The 5 Family Friendly Hidden Gems on Disney+

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The 5 Family Friendly Hidden Gems on Disney+

We all know who is young, scrappy and hungry. There’s no way we can forget who wants to let it go. And who can ignore the adorable Baby Yoda who launched a 1,000 memes and a seemingly equal number of product tie-ins?

Since Disney+ launched last year, subscribers everywhere have delighted in their catalog, from the Disney Channel shows of their youth (hi Hannah Montana and Lizzie McGuire) to all the Disney princesses, Star Wars, and Marvel franchises. The streaming platform has curried our favor during these pandemic times by releasing Onward and Frozen II on the platform months ahead of their planned dates. And, in a move that delighted everyone, the theatrical release of Hamilton debuted last month over a year ahead of its original release date. We can’t even be that mad that Disney+ is going to charge $30 to see the live action version of Mulan starting September 4th. At least we will get to see the long-awaited production from the safety of our home!

But we are, most regrettably, nearly six months into this quarantine and parents everywhere are probably searching for new things to entertain their children and provide them with a few hours of uninterrupted peace. I am here for you with some deep cuts of the Disney+ collection. Here are the five hidden gems you can’t miss:

1. The Wonderful World of Disney’s Annie

Watch on Disney+

This 1999 take on an orphan searching for her parents while singing iconic songs is a treasure. I mean look at this cast! It’s a veritable who’s who of Broadway’s finest. Alan Cumming as Rooster. Kristin Chenoweth as Lily St. Regis. Audra McDonald as Grace. Add in Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan and Victor Garber as Daddy Warbucks and I defy you to find a better version of this adored classic. For the eagled-eyed viewer, keep a look out for future Modern Family star Sarah Hyland as adorable orphan Molly and a stellar cameo from Andrea McArdle, Broadway’s original Annie. Here’s hoping the 1997 Wonderful World of Disney version of Cinderella starring Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother and Brandy as the title character makes it on to the streaming platform. But until then, to paraphrase McDonald’s Grace, I think you’re gonna like it here.

2. Disneynature Movies

Watch on Disney+

Hidden among all the big-name Disney movies that are on the platform are these positively delightful documentaries each one focusing on a different species. Featuring up close, how-on-earth-did-they-get-that footage, the cameras follow the animals for years to tell their stories. We are partial to the ones about African Cats and Bears in my household but all of them offer something unique and special while providing quite a bit of education in a very entertaining and incredibly dramatic ways. And the narrators are always someone interesting—whether it’s Megan Markle telling us about elephants (in her first official job since stepping away from royal duties), or Natalie Portman discussing the dolphin reef.

3. Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical

Watch on Disney+

If you’re looking for another filmed version of a staged musical, I’ve got you. Filmed at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, CA in 2016, Newsies had a very brief theatrical run but now is available for all to enjoy on Disney+. Based on the 1992 movie of the same name, the Broadway musical tells the story of the newsboys’ strike of 1899 through the eyes of Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan who was Tony nominated for the role). This filmed version, which features nine members of the original Broadway cast, is a sheer delight with gravity defying and breathtaking choreography and songs by Alan Menken that will immediately make you want to get up and dance along with the energetic cast. It will, unfortunately, probably be a long time until we can go to the theater again. Now is the time to relish the theatrical opportunities our living rooms provide.

4. Schoolhouse Rock

Watch on Disney+

Those of us who were kids from the early ‘70s to the mid-‘90s remember Schoolhouse Rock well. These brief interstitials that appeared during our beloved Saturday morning cartoons educated us on everything from how a bill becomes a law (our current leadership may benefit from that one), to multiplication, to what makes a noun, to the solar system. Decades later many of us can still sing “Interplanet Janet” verbatim. Now a whole new generation can learn from these catchy ditties. Disney acquired the Schoolhouse Rock catalog when it bought ABC back in 1996 and now 51 episodes, including the very timely “I’m Going to Send Your Vote to College” about how the electoral college elects the President of the United States, are available.

5. The Big Fib

Watch on Disney+

This game show, hosted by the always delightful Yvette Nicole Brown, is a kids’ version of To Tell the Truth. In each of the 15 episodes of the first season, a young contestant must guess who is telling the truth and who is lying by asking them a series of questions. Who, for example, really has made a career studying jellyfish and who is just making it up. In true kid show fashion, the fibber gets dumped on by brightly colored foam at the end of the episodes. The kid contestants are a delight and Brown’s rapport with them is a highlight of the show. My kids love this one so much they make us play our own made-up version at the dinner table.

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).

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