The Walt Disney Company, founded as Disney Brothers Studio in October 1923, has planned a year-long 100th-anniversary celebration beginning this fall. But will all the history be on Disney+?
At the D23 Expo in Anaheim, media and fans will surely hear many current executives praise the Disney Legacy and library as valued creative assets.
Amid a large selection of recently produced films and series on Disney+, one could easily ask "Where's Walt?" on their flagship streaming service.
What's On Disney Plus has published a list of hundreds of missing library titles, and it’s only grown longer. There’s also missing Muppets, franchises, musicals, and documentaries. Some subscribers assume “everything will eventually release,” but that’s not what trends indicate.
Stats from Deja View News reveal one has to go back a year (June 2021) for when the last Walt-era film, The Happiest Millionaire, was added. Not since Disney+ U.S. launched has any Walt-era TV series rolled out on the streamer.
It’s understandable that some titles–those not listed below–would be barred from wide release due to some insensitive cultural depictions. Perhaps a few below need to have the “Stories Matter” disclaimer included.
These 40 films and TV series, including shorts and TV specials, produced during Walt Disney’s lifetime (1901-1966) should be celebrated as part of the studio’s 100th anniversary.
As they plan to increase the price of Disney+ U.S. in December, making these 40 films and series a priority for streaming release would go a long way to retaining those many families who still enjoy the classics.
13 Theatrical Films
1) Make Mine Music (1946)
Recently marking 74 years since release, Make Mine Music is the only fully animated Disney classic currently not available on Disney+.
2) So Dear to My Heart (1948)
Starring Burl Ives, Luana Patten and Bobby Driscoll, a boy raises a lamb its mother has rejected. Similar to Enchanted and Mary Poppins, this classic has several animated sequences.
3) The Sword and the Rose (1953)
Knighthood and romance in the 16th century come alive as stars Richard Todd (The Longest Day) and Glynis Johns (Mary Poppins) inhabit this historical fiction tale filmed in Great Britain.
4) Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1954)
During the reign of King George I in the 18th century, the wartime adventures of Scottish highland leader Rob Roy MacGregor (Richard Todd) come to life in this historic drama.
5) The Great Locomotive Chase (1956)
A group of 22 Union Army spies goes behind Confederate lines in Atlanta to break up their supply lines and hasten the end of the Civil War. Fess Parker (Davy Crockett) leads the ensemble cast. This film meant so much to Walt Disney, he held the film’s Midwest premiere in his hometown of Marceline, Missouri.
6) Johnny Tremain (1957)
This historical fiction flick portrays the Boston Tea Party and Revolutionary War events. While it lacks the historicity of HBO’s John Adams miniseries, with violence and other elements also shown more tamely, it’s a mid-century portrait of patriotism.
7) Kidnapped (1960)
Following up from Disney’s first-ever live-action film, Treasure Island released in 1950 (which is on Disney+), Walt and team chose to adapt another swashbuckling Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Starring James MacArthur, Kidnapped is widely available on digital but not streaming.
8) Ten Who Dared (1960)
An Old West adventure based on Major John Wesley Powell’s journal, this classic features stunning cinematography of the Grand Canyon as American explorers first chart its contours.
9) Big Red (1962)
A hard-working orphan boy helps to care for an Irish settler show dog, and the wealthy owner realizes he has as much to learn as he does to teach.
10) Savage Sam (1963)
Six years after Old Yeller, Disney’s classic about a beloved hound dog, debuted in theaters, sequel Savage Sam reunited the cast for another frontier tale of bravery and rescue.
11) Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)
At the height of World War II, the world-renowned Lipizzaner Stallions are trapped at a riding school in Vienna. Austrian forces work alongside U.S. General George S. Patton to evacuate and protect them from coming into enemy hands, in a film starring Robert Taylor (Quo Vadis).
But, the entire film is available on YouTube.
12) A Tiger Walks (1964)
Disney go-to actor Brian Keith (The Parent Trap) stars in this family drama about a tiger who escapes from a traveling circus – causing panic in a small town.
13) Follow Me, Boys! (1966)
Disney mainstay Fred MacMurray becomes scoutmaster in a small town, with Kurt Russell part of his troop (first of his dozens of Disney film roles). This celebration of mid-century Boy Scouts as an institution was the final film Walt produced; he died two weeks after its theatrical debut.
10 Beloved Episodes of Walt Disney Anthology Series
Starting in 1954, producer and innovator Walt Disney personally hosted an hour-long family anthology series broadcast on Sunday nights.
Some episodes were simple introductions of films already released, but often the productions were new films, behind-the-scenes footage, or Disney Parks features–which are notably also celebrating anniversaries this year.
1) Disneyland: Operation Undersea (1954)
Behind-the-scenes of adventure film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
2) Disneyland: Man and the Moon (1955)
3) Disneyland: Where Do the Stories Come From (1956)
4) Disneyland: Tricks of our Trade (1957)
5) Walt Disney Presents: Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959)
6) Walt Disney Presents: Perilous Assignment (1959)
Behind-the-scenes of adventure film Third Man on the Mountain.
7) Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color: Disneyland After Dark (1962)
8) Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color: The Golden Horseshoe Revue (1962)
9) Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color: The Waltz King (1963)
10) Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color: Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair (1964)
Eight Classic TV Series
All of these TV series should be self-explanatory, with most originally aired as part of Walt Disney’s Sunday-night anthology series (re-titled multiple times).
One is worth calling out. The entire run of classic Zorro, starring Guy Williams, released in November 2021 on Disney+ only in Brazil and Latin America–but it remains missing in all other territories worldwide.
1) Disneyland, USA: People & Places (miniseries, 1953-1960, 17 episodes)
2) The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure (miniseries, 1956, 19 episodes)
3) Zorro (1957-1961, 78 episodes plus 4 specials)
4) Annette (miniseries, 1957-1958) Starring Annette Funicello
5) The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca (miniseries, 1958)
6) Texas John Slaughter (miniseries, 1958-1961)
7) The Swamp Fox (miniseries, 1959-1961)
8) Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (miniseries, 1964)
Nine Landmark Cartoon Shorts
To explore the history of animation, Disney Plus remains a necessity. However, hundreds of cartoon shorts from the studio’s history remain missing, from Silly Symphonies like Music Land to popular comic features with Mickey, Donald and Goofy.
1) The Skeleton Dance (1929)
2) Mickey's Fire Brigade (1935)
3) Music Land (1935)
4) Moving Day (1936)
5) Alpine Climbers (1936)
6) Donald's Snow Fight (1942)
7) Goofy Gymnastics (1949)
8) Toy Tinkers (1949)
9) Motor Mania (1950)
What do you think of these 40 films and series? Are there other classic Disney titles you hope will release soon on Disney Plus? Join the discussion below.
A version of this was originally published by What's On Disney Plus; reprinted with permission.
Image: Marko Aliaksandr/Shutterstock
Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith and public-policy issues for various media outlets. He and his wife are raising two children in Northern Virginia.