My Disney Top 5 - Things I'm Looking Forward to on Disney+by Chris Barry, contributing writer
I can recall not so long ago a good friend of mine and I were discussing how he wanted to expose his 3-year-old son Tyler to the stable of Disney classics and that it wasn't such an easy task. I guess not everyone is a Disney fanatic like me and made sure to purchase every Disney animated classic on DVD and then, quite insanely, repurchased them all on Blu-ray. If little Tyler was going to be exposed to all of the Toy Story films, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book and so on and so on, his folks were either going to have to make some hefty purchases, spend lots of time in the library, or, I suppose, borrow them all from me. I remember him turning to me, his Disney nut friend, and saying, "It'd be great if all the Disney classic were available to stream or all online someplace. I really want to show them all to my son." Someone must have been listening because now, with a few clicks of the mouse, he can have all the Disney classics he wants and then some.
So here it is November 12, 2019. To most people not in our particular orbit, it's just another Tuesday. To Disney fans, this was a day we've been waiting for. It was the day that Disney+ went live. The Walt Disney Company's new streaming service launched after months of anticipation and heavy promotion. Disney's attempt to compete in the ever expanding online content world of Netflix and Amazon has been brewing for several years now. Just about a year ago on November 8, 2018 Disney CEO Bob Iger made the official announcement that the new service would be called Disney+ and that's when things began to get exciting. As the service began to come into clearer focus, we Disney fans realized that not only would we have a place to find all of the Disney classic films that are so significant to our lives, but we would be having new content created across the company's wide spectrum of assets as well. It's an idea whose time has definitely come.
I remember working at VH1 in the mid 1990s. I was helping out one of the producers searching through the MTV Networks archives for some interview footage of The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. We were working on a special to be aired a few days after Jerry's passing in 1995. I was absolutely astonished with the amount of music performances, interviews, documentaries, news clips, and so much more sitting on the shelves of the MTV Networks archives. I was even more astonished, and to be honest, pretty annoyed, that all this amazing content was sitting on shelves not being viewed by music fans like me the world over.
That was, of course, a long time before streaming services were even a thought in some techie's head. The MTV archives only went back to the 1980s and was a treasure trove of 15 years of music and pop culture documentation. Comparatively, let's consider for a moment just how much content the Walt Disney Company has in its vaults given the decades upon decades of content. Now factor in the purchase of Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and 20th Century Fox. The possibilities for streaming content are truly endless.
With that said I'm one of the lucky folks who are getting my subscription free for a year due to my Verizon Unlimited Data contract. Not that that really matters, because there was no question on whether or not I was going to hop on board and subscribe. The free year certainly was an added bonus but I was sold as soon as they announced it. So, what is it that I'm looking forward to the most as the service has now launched? Let's take a look with my Top 5 things I'm looking forward to on Disney+.
5 - Various Animated Series
There's a ton of animation to be found on the Disney streaming service. The obvious choices are all there, but there's so much more. I wasn't a kid by any means when the Disney Afternoon made its debut in the 1990s but that didn't mean that I wasn't a big fan of shows like DuckTales, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, and TaleSpin. To me, these shows were Disney at its best with great storytelling and classic 2D animation. All three of those series can be found on Disney+ along with other favorites like Darkwing Duck, Quack Pack, Hercules the Animated Series, and Goof Troop.
If you've got teenagers like me, they probably grew up watching Phineas and Ferb and Kim Possible, shows that seem to be just about forgotten already in the Disney universe and yet, in this writer's opinion, are some of the best things the Disney company has produced. If you're a Star Wars animated series fan The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Resistance are all here as well as the various, and really well produced and quite often hysterical, Star Wars Lego series.
If you're a Marvel fan, there's a boatload of animated series to find on Disney+. The 1990s offered up some excellent Marvel animated treats like Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, and X-Men. There are several Spiderman episodes from the 1980s and all of the newer animated series like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers are here as well. And while I still don't see it as a great fit for Disney, you could always partake in a few episodes of The Simpsons, considering the small fact that all 30 seasons worth can be found on Disney+. Personally I can't wait for a rainy day to binge watch some DuckTales!
4 - New Pixar Content
It's next to impossible to fathom that Pixar and Disney almost parted company under Michael Eisner's reign. Toy Story is Disney and so are Monster's Inc. and Nemo and The Incredibles. They belong together and we really came close to that not being the case. Pixar never disappoints me. To me, they're the second greatest animation studio in history. So, I'm enthused by the fact that we may be seeing some exclusive Pixar content released to Disney+.
So far I've gotten a big kick out of Forky Asks a Question: What is Money? and Pixar in Real Life. The latter found a real life emotion machine from Pixar's Inside Out placed in Manhattan's Washington Square Park this past summer. Confused pedestrians sort of recognized the iconic machine from the film and then had a ball realizing the machine was controlling some nearby actor's emotions. I wasn't sure what to think of Forky when I saw Toy Story 4, but he's grown on me. He has to be one of the weirdest Pixar creations, and that's saying something. His short with Hamm is a lot of fun and I hope they keep up the series.
