Well, I’ve been anticipating/dreading this, but I went ahead and got Disney+. I’m in the middle of the trial period and I confess I haven’t had the time to watch everything yet – not just because there’s so freaking much but I’m in the middle of writing the Rankin-Bass reviews. As of now I’ve finished the first two, am 75% done with the third, and have touched upon the last two (Surprise! There’s going to be FIVE reviews in December! Even if you already know what the original four were, I’m not going to spoil them or what the additional one will be.)
From what I have seen of Disney+, however, I’m impressed. Both new and classic DuckTales and Mickey Mouse shorts coexisting? Legend of the Three Caballeros legally available in the states at last? A place to finally binge watch shows I vaguely remembered like Gargoyles, Darkwing Duck and Tron Uprising? Virtually the entire catalogue of the incredibly cheesy “What Walt Would Have Done” era comedies like The Barefoot Executive and Million Dollar Duck for people who actually remember those? Star Wars’ first live-action series? In-depth documentaries that’ll make any Disney-phile drool? The Black Cauldron, Darby O’Gill and Return to Oz finally getting some recognition? Over a years’ worth of Disney Afternoons you can cram in a week?! They really went all out to entice people into this service!
One of my favorite Disney shows as a kid was The Little Mermaid series. I was particularly eager to return under the sea and let that wave of nostalgia wash over me. It was the very first thing I searched for once it was all set up.
But then I clicked on it, and immediately noticed something was missing – the very first episode.
Don’t be fooled by the numbers. I grew up with this series and I’ll have you know the very first episode of The Little Mermaid is “Whale of a Tale”, aka the one with the heartwrenching opening where a baby orca gets orphaned by whalers and Ariel rescues him while Jodi Benson sings a song about how every creature deserves a loving family and is a punch to the gut every time I hear it!
What could have happened to make the people in charge of getting this series up on Disney+ forget the episode that started it all and is featured the most in the series intro for goodness sakes! I know the first few minutes are a tad…emotional, but it’s a great beginning to a fine addition to one of my favorite Disney movies. This series may not be high up on anyone’s priority, but I still can’t wrap my head around how they made this kind of error.
On a similar note, I see the original Mickey Mouse Club and Spin & Marty there (awesome), and they have The Sign of Zorro, but not the Zorro series itself? Disney’s Zorro was great! Hilarious, swashbuckling, great acting and that classic Walt Disney feel? If all the Herbie movies and Star Wars prequels can get some time in the spotlight, why not this one?
Of course, I can’t forget the Fox in the room. The timing of Disney+’s release with their acquisition of 20th Century Fox is a bit too coincidental..and very problematic in the long run, but that’s a thought for another time. My cable provider didn’t support FXX’s streaming at the time so I had to rely on my trusty worn 480p dvds to get my Springfield kicks. But for better or for worse, the entirety of one of my favorite shows of all time is available to stream in glorious 4K HD…but it’s been badly cropped to fit widescreen TVs, resulting in awkwardly cramped scenes and visual gags cut off by the black. Boo.
(EDIT: I’ve been informed that Disney+ will broadcast The Simpsons in its original 4:3 aspect ratio starting in 2020. Whether “Stark Raving Dad” will be added to the lineup at that time remains to be seen, but considering the controversy surrounding it, it’s best not to hold your breath.)
One issue I worried about was how much of Disney’s, ah, “questionable content” from the Walt era would be included. A notorious rumor that floated around for a while was that movies like Dumbo would be completely re-edited to remove the stereotypical racial characters like the Crows or the Siamese Cats from Lady and the Tramp. While I can’t pretend I don’t see why people would get in an uproar over their inclusion today, hacking these classic films for the sake of political correctness would have been a travesty. My fears were put to rest, however, when those movies were not only left fully in tact, but came with a small content warning in the vein of Warner Brothers’ unedited cartoon releases. Very good, Disney, you’re learning…but that doesn’t excuse unleashing all of those terrible direct-to-video sequels side-by-side with the superior originals! Any poor child could accidentally expose themselves to them! Won’t somebody please think of the children?!
Like I said, nearly every Mickey Mouse short is here as well as many of the Silly Symphonies among others. I wish they could have been grouped together to make them easier to find and watch all at once, but who knows? Maybe they’ll do that in the future.
“Hang on, I’m getting to my point.”
I know this post looks like me complaining, but I’m genuinely excited for almost everything Disney+ has to offer and can’t wait to revisit some of my favorite series and discover new ones. But this service can still do better. There’s some notable flaws that I hope they fix in due time, and even more I’d like to see that I hope they get around to including.
In short, Disney+ isn’t perfect, the “everyone’s here” tag line isn’t quite accurate, and their iron grip on how much of the Fox film catalogue goes in and out of the vault is worrisome, but I have high hopes that they’ll improve as it goes along and I’m thrilled to see what they come out with next.
Besides, what could other streaming services have that this doesn’t?
“New…hand-drawn…animated…I’M COMING NETFLIX! DON’T START WITHOUT ME!!”
Thank you for reading! Have you gotten Disney+ yet? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you soon!
…Also if we can make #WheresWhaleOfATaleDisney+ a thing I will be eternally grateful to you all.
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Artwork by Charles Moss.