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 »

(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 »

Frank and Ollie

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

The Disney Renaissance was a heady time, not just for the animation industry at large but for the Walt Disney Company. The 1980s began as a dark time for Disney but concluded as the company began to ascend new heights of creative and financial success, largely thanks to the innovative animation at the heart of films like The Little Mermaid. The 1990s were an even more exciting time for Disney: the studio netted its first Best Picture nominee for animation, and films like Aladdin and The Lion King were massive box-office successes.

It stands to reason, then, that the company was willing to do what it did best: take a look back in nostalgia.

Read More »

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

Now that we’re entering spooky season, it’s time to scout the Internet for hidden and not-so-hidden horror gems to add to your Halloween watch list. Of course, because of Disney’s decades-long reputation as a provider of family-friendly entertainment, a column about Disney movies is not the first place you’d look for horror recommendations. However, this series has already explored some films from the one period in the studio’s history where dark and creepy was not only allowed, but encouraged. 

However, decades before Return to Oz or The Black Cauldron traumatized kids everywhere, we got arguably Disney’s best gateway animated horror film: their animated adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Part of Disney’s 1949 package film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow manages to be both family-friendly and a cool little musical to boot, but also a fantastic gateway horror film that is the perfect way to start the Halloween season.

Read More »

Meet the Deedles

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

The goofball subgenre of comedy, where the protagonist is the dumbest person alive and somehow becomes the center of a plot much bigger than them, was all the rage in the late ’80s and early ’90s. From The Naked Gun movies to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure to Dumb and Dumber, these movies gave us dumb yet lovable buffoons who got into a ton of trouble, but still have a certain charm that keeps them from being so dumb that they’re unlikeable.

In a different world, Disney could have had its own franchise of lovable idiots in the late ’90s. Instead, the studio did too little too late, chasing after a trend long after audiences had already expressed their desire to move on from the subgenre. We’re talking, of course, about Meet the Deedles, a movie that came four years after Dumb and Dumber but feels like it was made 20 years later by someone who only had a passing knowledge of what the movie is like. But hey! At least the cast includes Paul Walker and Dennis Hopper.

Read More »

Mars and beyond

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

These days, Disney has become the king of acquiring IPs and turning them into the cash cows of popular entertainment. But once upon a time, they also dared to collaborate with the top scientific minds of the time, and make art that could show us what we could achieve if we set our minds to it — like kickstart the Space Race.

With everyone stuck at home and with the future not looking particularly bright, it’s the perfect time for some good old-fashioned Disney optimism. And what better way to experience that optimism than with a pseudo-documentary that uses animation to imagine the strange lifeforms that could live on Mars?

The result is Mars and Beyond, part of a series of three documentaries that not only featured some of the best animation in TV at the time, but also helped sell the American public on space travel.

Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

The Mousketeers at Walt Disney World

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

One of the key parts of the Disney legacy, when it comes to the small screen, is the Mickey Mouse Club. During the nascent years of television, Walt Disney went all-in with his weekly primetime anthology series, but he also produced a five-days-a-week show featuring a group of clean-cut, cherubic kids in which they’d jump around, play, sing songs, and dance, in-between animated segments and serialized stories. The Mickey Mouse Club was an instant hit, vaulting young stars like Annette Funicello to stardom quickly. But because those kids grew up, the show ended just a few years after it started. The vaudeville-esque program went away as Disney’s own priorities shifted from TV to the theme parks.

Read More »