Nearly five years ago, Disney tossed their own hat into the streaming ring with Disney Plus. The streaming service united Marvel, Disney, Star Wars, and Fox under one convenient banner. Over the years, its catalogue has expanded with shows new and old. However, many of these have sadly fell under the radar despite their quality. It can be hard to keep track nowadays with these services having thousands of titles each.

With Disney, they have the catalogues of all of their subsidiaries under their banner from a hundred years of existence. As such, here are the top ten hidden gems from Disney Plus.

10. X-Men Evolution

With Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox, they finally gained access to most of Marvel’s library, including its shows. This included not only movies but also cartoons, including X-Men: Evolution. With the release of the acclaimed X-Men ’97, many are finally looking back at this cult classic series. Evolution reboots the cartoon and reimagines it as a high school drama. As such, our cast is far less experienced with their powers and must struggle to survive.

While the series uses the “building blocks” of the standard X-Men franchise and reimagines them in a new setting. The series combines an overarching narrative with characters such as the Brotherhood and later Apocalypse. It also mixes them with smaller quests and even crossovers with other IPs such as Cap himself. Additionally, this is the series that originally gave us fan favorite X-23.

9. American Dragon: Jake Long

The Aughts gave viewers no shortage of action cartoons following a teenage hero battling a cycling rogue’s gallery. One of the more underrated examples from Disney was the series American Dragon: Jake Long. Jake Long (voiced by Zuko himself, Dante Basco) is an ordinary Chinese teen who discovers that he’s the Dragonborn, and can turn into a dragon to protect the Big Apple.

The series itself was a milestone for Chinese representation in cartoons. Furthermore, the series took place in a fantasy kitchen sink with dragons, fairies, wizards, and many other folkloric creatures. At the same time, it was a coming of age story that many teens could probably relate to at the time. The only problem would be the art style shift which many saw as unnecessary and detracted from the series’ tone.

8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

In 1869, foundational science fiction writer Jules Verne gave French audiences 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The novel followed the bombastic Captain Nemo and sidekick Arronax as they explored the ocean blue. As one of the earliest works of speculative fiction’s it’s no surprise Disney gave us an equally memorable film adaptation. While certainly a product of its time, it naturally has the old school charm of such a film.

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Released in 1954, Walt Disney himself produced an adaptation of the film. Even seventy years ago, the film’s practical effects in capturing the might of the Nautilus and the creatures of the deep they encounter on their quest. Furthermore, James Mason brilliantly captures the eccentric yet philosophical character of Captain Nemo, the host of the adventure.

7. Tomorrowland

From The Incredibles director Brad Brid comes another adaptation of a Disneyworld attraction; Tomorrowland. While the film is ostensibly a “world of tomorrow” science fiction film, it has great depth below it. Teen genius Casey joins forces with the jaded inventor Frank as they try to reach the titular city and restore faith in the power of science along the way.

Much like Bioshock, the film examines the idea of an isolated city where all of the world’s geniuses unite to create a utopia. However, this film has a decidedly optimistic take on the idea. Finally, near the end of the film, Hugh Laurie gives a genuinely profound monologue about the nature of dystopia and idealism that manages to elevate the entire film. While many would see it as another live-action reboot, it pays tribute to visions of the future from the past.

Fun Fact: Disney only added the film two years after launch, then suddenly removed it a month later before it came back years later.

6. Night at the Museum

With Deadpool and Wolverine on the horizon, it’s important to look back at the successes of director Shawn Levy. Levy himself is no stranger to screwball comedy films and the Night at the Museum franchise might be his best example. The films follow a disgruntled security guard played by Ben Stiller who discovers that the exhibits to the museum come alive at night due to the power of an ancient Egyptian tablet.

The majority of the film’s comedy derives from seeing its cast from various times and places come together and bounce off one another, with more than a few Easter eggs for adults. Additionally, Stiller, as our lead, serves as an entertaining straight man to the rest of the cast. Later sequels would upgrade the film by going to the Smithsonian and even going on a quest to London. The Night at the Museum films are classic kid’s fantasy films.