Perhaps most special is the short film Float produced as part of Pixar's Sparkshorts series. This series is a way of Pixar exploring new talent from within the company. Small budgets and time constraints are given to artists and the results, often quite stunning results, have been posted on the Pixar YouTube channel. The first three ran earlier this year. The next in the series, Float, is really quite extraordinary and I can't wait for the next two to be released on the service in the upcoming months. This is the kind of a thing that a service like this was made for.
3 - New Original Marvel Content
I was never sure about Disney purchasing Marvel. I didn't think it was such a good match. Obviously, I was a little off on that. The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was really something epic and groundbreaking and the backing of the Walt Disney Company had a whole lot to do with that. Much like all of the Disney animated classics, I own all of the entries in the MCU starting with Iron Man and making my way all the way up to and including Endgame, so I have access to this massive library of content whenever I want to. Now, it'll be easier for sure, but that's not the most exciting part about Marvel on Disney+. What I really can't wait for is the continuation of stories featuring characters I thought I might be saying goodbye to once the credits rolled on Avengers: Endgame.
I'm excited for all of them, but the ones I'm most anticipating are series based on Loki and something really intriguing called Wandavision. The pairing of Scarlet Witch and Vison was a real interesting one and it was a romance that I never saw coming and that's something rare in movies today. I can't wait for their Disney+ debut. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until early 2021 to see how two of my favorite characters are doing, but I'm hoping it'll be worth the wait.
2 - Classic Mickey Mouse Shorts
This is something I've long waited for, all, or almost all of the classic Walt Disney animated shorts, the bedrock on which the very company was built, available in one place for viewing. I've often ruminated on how awesome it would be to have a separate channel, apart from Disney Channel, for all of this classic faire. My wishing and ruminating has finally come to fruition. I do own a large percentage of these classic shorts on DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD collections, but this is the way they should be presented; readily available for viewing.
I've only had the service for a day and I've watched several of my old favorites like Ye Olden Days, Thru the Mirror, The Simple Things, and the granddaddy of them all Steamboat Willie. I've long felt that these films need to be seen and appreciated, not released every once in a blue moon and then returned to the cold dark vaults where they reside. Watching these is like watching history unfold right in front of your eyes. You're literally seeing the birth and perfection of an artistic medium.
1 - The Mandalorian and Obi Wan Kenobi
There's a faction of Star Wars fans out there that aren't too thrilled with what Disney's done with their beloved characters from a long time ago and far, far away. I have a co-worker who is a lifelong Star Wars fan that wouldn't even watch the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker because he claims that, "Disney ruined Luke Skywalker for me in The Last Jedi." I've listened to his argument and I've read all of the complaints online and, being the eternal optimist that I tend to be, I wholeheartedly disagree.
As I've written here before, Star Wars hit me as a 9-year-old boy in 1977 and it's been a part of my life ever since. In my eyes, as long as it's quality material and stays true to the spirit of good storytelling, then I'm all in for new Star Wars films, animated series, comic books, and whatever else the pairing of Disney and Lucasfilm has to offer. Case in point, The Mandalorian. This one had me from the first image I saw of a Boba Fett looking bounty hunter's story being brought to my living room. I've had Disney+ for 24 hours already and I'm almost annoyed at myself for not making the time to watch the first episode. The buzz seems positive and I have a good friend and a reliable Star Wars judge who's told me it's awesome.
The big excitement for me is that this is more than a one shot deal. I'm getting eight episodes of The Mandalorian and unlike most recent streaming binges on Netflix, they're not all dropping at once. I prefer that so I can draw it out over the course of eight weeks much the way I watch network television. I can't deny that I enjoy killing a weekend watching Stranger Things season three, but now it's gone for god only knows how long. At least with The Mandalorian I'll be entrenched in the Star Wars universe for two whole months as they are due to be released weekly. And then, the greatest thing from the much maligned Star Wars prequels (and for the record this optimistic Star Wars fan has no real big problem with Episodes 1, 2 and 3) Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan Kenobi will be starring in his own series coming to Disney+ in 2020. Bottom line, Disney+ is a gift to us Star Wars fanatics. I'll dig into The Mandalorian this weekend and I can't wait.
So, yes there were some glitches on launch day. From what I hear there were some delays loading content and atrocious waits with Disney+ customer service. I hate to still be the voice of reason and optimism, but this was a massive technical rollout and there were bound to be glitches and hiccups on day one. I didn't try anything too ambitious. I watched a few classic Mickey shorts on my laptop with ease. My sons watched Monster's University and the original Toy Story on their iPhones with no complaints. I have confidence that any kinks will be soon worked out. Disney+ is ready to go on the Apple TV in my living room where it sits waiting for me to binge my way through some classic DuckTales, that awesome Fantastic Four animated series from the 1990s, and as much Star Wars as I can handle in one sitting. After that it's the Imagineering documentary, more vintage Disney shorts and whatever else the service throws at me. I've been waiting a long time for a service like this and I can't wait to see what treasures are dug out of the Disney vaults. It's only been a day but so far so good.
That's it for this Top 5. Next time I'll get back to the Disney parks and attractions. In the meantime, as always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below let me hear your thoughts on Disney+, if you have it, if you don't have it but want it, or even if you have no interest in it and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.