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With Disney+’s launch earlier this month and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, there’s never been a better time to binge old favorites. This week, we’re looking back at Disney hits and catching up on movies we missed the first time. Join us for a walk down memory lane.
Disney+ is such a strange beast. Your nostalgia-filled fave is my first-time discovery.
It’s not a stretch to say we all grew up with Disney. Nostalgia is a huge selling point for this service. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it’s biggest driver of new subscribers in these early weeks of its life (after Baby Yoda). If you’re a human being living on this planet in 2019, chances are you harbor fond childhood memories of one Disney thing or another.
For me, a lot of those fond memories come from the outrageously weird Disney output of the decades before I was born. The 1960s and 1970s – decades defined by their ostentatious fashion and rampant mind-altering drug use – is where I find my own, personal flavor of Peak Disney.
Judging by the total silence that follows in work Slack whenever I reference one of my beloved Disney deep cuts, some recommendations are in order. So please join me on a journey through my own favorites in Disney’s grooviest era of weird entertainment.
All I want is justice for Hayley Mills. Disney has a thing for bringing back its older movies with newer casts, so a lot of you probably recognize The Parent Trap as a Lindsay Lohan movie from 1998. But 37 years earlier, two other unknowing identical twins – both played by Mills – waged war at summer camp and then, upon learning of their connection, hatched an adorable plot to recouple their parents. The 1998 remake incredibly stuck with the absurd “no one ever told the twins they had a twin” plot point, but the original will always have my heart.
Another example of a perfect movie that Disney felt the need to remake. Homeward Bound (1993) boasted cuter dogs (sorry, I don’t make the rules). But 1963’s take has more of an experimental, avant-garde vibe. The animals don’t talk at all, and we only come to understand their inner lives through the narrator, voiced by Rex Allen. The 1963 original also benefits from one of the most truly bizarre scenes in Disney’s entire catalog, dinner with Old Jeremy the hermit.
It might surprise you to learn that Cars wasn’t Disney’s first movie franchise to turn an automobile into a character. That distinction belongs to Herbie, the Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own. The Love Bug is only the first of several movies. The thing I really love about this serious is the car comes to life entirely without the need for a computer-generated face or voiceovers. Herbie is a lovable car because of his actions. A simple honk or popped trunk communicates all that needs to be said.
OK, real talk: At age 41, I barely remember Pete’s Dragon. It came out the year before I was born. I loved it as a kid because there were fun songs and a cartoon dragon that acts and sounds like a dog. Reading about it now is a trip. “This heartwarming musical adventure follows the friendship of a young orphan boy and his invisible pet dragon, who flee from his cruel guardians to a small fishing village in Maine,” Disney’s description reads. I don’t know about y’all, but if I’m fleeing from cruel guardians – who in this case have a literal slave in Pete, a human they purchased – a fishing village in Maine is definitely where I’m taking refuge.
Isn’t it weird that Disney waited until the tail end of the ’70s to do an acid trip in space? The Black Hole is a lot of things: a response to Star Wars; an epic cast chewing up scenery by the ton; a source of nightmare fuel for young tykes like myself. (Maximillian the robot haunted me for years.) It never rose to the heights of a Wars or a Trek – and the reasons for that are fairly obvious when you watch it – but The Black Hole carried Disney into the great unknown of space operas, and it’s an entertainingly over-the-top ride from beginning to end.