Well it is February 1st, which means it is Black History Month. I scoured Disney + for their Celebrate Black Stories
Series and Specials
Chadwick Boseman: A Tribute for a King
Celebrating the life, legacy, and storied career of the actor, as well as the cultural imprint he made both on and off screen, along with tributes from celebrities around the globe and information on the medical condition he fought in private
Black is King
A basket floats down a river. On a beach in the spiritual plane, a newborn prince is held by his maternal ancestor while she tells him of his significance and purpose. She performs rituals for the prince and joins other women who are also holding newborns. On the beach, the prince is anointed with white paint by the ancestor, while in a royal palace, he is similarly anointed by an elder. The king gives the young prince a small golden scepter and tells the prince that his ancestors look down on them from the stars and will always be there to guide him.
The young boy is enticed by a monkey to enter a warehouse. A man with a snake asks the boy who he is, but the boy does not answer. The boy stays in the warehouse, adorns himself with gold, and spends his time gambling while being watched by his ancestor and the blue man. Outside, a biker gang arrives and encircles the prince. The king comes to save him and is killed by a bike. The prince’s uncle tells the prince to flee the village, and he takes over the throne. In the spiritual plane, the ancestor leads the king’s funeral, while the blue man sits alone.
The prince dreams of living a carefree life, driving past his ancestor and the blue man. He lives in an extravagant mansion full of expensive clothes, servants, and feasts. The prince remembers his uncle banging on a drum, causing him to drop the scepter into the water. A human chess game takes place in the mansion’s ground, reminding the prince of how his father taught him the game, which represented the duality of good and evil. In real life, the prince grows up and moves to the city. He now dreams of spending his time partying with girls inside a tricked-out hearse. His driver appears as his uncle, who taunts him with the golden scepter. He stumbles out of the car and wakes up. The prince realizes that pursuing material wealth is unsustainable, and he is encouraged to reclaim his purpose and identity. His ancestor tells the prince that he will meet himself at the shore, as the blue man walks into the sea. The prince is reunited with his childhood love. The couple gets married, but he is plagued by self-doubt over his purpose.
In another time, a sandstorm arrives. As others are fleeing, the ancestor decides to place her baby in a basket and put it in the river to save the baby. As the basket flows down the river, it reaches a waterfall. In the spiritual plane, the ancestor is reunited with her baby.
The ancestor tells the prince to return to the river, in which he finds the scepter. He is reunited with the elder, who anoints him again with white paint, and he floats upwards into the spiritual plane. The prince reunites with his father and breaks down in front of him. The ancestor reminds the prince of his power, and he assembles an army of women to fight his uncle. They chase him out of the kingdom, and the prince reclaims his throne. The ancestor brings the new king and queen their baby, and the king lifts the baby in the air.
The Proud Family
Fourteen-year-old Penny Proud is growing up! She’s trying to gain her independence and faces typical teenage experiences in junior high. With the help of her parents, Trudy and Oscar, and her grandma, Sugar Mama, Penny faces all sorts of comical events.
The series chronicles freckled, seven-year-old (eight as of 2020 despite the cancellation) Dottie “Doc” McStuffins who decides she wants to become a doctor like her mother, a pediatrician. She practices her dream by fixing toys and dolls.
When she activates her magic stethoscope, she can create a variety of supernatural effects, including traveling through time. Her most regular use of it in the TV series is to cause toys, dolls, and stuffed animals to come to life. They are able to move, speak, hear, see, and smell, and she can interact with them. With help from her stuffed friends – Stuffy the Dragon (a.k.a. Stuffy Philbert McStuffins), Hallie the Hippo, Lambie the Lamb, and Chilly the Snowman – Doc helps toys recover, or “feel better”, by giving them check-ups and diagnosing their fictional illnesses with an encyclopedia called “The Big Book of Boo Boos” and another encyclopedia called “The Big Vet Book” for her toy pets when she’s a veterinarian. In Season four the Big Book of Boo Boos and The Big Vet Book go Hi-Tech in a tablet form.
Each 11-minute episode includes original songs. During ending credits in Season 1, Doc gives advice to viewers about staying healthy. Seasons 1 and 2 have the original intro for the theme song, but in Season 3, the spoken line by Doc at the end of the theme song was re-recorded with Doc’s new voice. In Season 3 Doc opens up a veterinarian clinic for fixing toy pets in addition to the regular medical services that she provides for the other toys. In Season 4, Doc’s Grandma reveals her own magical stethoscope and teleports her and Doc to McStuffinsville, a magical city populated by living toys, and puts Doc in charge of the McStuffinsville Hospital. In Season 5, Doc puts together the McStuffinsville Pet Rescue Team, where she and her toys rescue pets in need.
