Disney+ Reveals Its Slate of Feel-Good Unscripted Fare

October 21, 2019, 3:55 PM UTC

Something feels different about Disney+’s nonfiction programming, which the company unveiled to journalists and industry insiders this past Friday in Hollywood.

There was nary a singing contest, deadly fishing expedition, or housewife (real or otherwise) in the mix.

Truth be told, there wasn’t a lagging reality trope of any kind as Disney executives and talent revealed unscripted plans for the company’s much anticipated streaming service, set to bow Nov. 12. From heart-tugging nostalgia series showcasing Disney history (Mickey Mouse and its theme parks, for two), to uplifting kid-oriented programs to a select few celeb-fronted shows, the company’s unscripted slate seems to reflect the same aggressive and brand-specific approach to programming that’s set to make the platform Netflix’s biggest competition yet.

“We will be the ultimate destination for storytelling—this includes of course Disney’s timeless library, but also these unscripted originals,” said Agnes Chu, SVP of content for Disney+. “And ideas for these shows have come from everywhere: from our 17 studios, from our archives, from pitches.”               

The company announced it will stream a mix of docuseries and documentaries, including a still-untitled Mickey Mouse doc produced by Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) and Howard, a film directed by Don Hahn (Beauty and the Beast) centered on Howard Ashman, the lyricist behind classics such as Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. Disney+ will also host a slew of projects from its production-company partner Supper Club, including a relaunch of the Oscar-winning 1950s docuseries People & Places; Wolfgang, an intimate look at “the world’s first celebrity chef” Wolfgang Puck; and the anthology series Marvel’s 616, whose first episode, centered on women who work at Marvel comics, is directed by actress Gillian Jacobs (Love, Community).

The demo-diverse lineup will also offer unprecedented access inside Disney theme-park operations via The Imagineering Story and a celebration of stellar kids who get “Marvel-ized” as their own comic-book heroes in The Hero Project.

Dan Silver, who serves as VP of Originals-Unscripted for Disney+ called the platform’s vast resources, the expansive Marvel universe for one, a “playground,” and emphasized that the value by which a Disney+ unscripted idea is measured isn’t different from that of a scripted one. “These series are all about the emotional agreements that exist in the real world,” said Silver. “My favorite question to ask a creator is, ‘What does Disney mean to you?”

For actress and Frozen star Kristen Bell, Disney means music. And a lot of feels.

“So much in this country divides us, but if you talk about high school…it brings people together,” said Bell, who hosts the tear-jerking Encore!, centered on groups of adults who revisit, and perform again with their friends, the musicals they put on in high school. “There’s something beautiful about re-introducing yourself to your friends,” she said. “On our show you get to say the things you wish had said, and take back things you wish you hadn’t.”

The day wrapped with a first-look at actor-musician-beloved oddball Jeff Goldblum’s exploration-of-stuff series called, aptly, The World According to Jeff Goldblum. (The episode screened featured the actor doing a deep-dive into the world of tattoos; future installments will tackle such topics as denim, video games and makeup.)

Following the screening, Goldblum found his way to an explanation for what most attracted him to his Disney gig. “I’ve always been inquisitive…it’s natural to us homo sapiens!”

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