Near the end of the first episode of The Imagineering Story, Disney’s new hagiographic multi-part theme park documentary series (which just debuted on the new Disney+ streaming service), the show’s narrator tells us what happened after Disneyland beat the odds and became a wild success: “A wave of competitors fought to catch up” and “cheaper knockoffs attempted to capitalize on Disney popularity.” It was no matter, though. Walt Disney “stayed ahead of the curve and urged his designers to stick to the formula.”
If that all sounds familiar, it may be because something similar is happening now, albeit with streaming instead of theme parks. Where companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have offered cable alternatives for over a decade, others, like Apple and Disney, are now clawing to catch up. Twelve days ago, Apple rolled out Apple TV +, a $4.99/month service with a thin library but a few splashy new titles. And today, Disney is unveiling its own service, Disney+.
Unlike Apple, Disney comes to streaming with the advantage of a vast catalog of American classics in its back pocket. It has enough princes, princesses, and woodland creatures that it doesn’t actually need to release anything new to be relevant. At $6.99/month, it’s a bit more expensive than Apple, but a lot cheaper than childcare.
And yet, Disney is releasing new shows, 12 of them—though, “new” and “show” are relative terms. In sum, Disney’s new offerings better resemble statues erected to honor the company’s past work than earnest entertainment. There are remakes, like the new live action movie version of Lady and the Tramp, which is about as adequate and inessential a remake as 2019’s The Lion King. There are world-building offshoots, like the Toy Story 4 extension Forky Asks A Question, a series of shorts in which the most existentially precarious character from 4 rambles for four minutes about questions like: What is money? And there are more confusing bits of recycling, like High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, a fictional series (staged in the documentary style of The Office) about a high school production of High School Musical, in which the main characters’ offstage lives closely resemble the offstage lives of the characters in High School Musical.
If you’re looking for Disney magic, there’s not much in so far as the feelings these shows produce. But the mere feat of stretching, twisting, and reproducing IP for every last ounce of juice is its own kind of sorcery. It’s almost impressive; it’s definitely craven.
Thankfully, most of these new shows are better in execution than in concept. The first episode of The Marvel Hero Project, a more empowered cousin of Make a Wish, made me genuinely proud of Jordan, a girl who invented a custom-made glitter shooter for her missing hand. Forky is kind of funny. And the force of Werner Herzog is enough to make The Mandalorian better than the Star Wars prequels.
Ultimately, though, Disney + has an Imagineering Story problem. The show is the sort of dry, slow, self-aggrandizement you imagine being played at yet another Disney company onboarding retreat rather than on random Americans’ televisions and preferred streaming devices. But the dullness of the six-part documentary isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s the glimpses the show gives of past Disney innovation. It’s a reminder that despite how big and powerful the corporation has become, things have certainly changed. Half a century ago, Disney’s audio-animatronic theme park wonders were revolutionary. As the company makes its late entry into streaming, it’s doing so with a different sort of roboticism; don’t mistake it for sticking to the formula.
Source : Max Cea Link