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

Despite Mr. Boogedy (which I previously wrote about for this columnnever becoming the TV show it was meant to be, the Disney powers-that-be thought that the horror parody about a family of pranksters being haunted by a ghost absolutely warranted a sequel. Long before shows like Lost or movies like the Marvel Cinematic Universe got audiences used to watching a new chapter in a story without spending time to recap the previous chapter, Disney decided that audiences didn’t need to remember what a 45-minutes made-for-TV movie from a year earlier was about, and could simply jump into its sequel. 

The result is The Bride of Boogedy, a sequel that drops most of its scary elements to instead tell a comedic tale of parents just not believing their kids, seances, and lots of Halloween pranks. 

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

One of the most important things you have to know about Walt Disney is that he was a patriot. Every word of that sentence is true, and in different ways. It’s not just that Walt Disney’s story feels like the truest embodiment of the American Dream. (Though how could it not? A poor Midwestern boy comes from meager means and turns himself into one of the most powerful and influential cultural figures of the last 100-plus years. It sounds too good to be true.) It’s that Disney’s legacy is crafted in such a way that you have to understand he was a patriot. It’s not just that he was one – you must be aware of that truth, or else it will all be for naught. He was known for his animated films, for helping create characters like Mickey Mouse, for building a theme park in Southern California before theme parks were commonplace. But Walt Disney was an American, and don’t you forget it.

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

It may be hard to wrap your head around, but there was once a time when the Walt Disney Company wasn’t solely dedicated to building out franchises. They were, from a cold and calculated point of view, always dedicated to intellectual property. The animation studio upon which the corporation is built began its feature-filmmaking life by adapting iconic fairy tales that had been legendary for countless years. How those films were brought to life was often stunningly original, even if the source material wasn’t. The success of those films, of course, led to the creation of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California in the summer of 1955, an undertaking that was coupled with the premiere of the Walt Disney anthology TV series mere weeks before.

Before there was Disneyland, then, there was the Disneyland TV series. Before you could walk through Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Frontierland in real life, you could watch episodes of the TV series themed to those areas. In the year 2020, it may be hard to fully reckon with exactly how popular one set of those episodes were 65 years ago. But such was the case for three Frontierland-themed episodes from the show’s first season, all focusing on the historical figure Davy Crockett.

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Up Up and Away

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

There’s no denying the huge popularity of the superhero genre. What used to be a very niche market now dominates the entertainment industry, from movies to TV shows, and it’s in part thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the genre exploded as it has. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter what type of superhero story you like or how old you are, there’s something for you, from the bombastic Avengers movies, to clever anime stories like My Hero Academia

This is all to say that Up, Up And Away isn’t exactly Endgame, but it’s a weirdly entertaining kids superhero movie that asks: what if every single superhero property shared a universe and Superman could be friends with the Fantastic Four?

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A Goofy Movie Revisited

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

It’s a funny thing about the so-called Fab Five of the Walt Disney Company (yes, that really is a moniker given to them). Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto are among the most recognizable figures in American popular culture. We’ve all seen them before, whether in short films or TV shows or in person. But they’re not often in feature films. Usually, if they are, it’s due to cameo appearances (such as in Who Framed Roger Rabbit) or short films released in the last 40 years (such as Mickey’s Christmas Carol). Hell, it was only earlier in 2020 that Mickey Mouse got his own dedicated theme-park ride, and that’s after 65 years of theme-park history.

Just one of the Fab Five ever got to topline a movie all about him. No hedging, no hesitation. Just over 25 years ago, that most lovable, if dumb, Goof got himself a motion picture.

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The Great Mouse Detective Revisited

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

With recent global events, plenty of people are resorting to nostalgia and comfort when it comes to their movie watching. Whether it’s that comedy you love or a family-friendly movie you loved as a kid, few things can help calm you down when the world seems chaotic quite like a good movie. That’s why for this week’s Out of the Disney Vault column, I decided to re-watch one of my favorite Disney animated movies, which is usually ignored when discussing the Disney Renaissance: The Great Mouse Detective.

What do you get when you combine Disney animation magic, a Sherlock Holmes-like mystery, film noir aesthetic, and one of the most deliciously diabolical and elegant Disney villains, voiced by none other than Vincent Price? One hell of a good time to get you through these social-distancing times.

