STRICTLY RATIONED pre-home entertainment system helpings of Walt’s supposedly greatest hits, reserved initially for Christmas but later to become a schmaltzy schedule punctuation point at Easter and other holidays. Format never wavered. Miserly mouse uber-lord tosses the Beeb 40 minutes or so of gruel (two or three “much-loved” moments – a jungle creature singing jazz, Mary Poppins talking to a bird with grotesque over-sized human features – leavened with a load of rubbishy live action shit and stuff from The Aristocats) which are then linked by a celebrity from, depending on the economic climate of the time, the car park of Television Centre or sun-kissed Florida. Celeb would talk loyally of how they’d “always loved this sequence, where the dog and the cat kiss for the first time” and how we should “admire these fantastic real life shots of a snow leopard stalking its prey”. Somehow the trick worked and you felt privileged for getting served up tiny peeps inside Disney’s commonwealth of animi-nations instead of waiting for your local picture palace to put on a half-price half-term matinee.
But as the shows became more ubiquitous, so the quality threshold of celebrity dropped. The star-encrusted 70s had the likes of HARRY WORTH, PAUL and LINDA MCCARTNEY, Dr Who, BING CROSBY and THE GOODIES (from, er, Selfridges in London) doing the talky bits. DAVID JACOBS did a 50th birthday special in 1977. Then in 1979 the show broke free of its festive berth, with JOHN NOAKES hamming and hawing his way through Easter Disney Time and ISLA ST CLAIR fronting the liturgically-correct Whitsun Disney Time. As the recession bit, Hollywood was out and homespun faces were in: WINDSOR DAVIES, LENWORTH HENRY, CILLA and TARBY were conscripted for early 80s efforts, while PENELOPE KEITH did a special one for the wedding of Charles and Di.
Matters weren’t helped by the crappy stuff the studio was now charmlessly churning out, and by the end of the 80s things had slumped still further, with Sir Jim’ll and the BP team gamely introducing “highlights” from The Fox and the Hound and The Journey of Natty Gann. SARAH GREENE and PHILIP SCHOFIELD did their best when asked to front these slim pickings, but by now most of us could see that bit from Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo whenever we wanted and didn’t give a toss about waiting for the next bank holiday. The franchise limped on into the 90s as increasingly pre-packaged homogenised gunk, offering “tantalising” “glimpses” of Cool Runnings and D2: The Mighty Ducks. At some point ITV bought it off a ready-to-sell BBC, presumably just in the time for equally “tantalising” “glimpses” of D3: The Mighty Ducks. We’re not sure when the whole kaboodle ended for good and disappeared, literally, into The Black Hole.