Disney Animated Movies and Shows Not on Disney Plus - VRGyani News and Media

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Saturday, August 14, 2021

Disney Animated Movies and Shows Not on Disney Plus

There’s no shortage of content on Disney+ right now. You can watch feature animation. You can watch live-action films. You can watch Disney Channel sitcoms and Toon Disney series. You can watch an increasing number of films from Marvel, Lucasfilm, and even 20th Century Fox (which should all probably be on Hulu, but that’s an argument for another time).

But there are still empty spaces in this digital library, some of them rather conspicuous. Some of what hasn’t made it to streaming isn’t well-known or well-missed, but popular and important titles are missing too. In some cases, there are known reasons for the absence, and in many more cases, not. Gaps exist under every heading on the service, and in every genre, including Disney’s signature medium – animation. Here are a few of the animated properties that, as of August 2021, have yet to reach Disney+:

RELATED: Every Disney Animated Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

Make Mine Music

The 1940s were a creative and financial low point for Walt Disney. Riding high off his successes in the previous decade, culminating in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he entered the 40s with high hopes and daring ambitions for what animation could do as an art form. His first three pictures of the decade would indeed come to be renowned as some of the greatest animated films of all time, but in their initial release, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi all lost money – money Walt desperately needed, since he had spent all the profits from Snow White on their production, on staff expansion, and on a new Burbank studio. An animator’s strike and World War II eroded personnel and morale, and the Disney studio only survived the war on government contracts. When the war had passed, the money and talent needed for a production on the scale Walt once envisioned wasn’t there anymore. The best the studio could manage was package features – a few short pieces collected under some unifying pretext, more handsomely animated than the average Mickey Mouse short but nowhere near the level of a Fantasia.

Two of these package features, Melody Time and Make Mine Music, were as close as Walt could get under the circumstances to his grandest dream for the 40s: Fantasia as an ongoing experiment, going into annual or even perpetual release as a touring concert would, with new segments interchanged and rearranged with old favorites like an orchestra’s repertoire. Denied that possibility, Walt settled for two films of less grand, more lighthearted and narrative-driven segments set to a wider range of music. Make Mine Music was the first, and arguably the better, of the two. The abridged Peter and the Wolf that opens the film is delightful (composer Sergei Prokofiev allegedly hoped Disney would adapt the score when he wrote it), animation originally intended for another Fantasia segment was reset to “Blue Bayou,” and the concluding segment, “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met,” is a surprisingly bittersweet finale.

The opening of the film is the decidedly not bittersweet “The Martins and the Coys,” a Hatfield-McCoy spoof musically narrated by The King’s Men. Being a tale of feuding hill folk, it naturally has a good deal of gunplay, and in the faraway time of 2000, this was sufficient grounds for nervous management to cut the entire segment from the film in its one and only home video release. Less drastic cuts were made to another segment, “All the Cats Join In,” to remove brief suggestions of nudity (whereas explicit nudity remains in every release of Fantasia; don’t ask me to explain their internal logic). Whether this material has any bearing on the film’s absence from Disney+ or not, we can’t say; earlier this year, we asked Disney for a word on the subject and received no comment. So Make Mine Music remains, inexplicably, the one fully-animated Disney film not on the service.

Song of the South

From the inexplicable to the readily explicable. Even a casual fan could have guessed that Song of the South (1946) would be on this list, and why it isn’t on Disney+. Disney declared the film “retired” as far back as 1970 (although they continued to re-release it as recently as 1986 to promote Splash Mountain, and it even aired on the Disney Channel in the U.S. until 2001), and no home video release is officially available in the American market, although bootleg copies abound.

There are some misconceptions about Song of the South, and some context surrounding its production, that often get left out of the story. For one thing, it’s set after the Civil War, not the antebellum era. It wasn’t Disney’s first live-action/animation hybrid either. Combinations of the two mediums date back to the silent era. Walt Disney’s earliest claim to fame was with the silent Alice series, throwing a live-action girl into a cartoon environment. Several of the package features of the 40s had segments combining live-action and animation as well. But Song of the South was the first time the combination happened in a feature-length narrative film, in Technicolor no less, though it wasn’t initially intended that way. Walt Disney had grown up with the Uncle Remus stories, and his first instinct after acquiring the rights was to handle them with animation, either as a feature or a series of shorts. The expense of animation, the studio’s financial situation in the 40s, and Walt’s interest in diversifying all made adding live-action segments an appealing notion.