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White Fang Revisited

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

Walt Disney was famously not a cat person, which is as important to note as the fact that he liked dogs. Think of how cats are portrayed in some of the films released by his animation studio. Think of the sneaky Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp; even if they weren’t racist by literal design, they’re cruel to our heroic Lady and try to destroy the house while pinning the crime on her. Or think of the cat owned by Cinderella’s stepmother. You know, the cat literally named Lucifer. Disney: not a cat person.

Thus, once the era of Disney live-action films dawned, one of the natural types of stories to tell would be between man and his true best friend, the dog. (It’s a heartbreaking movie, but Old Yeller remains one of the most memorable Disney live-action films they ever released.) Even years after Walt Disney died, this basic concept would lead to plenty of live-action films. Just recently, the streaming service Disney+ released another man-and-dog movie, Togo, in which a gruff man living in Alaska learns to embrace a particularly ornery Siberian husky. That film, both in its setting and its depiction of the burgeoning friendship between one man (played by an overqualified lead actor) and one dog, feels like it owes a debt to another such Disney film: the 1991 drama White Fang.

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Casebusters Revisited

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

There are few greater feelings than when you happily throw away your schedule or plan for a column because you found a hidden gem so bizarre and so obscure it’s been barely written about until the moment it became available for everyone on Disney+. This column was born in part out of sheer morbid curiosity for the many, many, many weird titles that were announced in the massive Twitter thread Disney used to hype up its launching library of streaming titles, and few movies represent the spirit of this column more than Casebusters. 

Whether a hidden gem or a forgotten disaster, that’s up to you to decide, but the mere fact that this movie exists is reason enough to make you curious about it. After all, it’s a Disney TV movie directed by one of the great horror filmmakers, only two years after A Nightmare on Elm Street unleashed hell onto our collective nightmares. 

So let’s revisit the tamest movie Wes Craven ever directed.

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Justin Morgan Had a Horse

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

Back in October of 2019 (which, if you’re checking your calendar, feels as if it was roughly 9,000 years ago), the Disney+ Twitter account managed to dominate the social-media conversation for a full day thanks to a massive thread of more than 600 tweets, in which they announced each title that would be available to stream on the service’s first day. Most of those titles were plenty exciting to fans of one kind of intellectual property or another. There were plenty of animated features, TV shows, Marvel movies, etc. to whet fans’ appetites. But there were some titles that threw people for a loop because they sure seemed like joke titles.

Maybe the easiest title to mock — or at least one of the easiest — was Justin Morgan Had a Horse. Here was a film that few people seemed to recall or had indeed ever heard of, and with such a simple, declarative phrase as its title, too. For my own part, when I saw some folks mock titles like The Biscuit Eaters or Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, I shook my head at their inability to realize that the 1970s were a weird time for Disney live-action. But even I was fully unfamiliar with Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and I hosted a weekly podcast about all kinds of Disney movies for nearly nine years. The title was one of only a few Disney released  from before I was born that I’d genuinely never recognized, until I Googled and realized why I didn’t know it well: this 90-minute adaptation was a two-part episode of the Walt Disney anthology TV series, not a feature film.

So, for today’s Out of the Disney Vault column, I wanted to answer the obvious question: what the hell is Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and why is it on Disney+?

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Halloweentown revisited

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

There are few movies that manage to draw you into their world as instantly as the Harry Potter movies (stay with me here). Their themes of wanting a place to belong and wishing you were part of something magical, and their awe-inspiring wizarding world made millions of kids and grown-ups alike wish they could receive their Hogwarts letter one day.

Of course, what makes Harry Potter special are the kind of things that directly clash with what we know of the Disney brand. After all, not only have they shut down or otherwise changed projects to make them more kid friendly to fit their company image, but their most recent animated show, The Owl House, has come under criticism by parents who consider the show to be “demonic” – all because the show dares to reference witches and have a visual style that’s inspired by the religious paintings by Hieronymus Bosch (though there is a cute little demon).

But back in the ‘90s, things were different. Just one year after the release of the very first Harry Potter book, Disney released its own story wherein a young kid who has always felt they didn’t belong suddenly discovers that they come from a family of magic-users and wants to follow their tradition of studying to become a wizard in a place full of magical creatures, all while being chased by an evil warlock. Only the film didn’t have Dumbledore, but instead Debbie Reynolds as a campy Mary Poppins who owns a microwave that has “Bubble,” “Toil,” and “Trouble” buttons on it. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at one of the most successful Disney Channel Original Movies, the original Halloweentown. Read More »