A big selling point of Disney+ was its promise of original series. And, like a kid on Christmas day (in this case, November 12th), I ripped open the premium wrapping of the biggest package under the tree to uncover The Imagineering Story.
It was glorious. It was everything I could have ever asked for in an original series. I played with some other gifts that Uncle Bobby (aka Bob Iger) gave us but always came back to that perennial favorite: The Imagineering Story; re-playing it time and time again, never letting it sit long enough on the shelf to let the dust settle. It's a culmination of much of the knowledge I've gained through hundreds of YouTube videos and Google searches spanning many weekends and countless hours and presented in only the way Disney could.
As much as I loved Leslie Iwerks 2019 documentation and narrative on the origins and future of the Disney Parks, my quest to hear more from the man himself, Walt Disney, explaining his park in his own words, only grew. Immediately, I searched for episodes from Walt Disney's Disneyland and titles like "Waking Sleeping Beauty," and "Frank and Ollie," (both are great, by the way!) popped up but not much appeared from that original TV series until recently...
A visionary, strapped for cash while creating the legacy project of his lifetime, Walt needed a way to not only spread the word about his namesake amusement park but raise money for it too as his $17 million baby was weighing heavily on not only the company but Walt and his family as well. With the banks unwilling to lend the money (not understanding how this park could generate the kind of revenue Walt foresaw), Walt envisioned a TV deal but was quickly turned away by the two largest networks at the time, NBC and CBS. So Roy turned to the up-and-coming ABC network who was, thankfully, interested. All it took was a 35% stake in Disneyland, the promise of a one-hour program each week, and live coverage of the opening day of Disneyland and Walt Disney's Disneyland TV series (and, in turn, Disneyland) was born.
"Each week, as you enter this timeless land, one of these many worlds will open to you" - Walt Disney
The drums beat and Tinkerbell, enveloped in her constant cloud of pixie dust gleamed across the castle and onto the screen for the first time in 1954 as Walt became one of the first major film producers to pioneer the world of television. But why not Mickey Mouse? Well... Walt didn't want Mickey to be associated with failure if the show wasn't a success... lucky for him, it was a major hit with audiences everywhere and so, Tink became a quasi-symbol for Disneyland the parks as well! This run was expanded into a slough of TV programming for Disney and ABC, its namesake still being used to promote upon Disney's vast schedule to this day. These programs were/are:
- Walt Disney's Disneyland (1954-1958)
- Walt Disney Presents (1958-1961)
- Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969)
- The Wonderful World of Disney (1969-1979)
- Disney's Wonderful World (1979-1981)
- Walt Disney (1981-1983)
- The Disney Sunday Movie (1986-1988)
- The Magical World of Disney (1988-1990)
- The Wonderful World of Disney (1991-Present)*
*This became an umbrella title to air Disney special programming and shifted focus from original programming towards Disney theatrical films
At the launch of Disney+, only two episodes had found their way to the streaming service, but several more have been added and I expect many more will slowly continue to appear on the platform; the most anticipated being that very first episode where Walt pines about his Disneyland project.
The first episodes to be released on Disney+ from this archived content were "Disneyland Around the Seasons" (1966, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color) and "The Plausible Impossible" (1956, Walt Disney's Disneyland) These really are two shining examples from these beloved treasures as they each feature clips of Walt and mark significant landmarks in the company's history as "Disneyland Around the Seasons," was released only days after Walt's untimely death. Three more titles were released in 2020, "The Story of the Animated Drawing," "Man in Space," and "Mars and Beyond"
Here's all the episodes currently on Disney+ from the Walt Disney anthology TV series:
Man In Space
Synopsis: A look at the history of space travelOriginal Release Date: March 9th, 1955TV Series: Walt Disney's Disneyland, Season 1, Episode 20
The Pre-Opening Report from Disneyland
Synopsis: With the opening of Disneyland only days away, Walt provides a final look at the many details necessary to ensure that the park will be ready.Original Release Date: July 13th, 1955TV Series: Walt Disney's Disneyland, Season 1, Episode 21
The Story of the Animated Drawing
Synopsis: Walt Disney Discusses the history of animationOriginal Release Date: November 30th, 1955TV Series: Walt Disney's Disneyland, Season 2, Episode 11
The Plausible Impossible
Synopsis: Walt Disney explains some of the techniques of animationOriginal Release Date: October 31st, 1956TV Series: Walt Disney's Disneyland, Season 3, Episode 8
The Liberty Story
Synopsis: Walt Disney presents segments of America's fight for freedomOriginal Release Date: May 29, 1957TV Series: Walt Disney's Disneyland, Season 3, Episode 25
Mars and Beyond
Synopsis: An animated look at humankind's early views of the universe and life on MarsOriginal Release Date: December 4th, 1957TV Series: Walt Disney's Disneyland, Season 4, Episode 12
Disneyland Around the Seasons
Synopsis: Walt talks about Disneyland in 1966Original Release Date: December 18th, 1966TV Series: Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, Season 13, Episode 14
Beyond what's already been rolled out from the Walt Disney Presents series, many of the fun shorts featuring Goofy, Donald, Mickey, Pluto, and others have also been released; these include some absolute classics including "Lonesome Ghosts," where the gang run a ghost exterminating agency, and those Goofy "how to" and "art of" series that somehow we've all seen before!
Keep checking back as we'll continue to update this list as more titles make their way from the Disney vault to Disney+!