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The Potential of Disney+ For Historians

Disney+, the upcoming streaming surface from the company, has been in the news a lot since it was initially announced in 2017. Since then, we have learned about many of the titles that will be available on the platform, both old and new, as well as the price launch, date, and more. One of the major things that Disney has been pushing with Disney+ is the exclusives that will be coming to the platform. These include some new movies and many new shows. In fact, there will be several panels at D23 Expo which will feature up-close looks and previews of the new content. All of this is great. Who doesn’t love new Disney stuff? However, as someone who loves classic Disney content such as the original cartoons, the early films, and episodes of the Disneyland TV show, I am far more interested in that stuff being on the platform than I am for new Disney content, for several reasons.

First of all, Disney has been making content for almost 100 years. Walt Disney and his team began making Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons in the early 20th century and since then, the company has never slowed down. In fact, in the last 10 to 15 years, it has grown like never before. However, here is a wealth of material that is either locked away or difficult to find. This material should be accessible to the public, for historical purposes if nothing else.

Before the invention of home video, Disney would bring their classic films back to theaters for people who either didn’t see them the first time around or for those who just wanted to experience them again and again. However, once Disney realized that they could be extremely successful in the home video market, they began releasing films on VHS in the 1980’s and as the home video market grew, so did the quality of content that Disney would release. They began including making of’s and featurettes as the end of these VHS tapes or introductions to the films by people like Roy Disney. As soon as DVDs were invented, Disney released incredible box sets and DVD releases such as the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Platinum Edition, The Fantasia Anthology, and the Toy Story Toy Box. These were all loaded with incredible behind the scenes content and great information for Disney history buffs everywhere. This trend of special edition releases continued throughout the 2000’s and even into the Blu-ray era. When the Walt Disney Treasures line also came out in the 2000’s, hardcore Disney fans rejoiced. These wonderful sets were released, packed with priceless bonus features, and introduced by none other than Disney historian and critic Leonard Maltin. However, these sets were released in limited quantities and are now out of print. So this leaves me, a Disney history buff, a bit stuck. The only (legal) way of obtaining these classic cartoons, documentaries, television episodes and more is to track down the individual DVD releases. I would love to do this but it is a quite expensive and inconvenient way of viewing this content. What if I need to quickly reference a Donald or Mickey cartoon for research I am doing? What if I need to watch a documentary or interview about the company that is unavailable anywhere else?

Now in the streaming era, this is Disney’s chance to resolve this problem. All of the past home media releases have led up to this point. Disney+ is an excellent opportunity for the company to take its entire back catalog of films, episodes from the Disneyland television show, and cartoons and put it all in one place. I want to see all of the bonus material from the various home video releases of the films and the Disney Treasures set. This may seem like a big request but it would be an invaluable opportunity for people like myself and other history buffs, teachers, and scholars to have a way to screen this content for themselves, students, or anyone else. I hope that Disney is able to provide the public with a convenient way to view what has come before.

Disney+ will launch in the U.S. this November.

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