December sees more seasonal fare drop onto the Disney+ UK service along with two of the year’s biggest movies - one of which you might have already paid for if you were impatient back in September!
DisneyPlus UK keeps it light and Christmassy for December with a brace of animations aimed at kids (natch) plus a light hearted Yuletide tale of fairy godmothers in the form of the aptly named Godmothered.
There’s also plenty of music and dance with High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special. The title would have been longer but they ran out of punctuation marks.
However, Disney is dishing out a couple of extra special presents to bookend December, which for many subscribers will justify the monthly £5.99 outlay. First of all, from 4th Dec, Mulan will now be available to all subscribers, not just those who paid the additional £21 premium to see it on its initial 4th September streaming run. Secondly, Pixar’s eagerly awaited Soul becomes the animation titan’s second big release to come to the service in 2020, after Onward. Streaming from Christmas Day, Soul will no doubt see lots of jazz induced foot tapping and head nodding, not to mention the obligatory tears and laughter that Pixar can effortlessly cause to spring forth unbidden.
So, let’s take a closer look, remembering as always that we’ve tried to keep this rundown as UK specific as possible, but please note streaming dates can change, content can sometimes be territory specific and shows can even get changed or moved by Disney itself. And remember to keep checking back for updates as Disney+ continues to add to its lineup.
Epic (2013, Animation, Adventure, Family. Voices: Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd, Beyoncé Knowles, Dir. Chris Wedge)
When Mary, a 17-year-old teenager, shrinks in size, she discovers a forest world inhabited by strange creatures. Soon, she finds herself reluctantly pulled into a battle between good and evil forces. She bands together with a rag-tag group of characters in order to save their world - and hers.
Based loosely on William Joyce's 1996 children's book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, the film is often conflated with the similarly scoped FernGully: The Last Rainforest though director Chris ‘Ice Age’ Wedge feels his has its own distinct personality. He was, however, not in favour of the final title of ‘Epic’ which was apparently decided by the marketing department.
Eragon (2006, Action, Adventure, Family. Ed Speleers, Sienna Guillory, Jeremy Irons, Robert Carlyle, John Malkovich, Voice: Rachel Weisz)
In his homeland of Alagaesia, Eragon, a farm boy, stumbles upon a dragon’s egg. He befriends the newly hatched dragon and, as they bond together, realises they are both part of a prophecy that will see a dragon rider return to save his people from an evil king.
The first part of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle series, received largely negative reactions from both critics and punters and effectively dashed the plans to film the next two novels back to back - so one’s your lot.
Notable not just as a so-so D&D flick but also as the last film to be released in the US on VHS, so there.
Godmothered (2020, Disney Original, Comedy, Fantasy, Seasonal. Isla Fisher, Jillian Bell, Santiago Cabrera, Dir, Sharon Maguire)
In a magical world known as The Motherland, a young fairy godmother-in-training named Eleanor discovers that her profession is in danger of ending. Determined to show that fairy godmothers are still needed, Eleanor tries to help a girl whose wish was ignored years earlier.
However, the girl, Mckenzie, is now a grown woman who recently lost her husband and has grown disillusioned with the idea of a "happily ever after". Still, it’s Christmas and Eleanor is determined to give Mackenzie a happiness makeover, whether she likes it or not.
Directed by Bridget Jones’s Sharon Maquire the film was always earmarked as a Disney Plus release and completed filming in April 2020 just before the world went into lockdown - perhaps it had someone looking out for it!
Mulan (2020, Disney Original, Action, Adventure, Drama. Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jet Li, Jason, Scott lee, Dir. Niki Caro)
To save her ailing father from serving in the Imperial Army when the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must defend the country from the Northern enemy, a fearless young woman disguises herself as a man and steps up to battle the invaders.
Niki Caro’s live action vision of Disney’s 1998 animated film of the same name - itself based on Chinese folklore, The Ballad of Mulan - drops the musical numbers and spit-balling mini dragon for a more grounded approach. So, despite the lack of a training montage set to the pulsating strains of I’ll Make a Man Out of You, the result is a sweeping, storming epic with plenty of gravity defying wuxia martial arts and magical shenanigans (ok, so not that grounded).
