As part of our coverage of this title Director / Writer Alan Shapiro has written a guest article which can be read here.
History lesson: Before Disney Channel’s beloved DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) franchise there was an earlier line of “Original Movies.” After Disney Channel launched in 1983 (then called The Disney Channel) and up until Under Wraps premiered in 1997 as the first “DCOM,” there were actually several other films. This first run of “original movies” were known as “Disney Channel Premiere films.”
Earlier this year Disney+ finally added a Disney Channel Premiere film: Mark Twain and Me (1990). Unfortunately, in 22 months of operation, that is it. That’s just a shame.
We were thrilled recently when Alan Shapiro, Director / Writer of the first Disney Channel Premiere film, 1983’s award-winning Tiger Town, reached out to us. Mr. Shapiro also directed A Christmas Star (1986) starring recently lost legend, Ed Asner. That film aired as a made-for-TV Disney Sunday Movie and Disney+ added it at launch in 2019. Not only that, but he produced another made-for-TV Disney film in 1985 called The Blue Yonder which is stuck in the Disney Vault.
During our exchange, Mr. Shapiro shared with me that back in 2004 his beloved Tiger Town was scheduled for a DVD release when then Home Entertainment guy, Bob Chapek, (you may know him as the current CEO of the whole she-bang) approved a DVD release. He even provided e-mail proof. The DVD was set with a September release date and cover art.
Then, shortly before release the entire thing was thrown a curve ball and derailed by one lousy musical cue that Disney wasn’t willing to license. They asked for it to be replaced at a cost of $5,000 – $20,000 dollars which resulted in a stalemate. The title has been vaulted ever since. The song in question? “Go Get ‘Em Tigers” written in 1968 by Artie Fields and Ernie Harwell.
The problem is that the licensing permission on that little tune covered airings on ABC television, a theatrical run, and a VHS release. Those rights didn’t apply to formats like DVD and streaming services because they hadn’t been invented yet.
This should not and can not stand. Mr. Shapiro told me that Artie Fields, the man who cut the initial deal has since passed but that his family continues to manage the rights. The one thing between Disney+ streaming this classic film in perpetuity and a permanent residence in the Disney Vault is a lawyer’s phone call to Artie’s family. Per Mr. Shapiro, “I am in touch with rights holder” and “adding language to include Disney+ is eminently doable.”
Tiger Town won an ACE Award in 1984, besting several HBO films and is an important part of Disney history. What’s an ACE? Think an Emmy for cable television programs. They were awarded between 1978 and 1997. It’s bad enough that the first DCOM (Under Wraps) is one of the few DCOMS missing due to issues with Hallmark (co-producers), but now the first Disney Channel Premiere film too?
Why is Disney+ so lacking in these important historical titles and where is the will to fight? Disney can afford to license the jingle or to replace it and it should not stand in between future releases. This isn’t a Muppet Babies (1984) disaster with Star Trek footage and Ninja Turtles references… there is no valid excuse here.
We encourage you to submit feedback via help.disneyplus.com using their “Request a Title Form.” Please submit requests for Tiger Town AND The Blue Yonder. Let’s help Mr. Shapiro get his films where they belong – on screens in front of a new generation.
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.