Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I am writing to you to express my apprehension over your plans for celebrating one hundred years of your company. I am especially concerned with how you plan to mark the milestone on your streaming service, Disney Plus.
I, like many, grew up with Disney-branded television and movies. When I was twelve, I would rise out of bed and switch on Toon Disney while I had breakfast. Every morning, I’d watch that day’s episode of House of Mouse. If I was lucky and my bus was late for pickup from my house, I would also catch the beginning of the Timon and Pumba animated series.
When I came home from school, I would switch on to watch Recess, Lloyd in Space, Weekenders and Pepper Ann. At the age I was, this programming fit me perfectly. These were shows that tackled the issues relevant to me and raised a smile when a lot of change was happening. I feel thankful that at a time of immense pressure as I moved up to secondary school, Disney was there to give me a warm hug every day. Those shows were the backbone I needed to help me wind down, and stayed with me until I no longer received the channel.
Fast forward twenty years and most of those toons are available at the touch of a button. Everything from Goof Troop, Tailspin and Ducktales to Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers and a small selection of the previous cartoons I mentioned in the last paragraph. In particular, Recess has been a show I’ve consistently come back to since subscribing to Disney Plus in 2019. With twenty years of life experience behind me, the lessons of Recess take on a bunch of new meanings that make the show just as riveting as when I was twelve. The writing and vocal performances stand up to the test of time, and I’m mighty glad. In my mind, a show of this quality transcends nostalgia. I’m also pleased to be able to share these shows with my son, who doesn’t care when they were made or rerun.
Now at this point, I apologise for rambling. I have one issue I’d like to bring up, where are the rest of the comfort toons I watched in 2002? No Weekenders. No Lloyd in Space. No Jungle Cubs. No Pepper Ann (in the UK at least). These shows were cornerstones of my, and many people’s childhoods. In an era before people began to share their feelings more openly, these shows were a great way to unwind and relieve any build-up of stress. They transcended the original kids’ TV intention and became a new type of television that appeals to everyone without being the traditional family-friendly fare. The fact you’re not streaming these shows is extremely disappointing.
I realise that you are running a business and have to make money, but you must be able to make a compromise to please all parties. The titles I suggest are just a small number that should be on Disney Plus. There are many avenues to the Disney brand that remain unexplored. I believe you have to respect where you came from before you can begin to move forward. I estimate that your strategy with legacy content is simple, only the big hitters get through to the consumer. This is foolish, because how do you measure success?
Is it about how many tickets it sold at the box office? Is it about whether people rave about it? Is it about whether there is a remake on the way so the original is of interest? However you’re doing it, it doesn’t tell the whole story. I’ve heard Bob Chapek talk about how Walt Disney was an innovator, and how they want to follow him in doing that. The issue with this is, Disney Plus only tells part of Walt’s story. Sure, massive live-action movies like Mary Poppins, The Parent Trap and Bedknobs and Broomsticks are there for all to see, but they were the end products of years of filmmaking and experimentation. Some of us are interested in the journey, rather than just the destination.
I feel that part of the reason you don’t show us the journey is that you’re embarrassed by where you’ve been. Disney made some of the greatest animated masterpieces of all time. They created hundreds of incredibly beautiful short films featuring some recognisable characters that still endure. They also made films about flying rubber, way-out seals, magic cars and chimpanzee TV executives. They made Kurt Russell star in a trio of films that saw him become a computer and a strongman. They turned Dean Jones into a dog in one film and made him chase a cat in another. Annette Funicello has a song and film in her catalogue called The Monkey’s Uncle! These films can be viewed as cheesy, but they’re part of your and other people’s journeys.
Millions grew up watching your low-budget movies on TV as part of YOUR strand. They may not have set the box office alight or considered cool, but they mean a lot to many people. You have a few on there but there could be more. Vaulting them disrespects your history, whether cheesy or not.
So, please, make adding archive content a priority for Disney100. I’ll still watch originals and enjoy them, but occasionally I, and many others, need a reminder of why we love Disney in the first place. Don’t pass up that chance. Do it!