After six months of scientifically advanced training, three of the world’s most elite distance runners set out to break the two-hour marathon barrier.
Set in Washington, D.C., the show centers on the misadventures of boy genius and youngest child T.J. Henderson, who at the age of 10 moves from elementary school and gets transferred to Piedmont High School, where he ends up becoming a high school freshman with teenagers as his classmates. He must adjust to the life with older, but not necessarily wiser, high school teenagers – including his brother Marcus and Marcus’ best friend Mo. Episodes typically deal with T.J.’s missteps of trying to fit in as a kid genius, while being a small kid in high school, as well as the contrast between his smarts and his brother’s underachieving nature.
Older brother Marcus Henderson, the sophomore suave and underachieving middle child, also deals with teenage problems, such as finding a date and doing homework (though he sometimes tries to get T.J. to do his homework for him). Their father Floyd Henderson, a widowed single father who owns his own roofing business, deals with the problems of raising his three kids: Yvette, Marcus and T.J., since his wife’s death. Floyd’s only daughter, and Marcus and T.J.’s older sister Yvette, usually is the level-headed member of the family – similar to Floyd in that respect – and is the typical overachieving student.
Set in Washington, D.C., the series follows K.C. Cooper, a high school math genius, who gets recruited by her parents after she discovers that they are secretly undercover spies working for an agency called The Organization.
That’s So Raven
No ordinary teenager; Raven Baxter can see glimpses of the future! Watch her schemes and misadventures as she enlists the help of friends, including best friends Eddie and Chelsea, to change life’s little outcomes. Raven’s younger brother, Cory, is obsessed with money and creates get-rich-quick schemes to try to earn cash.
Now a divorced mother of two, Raven Baxter still catches glimpses of the future. She uses her power to help her be a better mother, a successful fashion designer and a good friend. She’s not the only member of her family who can see the future, though. Her son Booker has inherited the ability from her, using it to help him make sense of middle school and his new family life. Their visions sometimes collide, but they always figure things out together. Also living in the Baxter house are Booker’s no-nonsense twin sister Nia and free-spirited Chelsea, Raven’s childhood best friend, who is the divorced mother of Levi, who is savvy and wise beyond his years. Raven and Chelsea work together to help raise their children.
Powered teens Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Quake, Patriot, America Chavez, and Inferno join forces as an unlikely, but formidable crew of aspiring heroes.
Live Action Movies
After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.
Remember the Titans
In Virginia, high school football is a way of life, an institution revered, each game celebrated more lavishly than Christmas, each playoff distinguished more grandly than any national holiday. And with such recognition, comes powerful emotions. In 1971 high school football was everything to the people of Alexandria. But when the local school board was forced to integrate an all black school with an all white school, the very foundation of football’s great tradition was put to the test.
Three brilliant African-American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.
Queen of Katwe
Living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her family. Her world changes one day when she meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a missionary who teaches children how to play chess. Phiona becomes fascinated with the game and soon becomes a top player under Katende’s guidance. Her success in local competitions and tournaments opens the door to a bright future and a golden chance to escape from a life of poverty.
Aided by his teammates and the community, Clemson University football player Ray McElrathbey succeeds on the field while simultaneously raising and caring for his 11-year-old brother, Fahmarr.
Four Jamaican bobsleighers dream of competing in the Winter Olympics, despite never having seen snow. With the help of a disgraced former champion desperate to redeem himself, the Jamaicans set out to become worthy of Olympic selection, and go all out for glory.
This film presents the real-life tale of young Ruby Bridges (Chaz Monet), one of the first African-American children to attend an integrated school in the Deep South. At only age 6, Ruby is selected to attend an all-white school in New Orleans, causing an uproar in the racially divided region. Among the people who try to help Ruby adjust to the tense situation are teacher Barbara Henry (Penelope Ann Miller) and Dr. Robert Coles (Kevin Pollak), a child psychiatrist.
The Lion King
Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is soon ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. Now, with help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba must figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
A Wrinkle in Time
Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry, for five years, ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg’s classmate Calvin O’Keefe and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers known as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe.
During World War II, the Civil Aeronautics Authority selects 13 black cadets to become part of an experimental program at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The program aims at training “colored personnel” to become fighter pilots for the Army. However, discrimination, lack of institutional support and the racist belief that these men lacked the intelligence and aptitude for the job dog their every step. Despite this, the Tuskegee Airmen, as they become known, more than prove their worth.