As one of 2020’s blockbusters that was affected by the the impact of Covid-19, Mulan did manage a limited cinema run in China, where it received mixed notices. Elsewhere though it received a more positive response but will probably be most lastingly remembered for being a gamble by Disney to bypass a theatrical release in the West and deliver it directly to its Disney+ subscribers albeit with an additional, premium fee attached.
The final conclusion on the financial validity of this move has yet to be fully revealed by Disney but back of a beermat calculations have indicated it was a relative success. It does beg the question though why Disney’s other big movie this month, Pixar’s Soul, which reportedly cost $150M to make versus Mulan’s $200M, comes to all subscribers with no additional fees. Has the House of Mouse decided all its Disney+ subscribers deserve a nice Christmas present?
And yes, a Mulan sequel is reportedly in production.
Safety (2020, Disney Original Film, True Life, Drama, Sport. Matthew Glave, Luke Tennie, Corinne Foxx)
Ray McElrathbey is a young man facing various challenging experiences in his personal life. However, his hope and persistence gain him a freshman football player scholarship at Clemson University. Unbeknownst to most though, he is struggling to raise and care for his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr on campus away from their mother Tonya, who is unable to hold custody of them due to her struggles with drug addiction.
Soul (2020. Animation, Adventure, Comedy. Voices: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad, Graham Norton, Richard Ayoade, Dir. Pete Docter, Kemp Powers)
Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher in New York, has long dreamed of performing jazz music onstage and finally gets a chance after passing an audition at a notable jazz club. However, an untimely accident causes Gardner's soul to be separated from his body and he ends up in The Great Before, a fantastical world where new souls develop personalities, quirks, and traits before being sent off to Earth. Joe teams up with 22, a soul with a dim view on the concept of life, and tries to show 22 what’s great about living in order to help him return to Earth before his body dies.
Digging deep down into the human condition, as is Pixar’s way, Soul asks ‘What is it that makes you… you!?
Voice casting continued late into the production with the likes of Graham Norton, Alice Braga and Wes Studi still being announced as cast members in October 2020, which is interesting since the film’s original release BC (Before Covid!) was 19th June 2020 - were they just going to go with the temp track!?!
Extras - Beyond the Clouds: Where It All Began (2020, Disney Original Docuseries)
Following on from Disney+’s premiere of Clouds - the true life story of Zach Sobiech, a young man determined not to let his illness define or limit him - Beyond the Clouds takes an exclusive look inside the production and inspiration behind the movie. Available under the extras for Clouds, a total of nine episodes will premiere weekly with the final episode streaming on January 29. In the first episode, director Justin Baldoni stumbles upon Zach’s story and sets out to find him. From their very first meeting, Justin realises this young musician’s story is special and that Zach’s desire to make an impact before he leaves this world can inspire people everywhere.
Prep & Landing - Operation Secret Santa (2010 Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Seasonal. Voices: Dave Foley, Sarah Chalke, Derek Richardson)
Prep & Landing - Naughty Vs Nice (2011 Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Seasonal. Voices: Dave Foley, Sarah Chalke, Derek Richardson)
A double bill of the festive animated comedy shorts featuring the elite, high tech Prep & Landing elves whose job on Christmas Eve is to ready millions of homes around the world for Santa Claus's visit.
In Operation Secret Santa, Prep & Landing partners Wayne and Lanny are instructed by the Command Centre to meet with a clandestine contact who turns out to be Mrs Claus. She has an off-the-books mission for the pair to retrieve something for her. The only trouble is, it involves a high stakes break into Santa’s secret workshop!
Meanwhile, Naughty Vs Nice sees Wayne and Lanny racing to recover classified North Pole technology which has fallen into the hands of a computer-hacking Naughty Kid! Desperate to prevent Christmas from descending into chaos, Wayne seeks out the foremost Naughty Kid Field Expert to aid in the mission: his estranged brother and extroverted elf-mountain, Noel.
Puppy Dog Pals (2013, S3)
Fun-loving pug puppies, brothers Bingo and Rolly, have thrill-seeking appetites that take them on exhilarating adventures in their neighbourhood and around the globe along with a kitty named Hissy and a robot dog named A.R.F. (Auto-Doggy Robotic Friend).
