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Disney Plus Shuts Out Black History Month In 2022

After an excellent Black History Month in 2021, Disney forgot to show up in 2022.

This article is part of our special “Disney Minus” series covering the the virtually non-existent February lineup and our significant concerns about the Disney+ leadership and content team priorities. The month after setting their previous worst record, Disney follows it up with dangerously close to 0 titles.

The list of content coming to Disney+ in February is out and it’s sorely missing… everything. February is more than just an ordinary month, so there were many exciting ways for the content team to program, including Valentine’s Day. February also honors African-American culture and Black lives all month long through the nationally-recognized observance of Black History Month.

Over the many years of Disney’s history, the most talented creators have told truly inspirational and moving stories of both black triumph and struggle. Recently we posted our hopes for Disney to match or outdo last year’s Black History Month celebration when they added the highly requested Brandy rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

8 titles Disney could have added in February.
8 titles Disney could have added in February.

Last year people were thrilled that Brandy’s Cinderella made its digital and streaming debut. We fully expected Disney to make similar moves this year. We provided a list of 2 Disney series and 8 Disney films (excluding the Fox library) that we were hopeful Disney would finally bring to streaming.

Instead, Disney is re-adding Snow Dogs (starring Cuba Gooding Jr.). This is not a victory or sufficient. That film was coming regardless as it left Disney+ in August 2020 for HBO and is simply transferring back 2 days after finishing its stay there. They’ll try to hang their hat on this “returning title” as their big addition. Starring a black man is all that film has going for it. There are far better and more meaningful options for Black History Month than a low-rated comedy film for kids.

We won’t rehash the previous article (go read it, get inspired, and submit feedback to Disney requesting these 10 titles).

Films

Series

  • Cory in the House (34 episodes, 2007-2008)
  • Fillmore! (26 episodes, 2002-2004)

We all should be frustrated. Disney’s made-for-TV library became an afterthought after the first months of the service, but it contains hundreds of films. Some are clunkers, others are nostalgic gems and others still are beloved critical favorites.

As you can see above, 4 of those 8 films are available on Disney Movie Club. This service should have been a guide for Disney years ago. There are over 100 titles available on Disney Movie Club that are still missing from Disney+. Why are they not working out streaming rights and adding them?

FILLMORE! (2002) is still not coming to Disney+ | (C) DISNEY
FILLMORE! (2002) is still not coming to Disney+ | (C) DISNEY

Disney’s continued inability to add library cartoons is another frustration for many. Fillmore! has been requested often, and it can be purchased on VOD in Germany with English audio / subtitles. In other words, it’s digitally ready. How Disney can ignore their first and cartoon with a black lead is beyond us.

Haile Gebrselassie in ENDURANCE (1999) | (C) DISNEY
Haile Gebrselassie in ENDURANCE (1999) | (C) DISNEY

Endurance is a Disney Pictures film. That’s their main studio line. Why are over 75 of their primary film canon on VOD and DVD but still not streaming? Why would Disney continue to bury Loretta Claiborne’s incredible story? Just read this IMDB synopsis for The Loretta Claiborne Story: “A disabled young girl from a disadvantaged home setting develops self esteem and success in life through Special Olympics competition. Based on the true story of Loretta Claiborne.”

How can they be sitting on that?

Polly is not coming home. POLLY COMIN' HOME! (1990) | (C) DISNEY
Polly is not coming home. POLLY COMIN’ HOME! (1990) | (C) DISNEY

The Emmy-nominated musical Polly and its sequel, Polly Comin’ Home!, delighted many children growing up in the 90s with their updated take on the Pollyana story. Featuring an all-black cast and tales of hope, both should have been day one Disney+ additions.

Complications Or Apathy?

We don’t doubt there are complications to obtaining streaming rights for films that released before the streaming age. What we do doubt is that Disney, with all their power, resources, and funding, is unable to provide at LEAST 1 of these “new to streaming” titles every February. What we doubt is that Disney cannot release their made-for-TV films and missing catalog with greater cadence.

This is a choice.

The disruptive nature of the pandemic did not “wake them up” to the importance of their catalog. Instead it trended sharply downwards almost immediately after launch. While Bob Chapek is quick to blame the pandemic for the recurring Originals droughts, the content team has not shown the ability to adapt and re-prioritize.

No month on a major streaming service should ever be as empty as February. Not even close. Especially not with over 1,000 titles locked in a vault.

DISCLAIMER: It’s always possible they could announce something as a surprise at a later date… but that wouldn’t change the fact that they’ve sent a press release out to every major organization completely void of anything NOW.

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Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.

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