When lively lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) sees her mobster beau, Vince LaRocca (Harvey Keitel), commit murder, she is relocated for her protection. Set up in the guise of a nun in a California convent, Deloris proceeds to upend the quiet lives of the resident sisters. In an effort to keep her out of trouble, they assign Deloris to the convent’s choir, an ensemble that she soon turns into a vibrant and soulful act that gains widespread attention.
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
In this sequel, Las Vegas performer Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) is surprised by a visit from her nun friends, including Sister Mary Patrick (Kathy Najimy) and Sister Mary Lazarus (Mary Wickes). It appears Deloris is needed in her nun guise as Sister Mary Clarence to help teach music to teens at a troubled school in hopes of keeping the facility from closing at the hands of Mr. Crisp (James Coburn), a callous administrator. Can Deloris shape the rowdy kids into a real choir?
A genie named Kazaam (Shaquille O’Neal) has been sealed up for thousands of years, until one day he is accidentally freed by Max (Francis Capra), who is on the run from a local gang. Kazaam explains to the youth that he belongs to Max until he grants three wishes, but what Max really wants is to get to know his estranged father. When the genie, who considers trying his hand at a music career, forgets about his young master, Max is attacked by villainous club owner Malik (Marshall Manesh).
Animated Movies and Shorts
Ever wonder where your passion, your dreams and your interests come from? What is it that makes you… YOU? In 2020, Pixar Animation Studios takes you on a journey from the streets of New York City to the cosmic realms to discover the answers to life’s most important questions.
Princess and the Frog
Hardworking and ambitious, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) dreams of one day opening the finest restaurant in New Orleans. Her dream takes a slight detour when she meets Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), who has been turned into an amphibian by evil Dr. Facilier. Mistaking her for a princess and hoping to break the spell, Naveen plants a kiss on poor Tiana — thereby turning her into a frog as well. The pair hop along on an adventure through the bayous to seek the help of a powerful voodoo priestess.
Renee, a 13-year-old non-speaking autistic girl, sits patiently in a canoe waiting for a partner while playing with a sound app on her phone. Marcus arrives late and the camp counselor tells him to partner with her, much to his annoyance. Marcus attempts to speak with Renee, who is only able to mutter and make noises to express her feelings. When Marcus attempts to show off his paddling skills, Renee is unimpressed and starts rocking the boat. Marcus asks Renee to tell him what she wants and she responds by showing a poop emoji on her phone and signaling to a couple of outhouses. Marcus obliges and paddles her to land.
When they pass by some reeds, Renee reaches out to let them brush past her arms. She has Marcus paddle through multiple times, and he realizes that she didn’t actually need to use the outhouses and just wanted to touch the reeds. He tries doing the same thing, and then Renee goes back to her phone. This gives Marcus an idea to connect with her. He paddles them to a sewer tunnel and has Renee play her phone so that the sound can reverberate. At first, she enjoys it. Then a speedboat races by and the sound reverberates, overwhelming Renee. She frantically paddles out of the tunnel, nearly colliding with the speedboat in the process. When they crash onto land, Renee has a meltdown and throws her phone, which falls into the lake. Sobbing, she hides under the canoe while Marcus watches the chaos unfold in bewilderment.
Eventually, Marcus pulls up a reed and sits by the canoe until Renee calms down. She sits up and takes the reed where she begins to giggle. The two repeat the sound that the phone made together. Marcus and Renee get back into the canoe and paddle back to the camp. In a post-credits scene, Renee’s recovered phone is resting in a bowl of rice and it receives a message from Marcus asking if she wants to go canoeing again.
Disney Channel Original Movies
The Color of Friendship
In 1977, two girls from opposite sides of the world come together and change each other’s lives. Young, white Mahree Bok (Lindsey Haun) lives in apartheid South Africa with her wealthy family. Piper Dellums (Shadia Simmons), the daughter of a black U.S. congressman in Washington, D.C., prepares to welcome Mahree to the U.S. for a semester abroad. Mahree is surprised to find her host family is black, and Piper is stunned that Mahree is white. Each will have to question the assumptions she had.
Jay Martin is a 13-year-old who is competing for a scholarship to a prestigious school with rival classmate and bully Ronny Van Dusen. The headmaster of Jay’s current school and Ronny’s father, Ward Van Dusen, confiscates Jay’s presentation because it contained drawings depicting him as a wolf in disguise. After Ward leaves the speech lying around his office, Ronny copies the presentation and wins the scholarship by using it in the contest. When Jay brings this up with Ward, he expresses intentions to look into it, only for Jay to later overhear Ward instructing his son to get rid of any evidence he plagiarized the speech.
