Founded in 1923, The Walt Disney Company has begun its 100th anniversary campaign. Yet subscribers to Disney’s flagship streaming service have yet to see this milestone reflected in the upcoming release slate. Hundreds of Disney-owned films and series remain missing.
Unveiled at the D23 Expo in September, the much-hyped #Disney100 celebration includes a new logo, promo video, lots of merchandise . . . and little substance so far. A New Year’s Eve program is planned, a live concert tour, and several attractions in Disney theme parks are rolling out.
Disney owns arguably the world’s most in-demand film and TV library – a century of Disney and 20th Century Studios films along with series, documentaries, and specials produced by Disney, The Muppets, Marvel, ABC, and 20th TV, among other entities. Yet, as several sources track, their library rollout on streaming has gone from an early trickle to almost nonexistent.
In October 2022, Disney Plus U.S. released two long-sought Disney-owned series: classic Western Zorro starring Guy Williams, which marked its 65th anniversary on October 10; and award-winning preschool educational series Bear in the Big Blue House, which first premiered 25 years prior on October 25, 1997.
Rolling out library releases marking notable anniversaries provides a natural hook for promotion of the larger campaign. And there’s no better time than #Disney100 for Disney Plus to crack open their fabled vault, showcasing beloved films and series that only Disney can access.
Here are 23 Disney-owned films and series celebrating big milestones in 2023. None are currently available on Disney+ U.S. though some have had limited availability in other markets. September releases are listed as “summer” in hopes Disney will move forward some releases.
Winter and Spring Releases
Jan. 17: The Ernest Green Story (1993) – 30th Anniversary
A civil rights drama from African American director Eric Laneuville (Blue Bloods), this TV movie won a prestigious Peabody Award. It recounts how nine students led the way in ending racial segregation at an Arkansas high school in 1957. (No one would fault Disney if they rolled this out in February during Black History Month, as their January list appears to be set.)
Feb. 16: The Music Man (2003) – 20th Anniversary
Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) swoops into an Iowa town as traveling salesman Harold Hill, in this newer take on the classic Meredith Wilson musical
Mar. 5: Swing Kids (Hollywood Pictures, 1993) – 30th Anniversary
As the Nazi regime takes over, a group of young jazz enthusiasts in Germany (including teenage Christian Bale, long before The Dark Knight trilogy) stands up for their Jewish friend facing violent discrimination . . . while one joins the Third Reich. Viewers come to see how the prevailing ideology corrupts friendships and liberty itself.
Mar. 27: Planet of the Apes (1968) – 55th Anniversary
In this science fiction classic, three astronauts led by Taylor (Charlton Heston) embark on a long-distance space journey, only for problems to lead to crash landing on a seemingly alien planet and being captured by intelligent apes that oversee a caveman-like slave race. With the next ‘Apes’ film planned for 2024, it’s the ideal time to roll-out the original five-film series.
Mar. 29: Miracle of the White Stallions (1963) – 60th Anniversary
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) and produced under Walt Disney’s supervision.
Apr. 19: My Date With The President’s Daughter (1998) – 25th Anniversary
Duncan (Will Friedle of Boy Meets World and Kim Possible fame) is just an ordinary high school student. Hallie (Elisabeth Harnois) dreams of an ordinary life, but is actually the daughter of the U.S. president. This Disney TV film has a cult following but hasn’t been released in many years.
Jun. 26: Never A Dull Moment (1968) – 55th Anniversary
While Disney legend Dick Van Dyke – who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday – has featured in a half-dozen comedies for Disney, including this slapstick spy laffer, only Mary Poppins and its sequel have made the Disney Plus cut after three years. This comedy also appears on the fan-made Disney 100 for 100 list.
July 1: Armageddon (1998) – 25th Anniversary
A renowned driller played by Bruce Willis must helm a dangerous space mission: to land on an asteroid and detonate a nuclear bomb. Also starring Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, and Ben Affleck, it’s one of the best collaborations of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay.
July 7: Summer Magic (1963) – 60th Anniversary
Despite her status as a Disney Legend, most of Hayley Mills’ Disney roles are lacking from Disney Plus, including this musical blending animated and live-action sequences which features Americana music legend Burl Ives. It’s one among dozens of Walt-era classics still missing.