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5. John Carter

While stories of failed franchises are far from uncommon, there are also stories of underrated gems hiding among them. One of the best examples would be 2012’s John Carter. The film adapts the legendary early sci-fi story of 1800’s soldier John Carter as he is whisked away to Mars itself. There, he thrusts himself into the conflict between two warring city-states.

With the film’s massive budget, director Andrew Stanton spared no expense in recreating the legend that inspired so many others after it. While the film recieved modest acclaim, it sadly bombed at the box office and killed hopes for a franchise. Fortunately, streaming will give the film another chance to recieve the attention it deserved.

4. Isle of Dogs

When it comes to avant garde directors, few names are as iconic as the symmetrical and sardonic Wes Anderson. While his more universally acclaimed film Fantastic Mr. Fox may be more well known, his next stop motion project has sadly fallen to the wayside. Isle of Dogs takes place in a dystopian Japan where all dogs have been exiled to an island, and a group of them must reuinite to return to their owners.

Whereas Fox took place in a world of funny animals viewers are more familiar with, Isle of Dogs has a far more unique setting for a stop-motion film, a vast industrial wasteland. As is usual with Anderson, he combines sci-fi, dystopia, and even mockumentary tropes in order to create a unique vision for an animated film that makes full use of the tactile nature of the stop motion genre.

3. Tron: Legacy

Next year, Disney will release the next entry in the Tron saga, Ares. The last time we entered Cyberspace we got one of the best entries in the cyberpunk genre with Tron: Legacy. Now, Flynn’s son must return to the grid and light bike his way across it to stop the rogue AI Clu. Along the way, he is joined by Flynn himself and the benevolent AI, Quora.

The true star of this film is its immaculate cyberpunk aesthetic, which uses modern CGI and practical effects to recreate the classic. Daft Punk’s score also helps to solidify this. Furthermore, this film was directed by Joseph Kosinski of Top Gun: Maverick fame, so he knows how to reboot a classic 80’s movie. Hopefully, Ares will live up to the standard set by this underrated film.

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2. Star Wars: Clone Wars

Shortly before Revenge of the Sith and before Dave Filoni gave Cartoon Network the Game of Thrones of animation, legendary artist Genndy Tartakovsky gave Warsians the Clone Wars miniseries. Bridging the gap between two and three, the Tartakovsky gives some of the best action in animation and the Star Wars franchise where every machine is rigged with TNT and swarms of starships go at one another. Unlike its more realisitic successor, this series uses its medium to go far beyond what’s possible within the constraints of live-action.

Writing aside, the series also has powerful visual storytelling which conveys impact and sequences without a single spoken word. The series also introduced some of the most iconic characters in Star Wars such as Asajj Ventress, Durge, and Captain Fordo. However, one of the most well-remembered characters was General Grievous himself, with this version as an unstoppable Jedi hunter. While no longer canon, this series is well remembered as the best Legends had to offer before Disney.

1. Dinosaurs

Topping off the list is one of the most underrated sitcoms of all time, Dinosaurs from the Jim Henson Company. At the time of release, it was one of the most expensive TV shows of all time and showed it with its unsurprisingly impressive animatronics. On the surface, Dinosaurs was a standard kid’s sitcom about a family of dinosaurs living in a world similar to our own. However, once the characters spoke in their usual on-the-nose and dry manner, a different story was told.

Essentially, the series is The Flintstones if it were written by George Carlin. The show used its surprisingly cynical edge to discuss issues such as domestic labor, worker’s rights, advertising, and capitalism. Of course, the most memorable episode would be it’s grand finale discussing climate change. Along the way though, Henson’s creatives gave viewers one of the most avant grade sitcoms in the entire genre.

It goes without saying that all of these entries will be found on Disney Plus.

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