Once upon a time, in the early 1970s, The Walt Disney Company had a hard time distributing their films in the New York area.
Disney’s suburban comedies of the era (like Superdad) and rural adventures (The Bears and I) were caught in a time warp, with no relation to the youth movement and fashions of the times, nor the racial tensions and urban realities that gripped a major metropolitan area like The Big Apple. New York City of the 1970s was the one reflected in films like Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver and Death Wish. Disney live action flicks like Herbie Rides Again and No Deposit No Return were as far away from that reality as was Neverland.
In 1973, the Film Society of Lincoln Center held a magnificent Disney Studio retrospective (Michael Sporn wrote about this on his blog) which was a huge success. All shows sold out and it proved there was indeed an audience for Disney fare in the NYC market. The subsequent publicity surrounding the Lincoln Center tribute reverberated for months – and this gave Buena Vista distribution execs a brainstorm.