Disney was aware of the potential for controversy with this film, and hoped to avoid giving offense. Outside advisors were consulted on the story, and Walt even hired left-wing writer Maurice Rapf to contribute to the screenplay due to Rapf's opposition to Uncle Tomism. But Walt was never one to follow advice that ran against his own instincts for what made a good film. Warnings about scenes, dialogue, and dialect all went unheeded. Walt may have been the only one shocked, then, when Song of the South attracted heated controversy at the time of its release. What profit it turned could not right the financial ship of the studio, and it’s attracted criticism ever since. Disney decided it wasn’t worth the headaches long ago, and even opponents of film censorship like Roger Ebert supported their decision to shelve it. There has been ongoing agitation, from surprising places at times, to release the film with disclaimers putting it into context. That’s the approach I would favor; keeping it shelved gives the picture a more sinister reputation than it might have otherwise, and students, academics, and filmmakers should be able to access a production with significant value to film history. But Disney has been unusually vocal about why they keep this one locked up, and they aren’t likely to change their minds any time soon.

So Dear to My Heart

In the opposite situation to Song of the South, So Dear to My Heart wasn’t supposed to have any animation at all. Based on the book Midnight and Jeremiah by Sterling North, So Dear to My Heart is the story of a young boy’s struggles to get his black-wool lamb accepted in the world of his small Indiana farming community. It was an unusually personal pet project of Walt’s. He saw his own rural, Midwestern childhood in the story, and he saw the film as the perfect subject for his first fully live-action feature. Besides being more economical than animation, Walt was restless by nature, always looking for new challenges, and in the wake of all his 1940s setbacks, animation had lost some of its appeal.

Unfortunately, Disney was still a small, independent production company in those days, dependent on deals with major studios for distribution. Their distributor in the 40s was RKO, and they insisted to Walt that no one would go see a Disney movie that didn’t have at least some animation to it. He conceded, justifying the cartoon sequences as the imagination of the young boy. Adding animation delayed the film’s release; shot in 1946, it wouldn’t premiere until 1948, with a general release in 1949. Walt loved the picture, and he put in numerous personal appearances during its release. But for all his warmth and efforts, So Dear to My Heart was not a major success.

There’s no given reason why So Dear to My Heart isn’t on Disney+, but the film isn’t hard to come across elsewhere; you can still buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray or watch it on Amazon Prime.

Man and the Moon

Many notable absences from Disney+ come from the 1950s, the decade that reversed the studio’s lagging fortunes and saw it balloon into a major force in Hollywood and American culture. It was the decade of television, a medium Walt was unique among film producers in embracing, but much of the content he personally produced isn’t available to stream. There’s no Zorro on Disney+. The Mickey Mouse Club only has a handful of episodes free to watch. And there’s no collection for Disney’s flagship anthology series, which went by the names Disneyland, Walt Disney Presents, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color under Walt’s tenure as host. A blend of repackaged theatrical shorts and feature excerpts, advertisements for upcoming films and theme park attractions, and original programming, all presented by “Uncle Walt” himself, the series continues to this day, and was the initial home of such notable Disney successes as Davy Crockett and Professor Ludwig Von Drake.

In the mid-1950s, three episodes of Disneyland were dedicated to the theme of space exploration, two in 1955 and one in 1957. They were, in release order: “Main in Space,” “Man and the Moon, and “Mars and Beyond.” The trilogy had Dr. Wernher von Braun as a technical advisor and on-camera personality, but their most notable feature is the animation provided by Ward Kimball, who also directed the three episodes. One of Disney’s famed Nine Old Men, Kimball was among the most iconoclastic of Disney animators. As Walt became engrossed in his theme park and became less hands-on with animation, Kimball saw opportunity where others felt frustration. He indulged his comic sensibilities and interest in space with minimal (but valued) input from Walt, and won his approval for all three shows. Each saw an independent release in theaters after airing on Disneyland.

You can see two of the fruits of Kimball’s labor on Disney+ right now, if you’d like; “Man in Space” and “Mars and Beyond” are both available, two of a very small handful of Disneyland episodes released in isolation to stream. But for reasons unknown, the middle of the trilogy, “Man and the Moon,” is the odd man out. The title gives away the subject matter right away, and its cartoon elements and speculation are no more wacky or out of touch with the science than the other two segments. It did receive a DVD release under the Walt Disney Treasures label, so if you prefer your vintage TV packaged in a handsome tin case, you’re in luck.

Aladdin: The Series

Ah, the 1990s. That glorious decade where Disney’s notion of exploiting their animated library was to churn out low-budget TV spinoffs and direct-to-video sequels that disgusted animation purists for their obvious concessions to economy. Who could have guessed the day would come when we (or at least I) would take a thousand of these over one more lifeless live-action remake?

