Ghosts of the Abyss
With Avatar heading back into theatres soon (September 23) and Avatar The Way of Water on the silver screen in December, it got us wondering about James Cameron’s missing Disney film. Back in 2003, Walt Disney Pictures released Ghosts of the Abyss, a documentary produced and directed by Mr. Cameron that explored the wreckage of the Titanic. James Cameron had just made history a few years earlier with the release of Titanic, then the largest box office of any film in history, so this had very special meaning to him. We had hoped Ghosts would arrive in time for the 110th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic which just passed in April. Alas, it did not.
Ghosts of the Abyss released in IMAX. On Disney+ Day in November 2021, Disney began a partnership with IMAX to deliver IMAX Enhanced versions of their films to viewers at home via Disney+. The timing and circumstances continue to be great, so why hasn’t Disney+ made this film available to stream in any country?
We believe they should be working out whatever rights issues exist to get this film streaming this fall. James Cameron is going to be the name on everybody’s lips as anticipation surges for the long, long-awaited return to his world of Pandora. Why shouldn’t Disney+ take advantage of that and add this film? We may have an answer, but we’re not satisfied with it. To understand, let’s talk a bit more about where this film fits in their library.
Disney Pictures Library Holes
Further baffling us is the fact that this film is one of only TWO Disney Pictures films released since 2000 missing globally. The other is Tim Allen’s The Shaggy Dog (2006) which they actually removed globally merely 2 weeks after Disney+ launched in 2019! It seems that whatever issues arose is not one they care to resolve. Disney Pictures is their primary film line, so it’s reasonable to expect it to be complete. It doesn’t help that Robert Iger (Disney CEO and father of Disney+) misled people by promising the “entire motion picture library” would be available in one place for the first time ever. Many expected Disney+ to be a more sufficient archive to Disney’s history and library than the poor excuse we ended up with (Figure 1), so adding Ghosts of the Abyss would bring us one step closer to a full library.
Unfortunately, the overall Disney Pictures line is in much worse shape lacking a discouraging and unacceptable amount of films from the 50s – 80s (roughly half from each decade). Nearly all of those un-streamable films are available to rent or buy on home media and digital TVOD, but Disney abandoned licensing their classic Disney Pictures library in June 2020 returning only to drop a few in April 2021 and June 2021 and then ending their efforts once and apparently for all. In spite of all this, they’re streaming nearly every single film from the past 22 years in at least one country.
The USA Disney Pictures library isn’t a pretty picture either. A disappointing amount of modern films are still hanging out in Pay Two window blackholes from the ancient Starz output deal that ended in 2015. Starz continues to hold the 2013-2015 slate films Maleficent, Oz the Great and Powerful, Cinderella, and Tomorrowland hostage another 3 years! Disney also chose not to add The Lone Ranger (2014) to USA days before its arrival that had been promoted with a Coming Soon page for almost 2 years. Their reason? Armie Hammer had just entered the news as a cannibal… Okay, that’s bad! But Disney’s hypocrisy means they still sell it, rent it, and stream it on Disney+ in most of the world where it had already been added. Many have wondered why they didn’t just quietly add it in USA without promotion or remove it globally. They are extremely inconsistent and it’s not a good look.
Bridge To Terabithia
Wait, didn’t we say only TWO Disney Pictures films post-2000 were missing and they were Shaggy Dog and Ghosts of the Abyss? How does Bridge to Terabithia factor in?
Disney+ Canada has had Bridge to Terabithia for 2 years now! Therefore it is not one of only 2 missing worldwide, but it IS missing from the USA library. This isn’t a matter of it being unable to stream since Disney had it streaming on HBO Max in a library deal until March 2021, over 1.5 years ago. Since that point, it’s been in their vault. All other Disney films that left this HBO library deal immediately came to Disney+ except this and The Jungle Book (1994) which also left the same day. That’s an entirely different curiosity. What ties Bridge to Terabithia to Ghosts of the Abyss?
Why Are Bridge To Terabithia And Ghosts Of The Abyss Unavailable In USA?
While the films were released by Disney Pictures, they were produced by Walden Media. In addition, Disney did not distribute these films worldwide. In many territories they are distributed by Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate). This doesn’t mean Disney+ can’t stream them here. Disney is actually streaming multiple Disney Pictures films that were produced by Walden Media, including others that were also distributed by Summit outside USA. Those films are Holes; Around the World in 80 Days (2004); Aliens of the Deep; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe; and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Forgive us for not considering the Walden Media of it all a valid excuse.
Walden Media is probably the hold up on both of these films, but we don’t understand why Disney hasn’t fixed it. If they can work with them on many others (and even stream Bridge in Canada) they should fix this. We’ve reached out to them multiple times in the past about this but have never received a response. If they reply this time we’ll add in their reply.
How To Watch Them Today
Ghosts of the Abyss is available to buy or rent on Blu-ray, DVD, and TVOD, but the trailer actually “expired” on YouTube’s listing years ago and it now looks like this:
Bridge to Terabithia is similarly available on DVD, Blu-ray, and TVOD.
What do you think? Should Disney work this out? Why do you think these films are missing? Do you think Bridge to Terabithia and Ghosts of the Abyss are both tied up by Walden Media? If you’d like to see any of these missing Disney Pictures films we encourage to you leave ample feedback here on Disney+’s official system:
Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.