The Daily Stream: Disney Channel's Theme: A History Mystery Is One Of The Year's Best Documentaries

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: Disney Channel's Theme: A History Mystery

Where You Can Stream It: YouTube via the Defunctland channel

The Pitch: Back in 2020, /Film's Jacob Hall published a Quarantine Stream entitled "'Defunctland' Is The Best Damn Theme Park YouTube Channel On The Internet." In it, he discussed the popular YouTube channel, run by Kevin Perjurer, and how his videos on theme park history go beyond regurgitating facts. Instead, Perjurer frames the events of this relatively niche industry as it relates to the broader societal culture in general. For instance, the 2018 video "The War for Disney's America" is both a rundown of a canceled Disney theme park and an examination of Disney's cultural and political place in American history.

However, a lot has changed with Defunctland since that piece, and for the better. While still making fun videos on topics like terrible Seaworld rides and Garfield-themed hotspots for horny teenagers, Perjurer has begun transitioning into long-form documentaries, a label some have criticized him for due to their YouTube exclusivity. After achieving viral success with 2021's "Disney's FastPass: A Complicated History," he has released perhaps his greatest Defunctland work to date: a meditation on artistic worth, cultural hegemony, and the legacies we leave on this earth, all framed around the four simple notes that make up the Disney Channel jingle.

Why it's essential viewing

Perhaps the topic of Disney Channel's theme isn't particularly interesting to anyone outside of the millennial and Gen Z age groups, and that's okay. However, Perjurer manages to make it an extremely compelling topic by asking a simple question: who writes the jingles and themes we hear on commercials every day, and specifically, who wrote the one affiliated with Disney's pre-teen cable network? The viewer is then confronted by the fact that we hear so many of these themes, yet know nothing about who is behind them.

By hooking people in with this eye-opening question, "Disney Channel's Theme" shifts from being a silly investigation to a commentary on how anonymous the entertainment industry actually is. We hear these jingles every day while watching TV, loading a streaming service, or listening to a commercial. They are an integral part of the media we consume every day, so why aren't their creators given a spotlight? Do they even want to be known by the general public? And what even is a creative nowadays — is this a title designated only for those making high-budget features, or can someone that makes videos for YouTube also be gifted that title? These are questions Perjurer grapples and they are likely questions that many other people have asked themselves as well. The fact that he was able to make such a specific topic so universal is not easy, and yet, he was able to accomplish it with ease.

A tribute to creatives

Like all of Defunctland's videos, it's important to not take "Disney Channel's Theme" too seriously. Perjurer makes sure to balance the documentary's sentimentality with some truly ridiculous segments, the most entertaining of which being a comparison between the 1993 NAFTA debate and "High School Musical 2." The worst part about this specific section is that he actually makes compelling points. Perhaps Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu) being anti-dancing really is just like how Ross Perot was anti-NAFTA. It really makes you think.

In the moments that you are supposed to take the video seriously, it becomes one of the most intriguing and heartfelt explorations into art that have been released this year. Forget "Empire of Light" — "Disney Channel's Theme" stands out in our ongoing trend of exploring the magic of creation and media. It consciously chooses to explore the inner mechanics of who makes the media we consume every day, rather than simply celebrating its existence. This is demonstrated both through the Disney Channel investigation itself and Perjurer's internal struggles as a storyteller, and these two plot points come together beautifully as the video concludes.

As for the actual investigation, we don't want to spoil it too much. However, what we will say is that it likely won't end the way you think it will, but that ultimately makes the documentary so much more rewarding to watch. Despite the bittersweetness you'll feel as the credits roll, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the underseen creatives responsible for the things you love.

'When I grow up, I want to be ... an artist'

Make no mistake: "Disney Channel's Theme" is not a YouTube video that just so happens to be well-produced. It is a documentary, through and through. Defunctland is a near-sole endeavor of Perjurer's, as he is responsible for nearly all of the writing, directing, researching, and editing of these videos. This was no exception for "Disney Channel's Theme," and considering the fact that its production quality surpasses many made-for-streaming documentaries released today, that is truly nuts.

This video could not exist without Defunctland's prior, more low-key output, and it is the perfect representation of just how far this project has come in just four years. Despite the overwhelming amount of content on YouTube, it provides such a necessary outlet for creators to evolve into legitimate storytellers. By saying the long-form videos uploaded there aren't actually movies erases this. It is also the same rhetoric used to justify why major companies like Disney don't openly credit the creatives that work on their branding, including the composer who gave their cable channel its famous four-note arrangement. If you aren't thinking deeper about the craftsmanship put into the things you watch and consume every day, then Kevin Perjurer and his epic documentary, "Disney Channel's Theme: A History Mystery" will certainly make you start.