Imported Disney: How and Why they differ from UK versions.

July 30, 2008

The trouble with selling (or buying) Genuine Disney Import DVDs is that they are often mistaken for Counterfeit copy Disney DVDs.  The reason it’s so complicated is that it’s not always easy to know if a imported Disney DVD is real or not, unless of course you know your supplier.

It’s easy to spot the obvious copy with the photocopied cover and the cheap recordable DVD, but it gets more complicated with factory pressed DVDs.  Often we assume that if a Disney DVD has a spelling mistake then it’s a copy, but this most certainly is not true in every case, below is a scan from the cover of a very genuine Disney DVD that has a obvious spelling error.

Genuine Disney DVD with spelling error

Genuine Disney DVD with spelling error

I have shown this to a number of people who have asked “How would Disney allow a DVD to be sold with a spelling mistake?”, the answer is actually quite simple, in most of the world Disney actually have nothing to do with the actual manufacture and/or the printing of the disc or cover.  Disney simply accept a fee from Licensees in return for the rights to distribute DVDs of movies made by Disney.

In theory the distributor has to come up to certain standard to become licenced, but in practice quality of imported DVDs varies a great deal from country to country, as indeed does the price.

British buyers pay the most, but UK Disney DVDs have great quality packaging.  US buyers pay a bit less and often put up with lower overall standards, and then the Asian versions can any standard from high to borderline acceptable standards even for local sales.

A Disney DVD that sells for £15 in the UK can sell for $15 in the US (half the price) and can also be on sale in Asia for as little as £3 (US$6), it may seem obvious that the UK buyer who is paying 5 times as much would expect a higher quality of packaging and presentation but where that £3 DVD is resold on a website to a UK buyer for say £10 then that buyer may well expect a product of equal quality to the others in his or her collection that were probably sourced in the UK.   Often the Buyer shouts “Counterfeit Copy” because it’s simply not what they expected to get and does not match the style of packaging or printing that the buyer is familiar with, sometimes it’s because of an error such as a spelling mistake or sometimes that DVD has a Region 1 logo when it’s actually Region 3 or All Region.

I’m not in a position to say if a saving of 20-30% off the UK retail price makes buying a imported Disney DVD good value or not, that is for the individual to decide, but some customers are more fussy about detail than others.

It’s worth mentioning here why Asian DVDs have so many spelling mistakes:  It’s simply that Asian languages often have phonetic spelling and there can sometimes be 3 or 4 ways of spelling a word that are all considered to be correct, spelling has far less importance to some Asian languages and this means that errors that are obvious to us may be difficult or impossible to spot for a Asian whose primary language is not English.

Other than spelling errors, here are the top reasons for people thinking that some genuine DVDs look like copies:

  • Printing on cover or disc may be slightly blurred.
  • Quality of printing or packaging materials may feel cheap.
  • Position of Asian Disney DVDs differs from UK stock.
  • UK Disney often have hologram ring on DVD, Imports do not.
  • Import Disney can come in any colour box.

Also, many Asian DVD are manufactured on different presses to the way that UK/US or European DVDs are manufactures, often a burr mark is present on the inner ring of the playing side, this is part of the manufacturing process but causes alarm to some buyers who think it’s a fault, some think it’s been scratched and others think it’s a glue mark!

The internet is full of half-baked guides on how to tell a fake DVD, worst of these guides are the ones found on eBay where anyone with an opinion can write a guide.

Anyone running a counterfeiting operation is, one would assume, perfectly capable of copying the cover from a genuine DVD and duplicating it without making spelling errors, after all a copy by definition is copied.   New release movies that are sold on counterfeit DVDs whilst still showing at the cinema are different, for those there is no real DVD to copy and one would expect that the covers and disc printing are from the imagination of the counterfeiter, in this case there will probably be lots of mistakes and quality overall will nearly always be very poor.

I can say that it’s very hard tell sometimes if a DVD is genuine or counterfeit, at the end of the day the one and only thing that makes a Disney DVD real is if a license fee has been paid to Disney.

Of course, there are lots and lots of counterfeits on the market, and if you are buying on a street corner, from the bloke in the pub, or from a boot sale then the chances are that it may be a copy.

In my personal experience eBay is the biggest culprit.  I used to buy DVDs on eBay but in my experience it’s almost a 99% certainty that I end up with a copy if I buy rare Disney titles on eBay, even when the prices are high.  Sadly these counterfeits are often described as “Imports” which gives real imports a bad name, and that’s a shame because there are some reliable and honest vendors on the web of genuine import Disney movies that represent good value to UK buyers.

Note:  Some writers of “guides” suggest that a reliable way to tell if a Disney DVD is real or not is to ask in a Disney store.  This is terrible advice because staff in a Disney store are in no way trained to do this.  I tried this myself with a genuine import DVD and some spotty teenager who claimed to be an expert on such matters proclaimed that my import DVD was a “obvious copy”.   I asked the spotty teenager if he actually knew what a real import looked like, he admitted that he did not and he added that in his opinion anything that comes from Asia is always a copy!    So don’t waste your time in any UK retail store, all they can do is make a comparison to UK distributed versions which will always be different anyway.