Most of these TV spinoffs are on Disney+, and most of them are probably passed over by viewers; they weren’t all that good. But one definite exception to that was Aladdin: The Series. At 86 episodes, it was one of the only exceptions to Disney’s once-ironclad mandate of 65 episodes per series, and it was more popular and critically acclaimed than any of the other film spinoffs. The setting and the personalities of the characters may have lent themselves more to an adventure-comedy series more easily than some of the other Disney films of the 90s, and the clean and cartoony art style of Aladdin suffered less from the lower budget. Nearly all the original voice cast signed on for the series as well, with one huge exception.

As with “Man and the Moon,” Aladdin: The Series is the conspicuous middle child in its absence from Disney+. The direct-to-video movie that was a glorified pilot for the series is on there, along with the movie that was a glorified series finale. Speculation has the pop culture references dropped by the Genie in the series as a potential legal hurdle to streaming the series, but considering that’s the Genie’s shtick in every animated Aladdin title, that seems an unlikely reason to me. Curiously, it is available to stream on Amazon Prime – in Germany.

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

I don’t think I ever watched Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, the first spinoff from a Pixar film that wasn’t handled by Pixar themselves. Production began before Toy Story 2 hit theaters, but Disney executives objected to a spinoff series coming out before a sequel and potentially stealing its thunder. It wouldn’t premiere until 2000, and in the meantime, a prequel movie, the direct-to-video Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins was made in short order. Both represent the early work of future Kim Possible creators Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley, who worked with Darkwing Duck creator Tad Stones on the series.

I remember seeing the commercials for the series and being put off by how Buzz sounded nothing like he did in Toy Story, and the lack of a match between the hand-drawn show and the digital film it came from, but the design and art direction of Buzz Lightyear are actually points in its favor. No TV production using digital animation could’ve come close to the quality of Toy Story in those days, and I’ve yet to find a successful translation of 3D to 2D that just tried to draw a digital character as it looks in 3D. Buzz Lightyear adapted Buzz’s design, maintaining a fair proximity to the character’s original look while bending it to the strengths of the 2D medium. And while Patrick Warburton makes no attempt to imitate Tim Allen, his performance has its own charm in the fortissimo gusto he brings to…well, pretty much everything he plays.

While there’s no official reason for Buzz Lightyear’s absence from Disney+, it has come out that John Lasseter and the Pixar team are not fans of the series. Disney and Pixar have announced another Buzz Lightyear project, an origin story set for release on Disney+ in 2022. That doesn’t mean Buzz Lightyear will never be released, but it’s not likely to be the highest priority when it comes to Toy Story projects to get on streaming.

Mickey Mouse Works/House of Mouse

These two are counted as one for a very simple reason: they’re the same show. That is to say, they share the same content. Mickey Mouse Works was an anthology series that aimed to recapture the look and feel of Disney’s classic theatrical shorts starring Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and all the rest. The opening credits were set in a wacky digital clockwork, but the series itself used the classic character models, simple coloring, and traditional gags and storylines updated for a contemporary setting. The average episode was a collection of shorts running variable lengths, alternating between solo stories for individual characters and ensemble pieces, contemporary cartoons and adaptations of famous tales, full narratives and quick gags. It was also Disney TV’s first HD production.

Mickey Mouse Works was the most ambitious project starring Mickey himself in years. His big comeback to TV was short-lived; the series only lasted 25 episodes. But 25 episodes of a variety series still generates a lot of content, and that content was sufficiently popular to get carried over to House of Mouse in 2001. More structured than its predecessor, House of Mouse had Mickey playing host to a dinner theater club frequented by the casts of every Disney animated feature up to that time, with Mickey’s usual crew as the staff. Frame stories in the theater complimented the shorts “played” to the dinner guests (and the audience at home), most of which were recycled from Mickey Mouse Works. Some original content was produced as well, and theatrical shorts from the studio’s classic era sometimes made their way on screen. And it had a killer opening tune by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

This is another entry on this list with no known reason why it isn’t on Disney+ yet. It’s hard to imagine any serious hang-ups to either series’ release, and it’s hopefully just a matter of time. I’ll be first in line to watch them when and if they turn up, because I have a lot of fond memories of watching them as a kid and teen. Hewing so closely to the classic portrayals of its star characters, these shows were perhaps destined not to make waves the way the later Mickey Mouse has, but there’s some decent animation and a whole lot of charm to be had with both, House of Mouse especially. So much charm, in fact, that you can forgive them for using the Quack Pack iterations of Hewey, Dewey, and Louie (and yes, that show is already on Disney+).