Jay breaks into Ronny’s pool house when the Van Dusen family is at the award ceremony in order to take his presentation back and prove to the judges it was stolen. However, Eliza Van Dusen’s show dog, Camille, discovers Jay and follows him home after she nearly gets him caught by a servant. Camille goes crazy and wrecks the Martin’s home when she goes too long without her medication. After Jay spends hours trying to comfort the dog, Camille withstands no more and explodes.
Jay’s brother Mike comes home from school at his Military Academy while their mother is away taking care of their injured aunt and finds the house a mess and Camille with a nervous breakdown. After Jay’s confesses what happened with the speech and the dog, the two try to buy time to get her back home. During a phone call, Ward disavows any knowledge of Ronny’s theft to Mike. Ward is then visited by his father-in-law, the former headmaster of the school, Armand Columbus, who orders him to get his daughter’s dog back. Ward agrees to numerous acts just to get Camille home and Armand off his back.
Reaching his limit, Ward finally calls the police to tap into the calls he usually received from the two boys (who used a voice disguiser). Jay and Mike come up with a plan and frame Ronny for the dog’s absence. The plan works thanks to a strategy where the Van Dusens and the police find Camille in Ronny’s pool house, as well as the voice changer they used for further incrimination. This prompts Armand to say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” in realization that Ward has passed his corrupt behavior on to his son.
In the end, Armand retakes his old position as headmaster of the school while demoting Ward to secretary. Jay gets the scholarship after the competition is reopened, and Camille is revealed to be expecting puppies, with Eliza offering him one of them. Ronny is sent to the Military Academy, where he is surprised to find his instructor is Mike.
The Poof Point
Two inventors enlist the help of their children (Tahj Mowry, Raquel Lee) after a bad experiment makes them younger and younger.
A young boxer fills in when a member of his friend’s skipping team drops out at the last minute, and he finds a passion for this new sport. He starts to question whether boxing is what he really wants to do, and has to decide to follow his heart.
UP UP And Away
The Marshalls look like an typical suburban family, but under that ordinary looking exterior they are all superheroes! Each member of the family has their own secret identity and superhuman power. The youngest member of the family, Scott, is worried – he doesn’t seem to be exhibiting any extraordinary ability yet. He doesn’t want to let his family down, so he’s really worried, and pretends to have superhuman powers too.
Twitches is a 2005 Disney Channel original movie, based on the popular Twitches book series published by Scholastic Press. Produced by Broomsticks Productions Limited, the film stars Tia Mowry and Tamera Mowry as Alexandra Fielding and Camryn Barnes, respectively.
Twin sisters and twin witches Alex and Camryn didn’t meet until they were 21, but their combined power managed to save their home from the forces of darkness. Since then they have been working together to strengthen their magic powers.
A bright student and talented dancer struggling with changes in life, including a new family and school, finds a phone app that magically allows her to control boys.
How to Build A Better Boy
Teenage tech whizzes (China Anne McClain, Kelli Berglund) unwittingly use military software to program a robotic boyfriend.
The Proud Family Movie
A mad scientist unleashes evil clones of a family (Kyla Pratt, Tommy Davidson, Paula Jai Parker) to find their secret formula.
I strongly disagree with The Lion King since it has anti-Black racism as well as plagiarizing a South African song Mbube while also trademarking the phrase “Hakuna Matata”. Funny you mention that movie because I put Scar on this Top 7 list. https://iridiumeye.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/top-7-characters-that-fans-are-reluctant-to-call-blatant-ripoffs/
Besides, Disney has yet to make an animated movie in Africa that actually has Black characters.
I used the list that was under the Disney + section, I had no idea that it plagiarized a song. The basis of the Lion King was from Hamlet. And yes no black animated film in Africa as of yet, hopefully soon. They have a lot of work to do
Okay. I was just curious. Wasn’t sure if you made the list or if it was directly on that streaming platform. Yes, the song that is the plagiarized version is “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. There’s a documentary on Netflix called The Lion’s Share which is all about that copyright infringement case.
There are some vague similarities to Hamlet, but The Lion King legitimately stole characters from the 60s Japanese animated series Kimba the White Lion as well as copying scenes which they still deny to this day. Here’s a link with this information. https://web.archive.org/web/20170310165825/kimbawlion.com/kimbawlion/rant2.htm
I’m glad you realize that, too. I can’t stand the hyenas as an adult as they play up Black stereotypes. Just because they have James Earl Jones or have a bigger Black cast in the remake doesn’t give them a free pass. Don’t even get me started on how the elephant graveyard situation is low key Genocide against the hyenas. Yeah, Disney still has tons of work to do.