Disney Fam Jam (2020, S1, Disney Original Series)
Inspired by choreographer Phil Wright’s The Parent Jam dance classes, which are streamed online and have become a viral sensation. Each episode of the competition series will feature two families with kids hitting the floor to see which will be crowned Disney Fam Jam champions. At the end of each episode, the studio audience will vote for their favourite dance family, resulting in the winners taking home a $10,000 prize along with a trophy.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special (2020, Disney Original Special)
The cast of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series are on hand to deliver an (over?) abundance of feel-good holiday cheer as they perform their favourite Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s songs.
Series regulars Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Larry Saperstein, Julia Lester, Dara Reneé, Frankie Rodriguez, Joe Serafini, Mark St. Cyr and the just-missing-an-‘e’-to-be-perfectly-named Kate Reinders will also share anecdotes of memorable holidays from their childhoods, best – and most embarrassing! – presents, favourite traditions, family photos and poignant New Year’s resolutions.
Joshua Bassett will also debut an acoustic version of an original song which he wrote for season two of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and the 45-minute special will also feature a sneak peek performance from the highly anticipated second season of the popular series.
Miraculous World: New York - United Heroez (2020)
A one-off special of the French computer animated series Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir which sees two Parisian teenagers Marinette and Adrien transform, through the use of magical jeweled objects known as the Miraculous, into the superheroes Ladybug and Cat Noir, respectively, to protect the city from super villains - each unaware of the other’s real identity.
In Miraculous World: New York - United Heroez, when Marinette’s class must travel to New York to celebrate French-American Friendship Week, it presents Adrien / Cat Noir with a problem - he’s sworn to protect Paris in Ladybug’s absence but can’t if his alter ego is also supposed to be in New York.
There’s another thing Ladybug and Cat Noir don’t know: their arch nemesis Hawk Moth is also planning to travel to New York to shake things up for the American superheroes. What exactly can Hawk Moth have in mind and can Ladybug stop him?
Man vs Shark (2019, National Geographic Documentary)
Marine biologist Jeremiah Sullivan created the armoured "shark suit" 40 years ago to allow divers and researchers to study sharks in their natural environment without hindrance from cages. Now, he looks to intentionally get bitten by a deadly tiger shark to test out his latest version of the protective suit.
Surely there is an easier way?!
On Pointe (2020, Disney+ Original Docuseries. All 6 episodes available)
Over the course of a year, On Pointe follows the lives of students aged 8 to 18 pursuing their dreams of becoming ballet dancers at New York City’s world-renowned School of American Ballet (SAB). Featuring unprecedented access, the series sees older students from all over the country rigorously train for professional careers, while the younger students are put through their paces as they rehearse and perform in school co-founder George Balanchine’s version of holiday classic, The Nutcracker, onstage at the Lincoln Center.
The School produces almost all of the dancers that comprise New York City Ballet, America’s largest ballet company, as well as dancers for companies around the globe. Approximately 20 advanced students embark on professional dance careers annually. Beyond the footlights, SAB’s alumni have made their mark over the past 86 years as founders, artistic directors, choreographers and teachers for dance companies and schools around the world.
The series is co-produced by Ron Howard and Brians Grazer’s Imagine Documentaries.
Pixar SparkShort: Burrow (2020, Pixar Original Short)
A young rabbit embarks on a journey to dig the burrow of her dreams, despite not having a clue what she’s doing. However, each time she accidentally digs into her neighbours’ homes she hides her embarrassment and digs herself deeper and deeper into trouble. After hitting (bed)rock bottom, she learns there is no shame in asking for help.
Pixar’s SparkShort programme, which challenges its employees to come up with new and inventive projects on limited budgets in just 6 months, has already produced the likes of Purl, Smash and Grab, Kitbull and Loop. Burrow, a 2D short, is the eighth and was initially announced to partner the feature film Soul for its theatrical run, Instead, it now join Pixar’s latest feature length movie as a welcome Christmas present on Disney+.
So, that’s your mix of films and TV shows coming to Disney+ UK in December. We’ll keep the article updated if more information is released, so make sure you pop back to keep up to date.
Let us know what you think of the closing line up for 2020 in the discussion thread and drop in some reviews of the Disney+ content you’ve been watching recently too.
Source: Wikipedia, imdb.com, WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com. DisneyPlusInformer.com
Image Source: Disney, Google