Disney+, which turned a year old in November 2020, is showing no signs of slowing down, with a robust 2021 that maximizes current properties and brands, while also expanding into new, unexpected territories. And this begins this month, with the debut of the first proper Marvel Studios series, more episodes of a Disney+ favorite, and tons of new catalog additions.
Obviously, the biggest new title of the month is WandaVision. Set within the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it follows Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) aka Scarlet Witch, as it seemingly investigates her cracked psyche following the death of her cybernetic love Vision (Paul Bettany). Honestly concrete details around the new series, created by Captain Marvel and Black Window screenwriter Jac Schaeffer, are still largely absent. We do know that Kathryn Hahn plays a “wacky neighbor”-type sidekick, the first episode was filmed in front of a live studio audience, and that some other oddball MCU characters will appear in the series (Kat Dennings from Thor, Randall Park from Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Teyonah Parris playing the grown up version of a character from Captain Marvel). Beyond that, the show looks wonderfully weird. We cannot wait.
Additionally, there are more episodes of Earth to Ned, one of last year’s most delightful new shows, and a series of mini shorts called Pixar Popcorn that return you to the worlds and characters from Up, Soul, and Finding Dory (among others). The Pixar project was just announced at the Disney Investor Day event in December, so it’s pretty exciting that we can already watch it.
On the catalog side of things, there are some heavy hitters this month, too. Toy Story That Time Forgot, the Toy Story Christmas special and one of the very best things in the entire Toy Story canon, finally makes its way to Disney+. If you’ve never seen this special, wonderfully directed by Steve Purcell, it’s a total hoot, focusing on a band of bloodthirsty dinosaur warriors that Trixie falls in with. Also coming to the platform is the charming and woefully overlooked Mary Poppins Returns, which is watching for the animated sequence alone and for the fact that we can pretty definitively agree it’s Rob Marshall’s best post-Chicago movie; Wes Anderson’s stop motion feature Isle of Dogs; and Blue Sky’s Epic, a movie that was very nearly a Pixar movie when director Chris Wedge briefly left Blue Sky to develop the project with John Lasseter (strange but true!) But undoubtedly the most exciting catalog addition is Dinosaurs, the ingenious live-action sitcom developed by Jim Henson shortly before his death and aired on the Disney-owned ABC. If you only remember Dinosaurs for its inherent 90s nostalgia value (and, to be sure, it has plenty of that, having aired as part of the TGIF programming block and costumed characters appearing as the dinosaur family in what was then known as Disney-MGM Studios), the show has so much more to offer. There’s the unparalleled craftsmanship of the characters, for sure, but there’s also the sharp, barbed writing that went into everything from sexual harassment to global warming, complete with one of the bleakest series finales for a television series ever. But, you know, the Baby hits Earl with a frying pan too!
Friday, January 1
New Library Titles
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Great Shark Chow Down
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Wolverine, The (2013)
Earth to Ned
Episode 11: “Dream a little Dream of Ned”
After Ned dreams for the first time, Ginnifer Goodwin and Alan Tudyk help him separate dreams from reality. BETI’s brain scanner exposes the crew’s secret dreams. Cornelius sees a therapist.
Episode 12: “The Neddies”
Obsessed with winning an award, Ned hosts his own awards show, with D’Arcy Carden and Oliver Hudson. Cornelius is beamed to the surface to take an acting class. The CLODs make a Western.
Episode 13: “Trancendental Neditation”
When Ned gets stressed out, Yvette Nicole Brown and Jack McBrayer try to teach him how to relax. Cornelius is beamed to a “rage room.” Ned is troubled by a message from his home planet.
Episode 14: “Party Like It’s Nineteen Ninety Ned”
Actor/director Kevin Smith and actress Aisha Tyler help Ned indulge his 90’s obsession. Cornelius is sent to the future and discovers comedian Ben Schwartz is starring in a reboot of Ned’s talk show. The CLODs stage a 90’s-themed fashion show.
Episode 15: “Alien vs. Nedator”
When Ned hears aliens may have built the pyramids, he investigates human conspiracy theories with Sherri Shepherd and Penn & Teller. Cornelius goes undercover as a human to find out what Earthlings really think about aliens.