Oh yes I’ve heard of the Kimba Lion, the Wild( another Disney film) is very similar as well. Disney as does many companies use “inspirations” from books, movies, tv shows to incorporate in. Some times it looks like plagiarizing but many times it’s more of an Easter egg. I haven’t seen the remake yet, I felt off putting by the cast line up. I wasn’t a major fan of the Lion king to begin with
That’s good. I wasn’t sure if you knew about that anime or not. I’ve heard of The Wild, but I haven’t seen that movie. It does get sketchy with inspirations given how there were similar plot points, characters, and identical scenes. If Kimba came out after The Lion King, then Disney would totally sue them. Disney even tried to ban Jungle Emperor Leo (the sequel movie to Kimba) from North America at a Canadian film festival which was infuriating. It just annoys me how people praise Disney’s Lion movie like it’s God’s gift to animation despite the problematic things with that movie franchise.
I totally understand your points
Thank you. I felt like not everyone understands them or even just me critiquing that movie. Not going to lie, I used to love The Lion King, but that movie got tainted once I realized those things about Kimba, the racist aspects of the hyenas, and the cultural appropriation among other things.
There’s a number of shows and movies that do that, once your innocence is gone it’s just cringy. Disney gets a lot of things wrong both culturally and historically, they are doing better but still a lot of bad things even in the animation. Film companies play to a wide range, they want kids to enjoy it but make it so adults can enjoy too (or mostly enjoy)
Very good point and I’m glad I’m not the only person who notices that. The first moment where I really felt like that about Disney is seeing Dumbo as an adult when I worked at a film festival. We had an old-school Disney night one day and I was shocked that I didn’t notice the overt racism with the rastabout song or the crows and finding out the lead one’s name was Jim. To be fair, they’ve improved when it comes to Asian and especially Polynesian ethnic groups, but they still need to improve. It annoys me how the House of Mouse gets a free pass from fans who should know better.
We still love Disney but use it as a jumping off base for lessons, even with the racist movies, I explain why it’s wrong. Definitely the Polynesian and Asian community and even Mexican community has gotten more. Raya and the last dragon was fantastic
Gotcha. Good on you for at least acknowledging the racist aspects. Which examples have you pointed out to your students in previous lessons?
Disney has really had positive representation especially with the Polynesian community. Not perfect, but I can tell they put way more effort in research and characterization. They haven’t started well with Asians like coding any Siamese cat character in Aristocats and Lady & The Tramp, but after Mulan they did improve. I haven’t seen Raya and the Last Dragon, so I can’t tell you anything, but it’s good to know they put effort in that movie.
Absolutely the last few, Coco, Soul, Raya and Moana they did moser research than previous films to really bring it to life. Live action Mulan had problems on its own. As for lessons we talk about representation, Historical points like in Pocahontas, racism both microaggressions and microaggressions, privilege, and much more.
Alright. Moana was the only one I’ve seen as far as their newer films are concerned. I found out from a friend’s review of that movie how they got Polynesian actors to voice the characters and they incorporated the Tokulauan language in some of the songs which is really cool.
I heard about some of the issues with the live action Mulan. You should check out the Chinese live action remake called Mulan: Rise of a Warrior. It’s certainly different as well as having a better sense of accuracy. That’s really cool with representation because more schools need to teach that. Pocahontas would be a good film to discuss the problematic issues of it. Maybe you should try (assuming you haven’t) talking about racial coding and how that could be an issue like Asian stereotypes with the aforementioned Siamese cats, Latinx stereotypes with Tito from Oliver & Company, and the Black stereotypes with the hyenas in TLK, the monkeys in The Jungle Book, or crows from Dumbo to name a few. I feel like that’s more subtle and more people need to pick up on it and call it out.
Great points, I haven’t fully dived in with those references but will make a note. I’ll definitely check out the film you recommend as well. Thank you. Yes even Frozen 2 added native language which was great as well.
I don’t think I saw this original comment back then. Sorry. Thanks for listening. That language was Sami in Frozen 2, right?
I honestly don’t remember off hand which it was based off. But that sounds familiar
Gotcha. That would be the first language I can think of because I know it’s an indigenous language to the Scandinavian region where Frozen takes place. Most people don’t realize there are other ethnic groups in that part of Europe besides Swedes, Danes, Finnish, Norwegians, Iceandics, etc.
Oh yes, there are indigenous everywhere. Unfortunately so few know because they get pushed around just like in America.
Definitely, and I wish more people would realize it. This goes for other ethnic groups like the Ainu in Japan, Tatars in Russia, or the Maori in New Zealand. People would be surprised about different ethnic groups that aren’t talked about and some of them would even be considered Caucasian going back to the Sami example.