15 Of The Most Metal Things To Watch On Disney+
Last week, Disney launched its own online streaming service, Disney+, to massive acclaim. Not only can parents show their kids all the Disney cartoons and movies of their younger years, but they can also now stream all of the Star Wars and Marvel movies to which they themselves are currently addicted.
But maybe the coolest part of Disney+ is that it reminds us of how many weird, dark, beautifully-depicted, and overall metal properties were created by Disney. Before parents became hyper-sensitive to their children’s developing minds, Disney movies used to feature blood, peril, satanic witchcraft, and all sorts of stuff that give metal’s future stars the most inspirational sort of nightmares. All of this makes Disney+ a nostalgia trip that fans of heavy metal can disappear into on a lazy Saturday over a bowl of popcorn (and maybe a bowl of another kind).
To make sure you’ve got your bases covered, here are 15 things to watch on Disney+ that are more metal than your average ride on Space Mountain…
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
One of Disney’s first great princess movies has something truly metal going for it: its villain, the witch Maleficent. And this isn’t the sympathetic, misunderstood version of the character Angelina Jolie would later play — this Maleficent is a satanic mega-witch, flanked by demonic goblins and mother of pitch-black thickets that look like living tribal tattoos. The movie’s climax involves her turning into a jet-black dragon with the aid of “all the powers of Hell.” A good root-for-the-bad-guy weekend watch.
Gravity Falls (2012 – 2016)
Though less hipster-popular than Cartoon Network programs like Adventure Time, Disney’s Gravity Falls is a brilliantly-written show for both kids and adults. The story follows Dipper and Mabel Pines, twins spending the summer at their insane uncle’s Mystery Shack in Gravity Falls, Oregon, which acts as a Bermuda Triangle-esque whirlpool of bizarre phenomena. Facing the Pines kids are zombies, rainbow-vomiting gnomes, a pyramid-shaped demon named Bill Cipher who wants to usher in ‘Weirdmageddon,’ and an emo kid named Robbie. Though Disney-sweet at its core, Gravity Falls is one of the more original and imaginative series you’ll find out there. Pity it only lasted two seasons.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Hocus Pocus has become a Halloween classic, but it stands as a reminder of how hardcore kids’ entertainment was in the ’90s. The movie opens with three witches literally murdering a child before they’re all hanged on camera. Later, these same resurrected hags worship a man they believe to be the Devil, and then the youngest and prettiest of them entices trick-or-treaters to her while humping her broom and showing off her cleavage. Whenever you think of children’s movies as cute and safe, remember that in 1993 Bette Midler didn’t give a shit about gluten allergies or participation trophies.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The Taika Waititi-directed third installment in Marvel’s Thor franchise is the film equivalent of a stoner metal album cover. Whether Thor is fighting a horde of fire demons to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song or beating the shit out of zombie foot-soldiers to, well, Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, the movie runs with the concept of space Vikings like no other, and is a goddamn pleasure to watch from beginning to end. Not only that, but it gives viewers the Thor/Hulk arena fight they’ve always craved. A truly awesome heavy metal movie.
Secrets Of The King Cobra (2010)
Huge, venomous snakes — what metalhead doesn’t love them? One of Disney+’s cooler and perhaps unexpected inclusions are National Geographic’s nature documentaries, including an entire special revealing the secret lives of king cobras. Even if much of the footage is of herpetologists discussing the lesser-known facts and habits of the world’s biggest poisonous snakes, there’s also also cobra cannibalism and tons of footage of big snakes revealing their deadly fangs. Hail to the king.
Gargoyles (1994 – 1997)
The ’90s was the decade of exxxtreme kids’ entertainment — movies and shows geared towards children that were hardcore to the point of being entirely inappropriate for their intended audience. Disney’s entrance into that fray was Gargoyles, a show about a pod of, yup, gargoyles in New York that come to life at night to fight evil. While the show has its corny moments — most of the gargoyles are named after parts of New York City, and the bad guy’s a heartless industrialist — the animation and supernatural adventure in the series is delicious for the eyes. These days, you got your damn Paw Patrol.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Given how it’s become an iconic piece of goth culture, it’s easy to forget that Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Disney property (it doesn’t hurt that Disney released it through Touchstone, worried its spookiness would ruin their wave of popularity with Beauty And The Beast and Aladdin). But the film is available on Disney+ in all its shadowy, morbid glory, and might feature the most references to severed heads of all the movies on the streaming service. Though Halloween isn’t yet cold in its grave, Christmas is right around the corner, so let Jack and Sally take you away from your annoying relatives this holiday season.
