Hidden Gems on Disney+ That You Should Watch
For better or worse, the Walt Disney Company's latest several-billion-dollar bet to make more billions of dollars, the Disney+ streaming platform, is here. The experience is also overwhelming, a flopping fish filled to the gills with shows and movies to watch, but there also happens a lot of great stuff available on it, if you know where to look. Disney's helpfully put together collections for its Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic libraries, but much of what you'll discover on the website is buried, even if it is searchable. To help, we've put together a list of the can't-miss deep cuts available on the new streaming service you shouldn't skip.
Classic Mickey Mouse
On its homepage upon launch, Disney+ helpfully featured a range of curated collections and lists of its properties, including, if you scroll down far enough, "Mickey Mouse Through the Years." That gives us access to some of the most important cartoon shorts ever made, like "Steamboat Willie," "The Band Concert," and the controversial "Clock Cleaners" -- which is presented with an original line from Donald Duck that was once stupidly censored because some viewers claimed it sounded too much like "Fuck you." All of these shorts are hysterical and historical.
A gas gun, moody pulp action, and slapstick parody were core to Darkwing Duck's success, but its writing and character work were always where the series shone brightest. Its titular hero, mild-mannered Drake Mallard, juggles his life as the adoptive parent to a 9 year old named Gosalyn with his crime-fighting career. "I had people near tears saying they had a rough family life and the father-daughter energy of that show was super-important to them," Darkwing Duck's creator Tad Stones once toldThe Hollywood Reporter. Darkwing's hubris is often his downfall, but ultimately, he always does right by his daughter and his staunchest ally, Launchpad McQuack (borrowed from DuckTales, naturally).
DuckTales, more DuckTales, and Quack Pack
Disney has rarely, if ever, gotten duck concepts wrong, and these three shows revolving around the nephews of Donald and Scrooge McDuck prove it. The original DuckTales is a classic adventure series bookended by the greatest bop in animation history, and its 2017 revival is a strikingly excellent, 2D-animated successor. Fewer folks remember Quack Pack, though -- a sitcom-style take on Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie's relationship in the vein of Goof Troop. They still get into shenanigans, but Quack Pack was more mindful of their family dynamic, of the fact that Donald is functionally their single dad, and of the angst that comes with growing up.
Gargoyles was simultaneously the best original superhero cartoon of the '90s and one of the most New York shows ever made. That decade gave us acclaimed animated series like Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man, but Gargoyles, originally created for animation, focused on a team of fantastical creatures who were refugees from another time and found a home in Manhattan's skyscrapers. They save the city over and over from the machinations of billionaires and adopt names like Brooklyn, Bronx, and Hudson, even as the city's residents fear and hate them. It's genius. It's also timeless.
Goof Troop, A Goofy Movie, and An Extremely Goofy Movie
Let's talk about Max Goof, son of Goofy, heir to Goofy's hyuck'ing, and, likely, sole immediate family member to Goofy (as argued at Polygon). Max should be traumatized. Max should be broken. Max has every right to hate his father and begrudge him his antics and failures -- and sometimes he does! But Goof Troop and its sequel movies instead allowed Max Goof to grow into a fun-loving, road-tripping, semi-pro-skating (the early '00s were incredible) young man, and give us lots of laughs along the way.
The Little Mermaid
No, not the movie. While this show debuted almost three years after the original film, The Little Mermaid animated series spared no expense, featuring several voice actors reprising their roles, as well as several episodes featuring original songs. Plenty of spinoffs of Walt Disney Animation Studios films, including the future Little Mermaid direct-to-video movies, have been criticized for being cheaply made, but this show never felt that way, even bringing back characters like Ursula, Prince Eric, and (once) Hans Christian Andersen himself into the whirlpools of storylines around Ariel, Sebastian, and Flounder.
Silver Surfer may be a Marvel show and thus is included in Marvel's Disney+ collection, but it's always been a deep cut. Years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced a new generation to the company's cosmic comic-book characters, this Silver Surfer cartoon mentioned names like Galactus, the Kree, and the Skrulls in the opening minutes of its pilot. The Silver Surfer cartoon ran for just 13 episodes before legal squabbles between Marvel and Saban Entertainment killed it, but it managed to pack in classic weirdo characters like the Watcher, Beta Ray Bill, Ego the Living Planet, and Adam Warlock and even wraps up its run with a time-warping showdown with Thanos (sound familiar?). In many ways, it predicted what was to come.
This show may have originally run on The WB, but it found new its true home in reruns on the Disney Channel, where it would replay in the afternoons and Tahj Mowry's TJ Henderson would precociously remind his true peer group -- kids! -- how much of a genius he was for skipping several grades and getting into high school as a 10-year-old. Smart Guy was always savvier than it let on, tackling subject matter like underage drinking and the Hendersons' single-parent household with grace and sensitivity.
If you want a Disney take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The X-Files, look no further than So Weird, which premiered on the Disney Channel over 20 years ago and followed the story of Fiona Phillips, a teen who investigates the paranormal while on tour with her rockstar mom (played by Mackenzie Phillips). So Weird had to deal with a shifting cast behind the scenes over its three seasons, but it still managed to stage lots of fun supernatural intrigue involving merpeople, vampires, banshees, and more.