The Legend of Tarzan

It’s a shame that Disney can’t come to terms with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate to do more with the Tarzan character. Their 1999 film adaptation is probably the best Tarzan movie made to date. It’s certainly among the most successful, and at a time when the bloom was starting to come off the rose for Disney animation, its box-office take and critical praise were a welcome boost for the studio.

It’s not too surprising, then, that it would get a spinoff TV series. The Legend of Tarzan is set immediately after the events of the film, with Tarzan now the leader of his tribe of gorillas and Jane and her father adjusting to jungle life. Reviews were decent, production value was fair, and the setting and legacy of Burroughs’ Tarzan novels seemed a deep pool to draw content from, but the series didn’t last long. It has only 39 episodes, most of them from the first season. Season 2 was only three episodes long, and they were incorporated into the direct-to-video sequel Tarzan & Jane in 2002.

Contrary to some Internet rumors, Disney does still have rights to work with their version of Tarzan, and it has, so there shouldn’t be any legal barrier to the series making its way to stream eventually. It’s another title that isn’t likely to be a high priority, given its short life and limited popularity, but its fans can still hope to see it one day.

Enchanted

In many ways, Enchanted felt like a fresh start when it premiered in 2007. The film itself was described by director Kevin Lima as a “loving homage” to its Disney heritage, and it was the first time Disney had touched on traditional fairy tale themes since Aladdin in 1992. It was also produced at a critical juncture in the history of the company. The early-to-mid 2000s saw a lot of internal strife at Disney, with the conflict between CEO Michael Eisner and Roy E. Disney at the heart of it. Among their many arguments was the future of the animation department, with Eisner and other executives intending to end 2D animation at the studio after the disappointment of Home on the Range (2004). Enchanted went into production after the turmoil had settled, and new management had agreed to revive 2D animation. While the animation for Enchanted had to be outsourced due to a lack of staff at Disney, it’s hard for a hardcore animation fan not to feel a promise of a new beginning in the film – however fleeting it turned out to be.

Considering that its sequel currently in production is intended for Disney+, it’s pretty strange to not see Enchanted on the service. It’s not available to stream anywhere as of this writing, with the streaming rights possibly in transition. But with Disenchanted set to hit Disney+ in 2022, it seems unlikely the original will stay away for long.

The theatrical shorts library

Which theatrical short? Almost all of them. You can find the individual short on Disney+ at the moment. Steamboat Willie, Lonesome Ghosts, a few of Goofy’s How To cartoons, some of Chip and Dale’s battles with Donald Duck, the odd Silly Symphony here and there; it’s a fair number. But Disney’s library of theatrical shorts boasts 75 Silly Symphonies, 24 Chip ‘n’ Dale cartoons, 52 solo Goofy films, over 100 entries in the Mickey Mouse series, and numerous one-off subjects produced since the theatrical shorts series were retired in the 1950s. The Silly Symphonies were the testing ground for techniques and narratives that have informed the entire field of animation, the series for Mickey and friends developed and defined some of the most popular fictional characters of all time, and one-off shorts like A Symposium on Popular Songs represent some of the best that the studio had to offer in the later years of Walt’s tenure. More recent shorts like Runaway Brain and Get a Horse! have been a great showcase for up-and-coming talent at Disney. And yet most of this content is nowhere to be found.

These aren’t obscure short subjects that have been languishing in the Disney vault. They’ve aired them on television, used footage for sing-a-long VHS tapes, and released many of them to DVD. And it’s not as if this backlog is some minor footnote in the company’s history. Walt Disney used to wish that his studio would never forget that it was all started by a mouse, but that mouse worked almost exclusively in shorts, alongside a pivotal sister series. Contrast Disney’s handling of their legacy with WarnerMedia and HBOMax. Nearly all the Looney Tunes are available to stream there, put in one place and organized (more or less) in chronological order. What shorts have made it onto Disney+ are treated as individual titles that you need to track down one by one. A few have even been tucked away as extras connected with feature films, never to turn up on a search.

Given Disney’s central role in the history of animation, and the importance of these shorts to that history, it’s incredibly frustrating to see them get this kind of treatment – without clear rhyme or reason, the running theme of much of this list. And if I could wish for one item on this list to make it to streaming, the shorts backlog would be it.

KEEP READING: The Best Movies on Disney+ Right Now



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