Oklahoma Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Hollywood’s eras come in waves. It’s hard to imagine now, because we’re still in the crest of the current one, but the superhero era is a wave that will eventually – yes, really, even if it takes decades – ebb. Before superhero movies, there were blockbusters of vastly more stripes, somehow managing to avoid interconnected universes or the like. The Walt Disney Company is at the convergence of the current wave, with Marvel and Lucasfilm underneath their vast umbrella.

But right now, Disney+ is inadvertently giving its audiences a chance for a bit of a history lesson of what blockbusters used to look like, with the streaming arrival of the 1955 musical adaptation of Oklahoma!. Yes, it’s true, there was once a time when blockbusters weren’t about the world ending, but were about simple love stories given grand treatments.

Read More »

Teen Beach Movie

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

The Disney Channel has made over 100 movies since the ’80s, but when the network entered the new millennium, it started focusing on two kinds of stories. There were wacky genre comedies with high concepts like Luck of the Irish. And there were many, many, many musical films in the vein of High School Musical

And then there’s Teen Beach Movie, which takes the best of both worlds and results in a highly entertaining musical that also features a wacky genre story that riffs on Back to the Future and GreaseSo grab your surfboard and hop on the fastest car you can find while shouting “Cowabunga!” way too often, because we’re heading to one hell of a weird beach party for what’s easily one of the best Disney Channel musicals.

Read More »

Amy Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

The 1980s were a very rough time for the Walt Disney Company, at least in the first half of the decade. We may now think of the 1980s as the time when Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg joined Disney, steering it to new heights with films like The Little Mermaid and with the expansion of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. And while that’s all true, the two men didn’t arrive until 1984. The first few years of the decade were a bumpy stretch, marked by minimal animated products and only a smattering of live-action films. The flip side is that the theme parks were moving onward, with the 1982 opening of EPCOT Center and the 1983 unveiling of Tokyo Disneyland.

But the side of the company focused on filmmaking seemed adrift at best. The 1981 film The Fox and the Hound, turning 40 this summer, does have its fans (and some impressive setpieces), but its production was mired by a huge walkout of young animators and a warring battle between the old guard of Disney animation and newer artists who wanted to steer the studio in new directions. Live-action fare wasn’t much more notable; cult films like Tron and Return to Oz are well-liked by fans precisely because they stand against so much of what we envision a “Disney movie” as.

The same is true for another film that celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, the 1981 melodrama Amy.

Read More »

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Before Disney started producing endless remakes of its classic animated films and dumping some of them on Disney+ (ahem, Lady and the Tramp), they used to make endless sequels to classic animated films and dump them on VHS. 

There have been dozens of direct-to-video (DTV) animated sequels – nearly 60 if you include the films made out of TV episodes and those that debuted on the Disney Channel. Some were good, most were bad, and a few, like Aladdin and the King of Thieves, were almost better than the original. This is a sequel that expands the world and mythology of the first film with a catchy soundtrack that feels like it belongs in the theatrical film. And it’s about time we recognize Aladdin’s dad as one of the coolest and hottest Disney characters around.

So grab your flying carpet, leave the awful stereotypes behind, and let me show you the world of the best direct-to-video sequel Disney ever made.

Read More »

Flight of the Navigator Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Before Disney was known for its corporate synergy and obsession with remaking old animated classics, they actually took a lot of bold chances, especially in the ’70s and ’80s. And especially when it came to sci-fi, fantasy and horror films. Sadly, few of these were successful at the box office, though some managed to become cult hits once they hit home video. One such film is Flight of the Navigator.

One of many films about kids befriending alien beings that arrived in the wake of E.T., Flight of the Navigator is a rare Disney film that knows when to take its sweet time and build up character and atmosphere. It also explores a relatively dark and, frankly, messed-up story, all before evolving into the whimsical sci-fi adventure film the title and poster promise.

