBC's parent company) offered Disney a
lucrative sponsorship in order to use the series to market its own
brand of color television receivers. The series changed names several
times, starting with "Disney's Wonderful World of Color" at NBC and
finally resting on "Walt Disney" at CBS in 1981.
"Disney, Walt," by Tinky "Dakota" Weisblat (The Museum of Broadcast

It was the ultimate success of the format of this series that
influenced major studios to enter the television market. Before the
success of the ABC Disney series, major studios "attempted to crush
the medium" out of fear of competition for motion picture ticket
sales. When Disney, however, began to use the series as a medium for
promoting upcoming theatrical releases and it's new theme park,
Disneyland, networks and studios quickly followed suit and saw how
reaching customers in their own homes could mean profits for
advertisers and of course, for themselves.
"Walt Disney Programs," by Sean Griffin (The Museum of Broadcast

It would seem from the sources cited above that it was not only color
television that scared the studios - it was television in general. The
battle over color-TV technologies and standards seems secondary to the
general acceptance of television as a profit-making tool to the
studios and networks.
"National Broadcasting Company," by Christopher Anderson (The Museum
of Broadcast Communications)

While studios were slow to release their movie rights for television,
color television only made movies on TV more attractive to consumers
and thus more lucrative for networks.
"Movies on Television," by Douglas Gomery (The Museum of Broadcast

RCA is generally credited with moving the color television industry
into total acceptance. The complete package of standards (National
Television System Committee or NTSC), equipment, marketing and funding
over a ten-year period all came together around the same time for Walt
Disney to test the waters for his own purposes.
"Progress of the National Television System Committee (NTSC)," by Ed
Reitan, 1/12/97.

Additional resources:

Ed Reitan's Color Television History

Search strategy:
history studio "color television"
Disney "color television" 
"movie studio" history "color television"
"box office" "color television" 

I sincerely hope this answers your question. Please don't hesitate to
ask for clarification if you need more information.

sds-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
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