The Mandalorian (2019)
Let’s be real, the bounty hunter underworld — Boba Fett in particular — is probably the most badass part of the Star Wars universe. That the galaxy contains god-energy and laser-swords is fine, but that these things exist against a society plagued by money-hungry corruption makes those fantasy elements especially cool. The Mandalorian lives in that culture, a cowboy gangster epic surrounding a lone gunslinger wearing the same armor as Boba Fett (though it’s not Boba Fett — or is it? Gotta keep watching). The streaming service also has the full original trilogy, so if you’re all about the space wizardry go nuts; for those of us who could watch Greedo get shot on repeat, this show will give you the action you crave.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)
Sure, the Pirates Of the Caribbean movies have become better known for Johnny Depp looking confused than anything else. But man, Curse Of The Black Pearl, the first film of the series and the last to not get overly bogged down in layers of in-world lore, still holds up to this day. Between the skeletal pirate ghosts and the rum-guzzling antics of Captain Sparrow, the movie feels like a bizarre outlaw fable more than a Disneyland ride put onscreen. After this, you’ve got about midway through the next film before things just start getting exhausting.
Somewhere between Conan, Game Of Thrones and Lord Of The Rings, there was Willow, a late-’80s fantasy movie from George Lucas. It’s a classic adventure story, with Warwick Davis trying to save a chosen-one infant from the clutches of an evil queen. While the film is pretty cliche at times — man, how many vowels are they gonna replace with a Y? — there’s enough blood and action to keep modern fantasy fans satisfied. There’s also a horrific scene where soldiers are transformed into pigs that’ll uncover some traumatic feelings in older metal fans who saw this one on the Disney Channel back in the day.
Someone really should re-score this classic with death metal tracks. Fantasia was an early attempt at combining classical music with animation, and certainly has its problematic (read: racist and inappropriate) moments. But the sequence set to Mussorgsky’s Night On Bald Mountain at the end is some truly mind-blowing shit, full of all the wraiths and black magic that metalheads with they could summon from atop a mountain. The dinosaur and ancient Greek Bacchanalia vignettes earlier on also have plenty going for them, but honestly, it’s all about that fuckin’ Chernabog.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
How could we leave it off? The second installment of the original trilogy is everything one wants from a Star Wars movie. You’ve got your ice and swamp planets, your chopped-off hand, your Boba Fett, and of course the lightsaber fight between Vader and Luke that ends with the infamous “I am your father” line. Though Disney+ has the complete Star Wars universe to choose from, none of the later films or specials will ever be quite as good as this. Drink every time Han and Leia lock smoldering gazes!
Stonehenge Decoded (2008)
Nothing like a documentary about the ancient Druids to make you feel like a genius for listening Eluveitie. National Geographic’s Stonehenge Decoded documentary is exactly what it looks like — an examination of the monument’s history, location, and importance in early pagan culture. What it lacks in fictitious blood sacrifice and demonic summonings, the film makes up for with interesting facts and shots of the sun setting behind the stones. A solid follow-up to your yearly viewing of This Is Spinal Tap.
Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)
The sequel to Wreck-It Ralph shows a surprising amount of cultural awareness, packing in as many Internet references as the first film did video game shout-outs. But perhaps the raddest part of the film is Slaughter Race, an open-world GTA-based racing RPG full of death, destruction, and urban decay, that Sarah Silverman’s character becomes obsessed with. There’s even a musical number about finally feeling like you belong in a world of chaos and violence — a sentiment that every heavy metal fan can understand. Try not to cry in front of your kids.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Jesus, who knew the Muppets could be so bleak — and literary? While it does star foam chickens and dancing penguins, The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of the most textually accurate film versions of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story ever made. Not only that, but the scary parts are pretty damn scary — the song performed by the Marley Brothers is jaunty, but dark as hell, and the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come looks like the cover of a Bell Witch album. A solid reminder that for all its holiday cheer, A Christmas Carol is a ghost story first and foremost.
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