So let’s go back to the ’80s and explore the tale of a kid who befriended a sentient spaceship.

Read More »

Tron Legacy Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

In 2010, we saw the release of several would-be franchise starters based on ’80s properties, including The Karate Kid, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Most of these ended up being forgettable films that added nothing to the conversation, but there was one sequel that managed to do something different and unique — Tron: Legacy.

Tron: Legacy builds upon the, uh, legacy of the 1982 cult hit Tron, with visuals just as spectacular as those in the original film, a neat story about fatherhood, and one of the best movie soundtracks of the century — all while incidentally paving the way to our current slate of blockbuster filmmaking. Get on your light cycle and hit play on that Daft Punk score, because we’re heading back to the Grid for Tron: Legacy.

Read More »

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

The earliest days of the Walt Disney anthology TV series aired among the earliest days of television itself. So just as television as a medium was trying to figure out what it could be, the concept of what the show could be was equally flexible, changing from week to week. This chameleonic ability to shift was baked into the title cards for the show, which introduced the viewer to the four lands that also made up the original Disneyland theme park: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland. But the theme park and the TV series both only existed because of pioneering animation. Shorts and features alike were, and remain, the backbone of the Walt Disney Company. 

So it was natural that the Walt Disney anthology TV series – then known as Disneyland – would want to blend education and entertainment to explain how the foundation of the company had come to be. “The Story of the Animated Drawing” aired on November 30, 1955, as part of the second season of Disneyland, purporting to walk the viewer through centuries of artistic history, from cave paintings of thousands of years ago to the beautiful imagery of Fantasia.

Read More »

Sky High Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

For over a decade now, Disney has dominated the superhero film market thanks to the colossal success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But in the early 2000s, the thought of audiences getting not one, but multiple superhero movies each year was unthinkable, and a superhero movie that connected to a larger world of other heroes was but a mere wishful thought.

Except Disney did all that years before the Avengers first assembled, with an unassuming, family-friendly superhero movie that poked fun at expanded universes, superhero legacies, and every trope in the book. With the film having celebrated its 15th anniversary earlier this year and finally becoming available on Disney+, it’s time to take the “hero or sidekick” test and revisit Sky High.

Read More »

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

As they’re sometimes wont to do, Disney made news a couple weeks ago. For once during the pandemic, the news was unrelated to the theme parks, their continued closure in California, or their stripped-down operation in Florida. Instead, the news focused on where Disney began: its earlier animated and live-action features. More specifically, the news focused on the dark side of where and how Disney began, acknowledging its racially and sexually insensitive material in films like The Aristocats, Dumbo, and The Jungle Book

If you’re a Disney+ subscriber and play those titles now, you’ll see a generic message letting you know that the film you’re about to see has something offensive that was treated as unproblematic upon release but is now correctly seen as Not Great, Bob! The message also encourages the viewer to visit a website that’s intended to explain how stories matter – stories of all kinds and shapes, highlighting the diversity that Disney is trying to achieve now while also describing and calling out the films they released that failed to represent diverse cultures effectively.

Most of the titles receiving this treatment are old-school animated classics. (Even though I strongly dislike The Aristocats, I feel slightly bad for the 1970 animated feature because no one at Disney realizes they have excluded the word “The” from the title.) But another film getting this title card is our column’s subject: the 1960 adventure adaptation Swiss Family Robinson.

Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

George Walton Lucas Jr. will forever be remembered for Star Wars. His non-Star Wars work, however, is about as fascinating and inconsistent in quality as his more famous work. For every Labyrinth and Indiana Jones, there was a Howard the Duck, and also Strange Magic.

This is the final non-Star Wars project Lucas and Lucasfilm worked on together before he sold the company to Disney, and it’s a bizarre, not exactly great movie. However, it is still a visually dazzling film that’s the closest we’ve come to an animated version of Moulin Rouge. So, play your favorite song and sing along as we revisit Strange Magic.

Read More »