July 18: Heidi (1993) – 30th Anniversary
The classic novel set in Switzerland comes to life in a beautiful adaptation starring renowned actor Jason Robards (All the President’s Men). As fellow WODP writer Ethan Holloway has noted, it’s also notable for the inclusion of a character in a wheelchair who is shown care and compassion by Heidi.
July 23: The Sword and the Rose (1953) – 70th Anniversary
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.
Aug. 27: A Friendship in Vienna (1988) – 35th Anniversary
The late Ed Asner (1929-2021) leads an ensemble cast in this World War II film set during the late 1930s. Two schoolgirls living in Vienna — one Jewish, one the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer — cannot make sense of how a changing society seeks to sunder their friendship.
Sept. 4: ‘Endurance’ (1998) – 25th Anniversary
Ethiopian Olympian Haile Gebrselassie stars as himself in this sports biopic, a journey from his east African homeland to the 1994 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Sept. 8: Belle (2013) – 10th Anniversary
The mixed-race daughter (Gugu Mbatha-Raw from live-action Beauty and the Beast) of an aristocrat must face down discrimination in pre-Victorian England. Her public witness to truth plays a vital role in a case that contributed to the abolition of the slave trade.
Sept. 10: The X Files (1993) – 30th Anniversary
FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena in the hit 20th TV series. Mulder believes in aliens and the paranormal while Scully, a skeptic, is assigned to debunk Mulder’s work. The landmark sci-fi series from producer Chris Carter has been available internationally on Disney Plus for years.
Fall and Holiday Releases
Oct. 3: The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca (serial, 1958) – 65th Anniversary
Mexican-American lawyer-turned-gunfighter Elfego Baca, a real-life figure, gets the Disney hero treatment in this ten-part miniseries, a follow-up to popular Zorro. Similar to Zorro, the episodes were remastered 20 years ago for DVD series Walt Disney Treasures(thanks to Leonard Maltin, Dick Cook, and Walt Disney Archives) . . . but almost none of those titles are streaming.
Oct. 9: Tiger Town (1983) – 40th Anniversary The first of 44 “Disney Channel Premiere Films” produced from 1983 to 1996 – nearly all still vaulted – this baseball film hasn’t been seen in decades. It was announced for DVD release in 2004, until then-Disney home media exec Bob Chapek refused to work out minor legal issues involving a song in the film. Director Alan Shapiro has worked tirelessly for its wide release.
Oct. 10: City of Ember (2008) – 15th Anniversary
Last year, Disney+ finally released its Walden Media co-production Bridge to Terabithia. But most of the 20th Century Studios-Walden films remain missing, notably including this post-apocalyptic story starring Saoirse Ronan and comedian Bill Murray.
Oct. 27: The Waltz King (1963) – 60th Anniversary
One of few biopics produced by Walt Disney himself, this film follows Johann Strauss II from rejecting his father’s profession to composing classical works such as “The Blue Danube.”
Nov. 4: Five Mile Creek (1983-1985) – 40th Anniversary
Set during the 1860s in the Australian outback, this ensemble drama follows a group of disparate American and Australian travelers who must work together to forge a new path. Founding a stagecoach line proves full of challenges, from outlaws to economic challenges to relational conflicts.
Nov. 14: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) – 20th Anniversary
Widely regarded as one of the best nautical adventure films ever produced, this adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s epic Napoleonic Wars novel features brash Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and his trusted friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), ordered to hunt down and capture a powerful French vessel off the South American coast.
Nov. 29: So Dear To My Heart (1948) – 75th Anniversary
One of more than 30 Disney-owned musicals missing, this film has several animated sequences similar to Enchanted and Mary Poppins. It introduces a boy (Bobby Driscoll) who raises a lamb its mother has rejected, which he names after a racehorse.
Dec. 20: The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968) – 55th Anniversary
Dean Jones stars as an advertising executive in need of a gimmick, while his daughter is facing growing pains in her teen years. Horse racing helps solve both challenges, though it opens up others as she’s pursued by a young man (Kurt Russell). The title is a play on The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, a 20th Century Studios drama film, which would make for an interesting double-feature library release.
What Disney-owned films and series do you hope we finally see released on Disney+? Comment below and join the discussion.