I initially said, before Disney+ was even announced, that they’d have to put literally everything from the Vault onto a proposed streaming service before I’d spend money for it. This turned out not to be true; there’s enough on there, especially combined with the assorted things they own that aren’t purely Disney and the new content, that it’s worth it. But the storied End Of The Vault didn’t happen. Not even close. People will talk about how it’s to do with how Problematic some of the things still in there are, but that isn’t even close to the real issue.
This isn’t even that Peter Pan is on Disney+ despite its Not Great depiction of Native Americans, to name just one. There’s plenty of Not Great material on the service, and you don’t have to dig too far into the things available to notice. What’s more, quite a lot of the material not on the service is benign. Sure, Donald remains an Aquatic Sociopath, and, sure, Pluto cartoons are weirdly suggestive sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they’re so scandalous that they should only be accessible by lengthy YouTube search. I’d hoped that Disney’s slow clearing of the shorts from YouTube meant putting more of them on Disney+, but so far, this isn’t true.
Mind, the Vault is huge. If you include everything the company owns that isn’t available, there are many thousands of hours of programming; calculating how many takes more effort than I’m willing to go through here and would almost certainly miss at least some of it. However, even limiting yourself to theatrical, direct-to-video, and made-for-Disney Channel media bearing the Disney name explicitly, there are still probably at least a few thousand hours. There are 57 seasons of the Disney anthology season of many names that I usually refer to as The Wonderful World of Disney, and if quite a lot of it has been just showing Disney movies, either in one evening or several, there are still a lot of episodes that were original programming.
Still, there’s no reason that it should only have been in the last few weeks that Zorro made its debut on the service. And not even all of Zorro, come to that, as I’m pretty sure the three episodes that appeared on—say it with me—The Wonderful World of Disney as movies after the series wrapped are still unavailable. In the early days of The Disney Channel, they didn’t exactly have a glut of original content, so quite possibly the media figure whose face and voice I was most familiar with was Walt himself. That could be true for my children as well.
There are a lot of place I think I could be handling certain Disney issues better than Disney currently is, and this is definitely one of them. I not only have ideas about how to open the Vault doors wider, I have ideas about how to increase interest in the materials you’d find there. Curated lists. Special introductions for classic Disney media by current Disney (or Disney-affiliated) stars. Have Kurt Russell do a series where he talks about all his old Dexter Riley movies; from what I know, he’d love to. Get Steve Martin to talk about episodes of The Wonderful World of Disney from the days where he worked in the magic shop.
I could keep going. Do a series where current stars are shown in their ‘80s or older Disney appearances. Show the evolution of Mickey Mouse, from “Steamboat Willie” to “Get a Horse.” Bring back Ludwig von Drake and make him the voice of the archives. Do new “I’m No Fool” cartoons and intersperse Jiminy Cricket teaching us about swimming safety and internet safety. There are so many options. And, sure, some stuff is better left in the Vault, either because it’s Problematic or simply not good. You’ve all seen articles about things I won’t defend on one or both grounds. But there’s so much there, and there’s no reason for it.