Millions of Disney Videos Recalled for Milliseconds of Nudity

Millions of video tapes are being recalled by Walt Disney Company because of a production prank that took place 23 years ago. A re-release of The Rescuers, which originally played in theaters in 1977 and was first released on video in 1992, is being pulled from distribution to clean up a couple of frames in which someone inserted the image of a nude woman---an image so short-lived that it can't be seen during normal viewing.

The image wasn't put there by the film's animators, Disney claims, but by someone involved in transferring the completed animation to the master negative. The 1992 VHS tape version was retouched before it went to video stores, but the new version was made from the original master negative, which retained the image.

In the film, Bianca and Bernard, two cartoon mice, go flying with an albatross who takes them past a window with a nude woman in it. The image appears in only two of the film's 110,000 frames, and it cannot be seen without putting a VCR in Pause.

Nevertheless, its existence---and things like it, which are rumored to be planted in animated films---was sufficient to draw the ire of the Southern Baptist Convention two years ago, which passed a Disney-boycott resolution. The corrupting influence of such images was bolstered by talk of "subliminal advertising"---a long-standing (and never proven) subject of urban lore in which names or pictures of products are supposedly flashed on movie screens so quickly that they cannot be consciously recognized, but they still register in viewers' minds.

Disney has been subjected to intermittent criticism by assorted moral guardians, who claim the company's animated features are full of offensive, if ephemeral, tidbits. Chairman Michael Eisner has dismissed such accusations as the products of hyperactive imaginations. "It's just people spending too much time looking for things that aren't there," he told the CBS news program Sixty Minutes.

A new version of The Rescuers will be in stores sometime in February, and Disney has an exchange program for people who have already purchased the contaminated version, which could become collectible. Disney officials did not put a price on the cost of the recall, which involves 3.4 million video copies of the film.