Episode 16: “Ned Over Heels”
Sitcom stars Alyson Hannigan & Ben Feldman help Ned cope with love. Cornelius tries speed dating. The CLODs create a fake dating profile.
Episode 17: “Ned vs. Food”
After Ned catches Cornelius snacking after bedtime, Chef Roy Choi and Brenda Song help him become a foodie. The CLODs open their own restaurant, with disgusting results.
Episode 18: “CyberNedics”
When BETI crashes, Ned’s interviews with Mayim Bialik and Margaret Cho are disrupted by glitches and blue ooze. Cornelius is trapped at the Intergalactic Whiz Desk.
Episode 19: “Growing Up Ned”
When one of Ned’s CLODs runs away, Molly Ringwald and Chris Colfer try to explain “growing up.” Cornelius goes in search of the missing CLOD, and unexpectedly meets Grace VanderWaal.
Episode 20: “Like Father Like Ned”
With Ned’s dad on his way to Earth, Jason Ritter and Tig Notaro try to help prove humanity should be saved, and teach Ned about the true meaning of family. Cornelius makes a decision that may change his life. The secret origin of the CLODs is revealed.
Extras – Beyond the Clouds: A Firm Handshake
Justin discusses integrating music from Zach and Sammy’s album, “A Firm Handshake,” into the film. The choice is made to record the singing live on set to capture the raw emotion of the film, but the decision comes with challenges for production. Justin invites Sammy to contribute a song of her own for the final track in the film, and she looks for inspiration in her relationship with Zach.
Friday, January 8
New Library Titles
Disney Fam Jam
Star Wars Forces of Destiny (Volume 1 – 4)
Toy Story That Time Forgot
Extras – Beyond the Clouds: The Anatomy of Emotion
Justin discusses the process of navigating the emotion of the film and the challenge of ensuring the tone remains true to Zach’s story. Fin taps into a difficult personal struggle to reach Zach’s low point, and Justin shares how the classic film, That Thing You Do, mixed with the casting of Tom Everett Scott, inspired one of the most joyful moments in Clouds.
Marvel Studios: Legends
“Marvel Studios: Legends” serves as an exciting refresher for the various heroes and villains making their way to the highly anticipated streaming shows premiering on Disney+, setting the stage for the upcoming adventures. The first two episodes will feature Wanda Maximoff and Vision.
Friday, January 15
New Library Titles
Disney Elena of Avalor (s3)
Doctor Doolittle 3
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns
WandaVision is a blend of classic television and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany)—two super-powered beings living idealized suburban lives—begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems. The new series is directed by Matt Shakman; Jac Schaeffer is head writer.
Extras – Beyond the Clouds: The Concert of a Lifetime
As Justin and the crew prepare for Zach’s final performance, they have difficulty finding a venue. A miracle, however, comes from the most unlikely place – Justin’s daughter, Maiya. Jason Mraz, reflects on his connection with Zach’s music and its impact on him and his work. When filming the final scene, Justin invites Zach’s family and friends to be in the audience, and they all sing along in his honor.
Friday, January 22
New Library Titles
Grab a quick snack of Pixar! This collection of mini shorts stars your favorite characters in all-new, bite size stories. Created directly by Pixar animators as a quick pop of Pixar fun.
Extras – Beyond the Clouds: The Finishing Touches
Justin brings in composer Brian Tyler to score the film. Brian looks to Zach for inspiration as he creates a theme that he feels Zach himself would’ve written. Brian composes a beautiful suite of music for Zach, feeling as though Zach is with him every stop of the way. Stefan Sonnenfeld, the colorist, details the process of creating a uniquely grounded and raw look for Clouds. When Covid-19 closes theaters, Justin decides to meet the audience where they are – in their living rooms.
Friday, January 29
New Library Titles
Dinosaurs (Seasons 1 – 4)
The Incredible Dr. Pol
Ramona and Beezus
Texas Storm Squad
Extras – Beyond the Clouds: A Promise Kept
The cast and crew reunite at the annual Clouds Choir fundraiser, singing in unity to honor Zach and raise money for the Zach Sobiech osteosarcoma fund. In tearful confessionals, various cast members, crew, and important people in Zach’s life share how he inspired them to live more fully and thank him for his lasting impact. Lastly, Justin proudly reveals that after the release of Clouds, Zach’s song is again #1 on iTunes.
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