Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Hidden Gems On Disney+ You Need To Watch

The addition of Disney+ to the vast streaming landscape has been a real game-changer for the mammoth studio's big-time fans, with so many hard-to-access titles suddenly available at the click of a button. But once you're done belting out "The Circle of Life" along with The Lion King playing in the background for the umpteenth time, what comes next? The good news is that there are plenty of TV shows, movies, and documentaries available on Disney+ that you may not have realized belonged to the House of Mouse — as well as some old favorites you might have forgotten about. 

After sifting through the big box office hits of the past couple decades, it's time to take a deeper look into the service's extensive library to find some equally enthralling titles hiding in the Disney+ archives. From Saturday morning cartoons to Disney Channel original shows to excellent movies that the studio has acquired through their various mergers, there's plenty of material to facilitate some serious media marathoning.

X-Men: The Animated Series

The epic opening title theme of the 1992 X-Men cartoon is an instant trip down memory lane for plenty of discerning animation aficionados. The series was many future comics fans' first brush with superheroes, and gave audiences plenty of diverse characters to identify with. The show closely mirrored classic X-Men comics, and the inclusion of the young mutant Jubilee as the team newbie helped ease audiences into Marvel's world of mutants. From battles with Sentinels to genetic manipulation to the emergence of Dark Phoenix, this stalwart Saturday morning favorite kept pace with the most exciting arcs of the comics. 

With Disney now owning all things Marvel, it makes sense that this classic would be in the Disney+ streaming library. If you've already consumed all the big-budget Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and are waiting on some of those Disney+ exclusive series to come out, X-Men is there to provide you with some old-time X-team fun.

X-Men: Evolution

Just a few years after the 1992 X-Men cartoon ended, X-Men: Evolution stepped in to fill the mutant void. In true comic book fashion, Evolution plays around with the X-Men timeline, making many of the traditionally adult characters into teenagers. It can be a little disorienting for longtime X-Men fans to see Nightcrawler as a teen, being mentored by the likes of Cyclops. But the high school vibe of the Xavier Institute in this iteration works well for its intended audience, making characters who have been around since the '60s more relatable to the Y2K generation. 

The big rivals for the X-Men throughout most of the series are Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants, featuring some seriously cool redesigns of characters like Scarlet Witch. For those who can't get enough animated X-madness, Evolution keeps the fun going for another four seasons. And despite the retconning of characters' ages, many of the storylines and major plot points are taken right from the comics, so there's some good introductory material here for those who are looking for a foothold into the vast X-universe.

The Great Mouse Detective

Of the modern Disney animated classics, films from The Little Mermaid through Tarzan tend to stick out — members of the so-called Disney Renaissance. But the studio was producing plenty of excellent films before then, including 1986's mystery flick The Great Mouse Detective. Based on the children's book series Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, the film utilizes the familiar tropes and trappings of a good Sherlock Holmes mystery —albeit with mice and rats as the major players. 

The Great Mouse Detective, Basil (Barrie Ingham), is propositioned by a young mouse named Olivia (Susanne Pollatschek) to help find her father, who has been kidnapped by a mysterious peg-legged bat. Basil immediately recognizes the description of the bat as Fidget (Candy Candido), the henchman to his nemesis Professor Ratigan, a villain so vile he just had to be voiced by the incomparable Vincent Price. For the mystery lover and Holmes fan, The Great Mouse Detective cannot be overlooked!

Oliver & Company

One stand-out animated musical from just before the Disney Renaissance is 1988's Oliver and Company, a film loosely based on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist but with, well, a twist — the characters are animals! Oliver (Joey Lawrence) is a lonely kitten on the streets of New York City, taken in by a gang of dogs under the protection of a charming pickpocket named Fagin (Dom DeLuise). Oliver gets a taste of the good life when he's picked up by Jenny (Natalie Gregory), a wealthy but lonely little girl who wants to keep him safe and warm in her palatial home. Unfortunately, Fagin is in debt to the evil loan shark Sykes (Robert Loggia), and in his desperation hatches a plan to kidnap and hold Oliver for ransom. 

This action-packed movie gives viewers a glimpse of a grittier New York City than we know today, full of character and misadventure. The cast has some surprising voices, as well, with Billy Joel playing the part of Dodger the mutt, and performing the awesome hit "Why Should I Worry?" The musicians don't stop there — Bette Midler plays Georgette, the pampered poodle, and brings her all to the role. Though the film takes many of its cues from the Dickens novel, this is a truly unique story, enjoyable in its own right.

Robin Hood

If it hasn't been made clear by now, Disney loves retelling classic stories using anthropomorphic animals as the major players. In 1973, they decided to tackle Robin Hood, and what a fun adaptation they achieved! The story is straightforward for those familiar with the legend, but once again the music shines through. Roger Miller plays the rooster-narrator Allan-a-Dale and brings his 1970s folk-influenced style right into the Middle Ages setting. 

The dashing Robin Hood (Brian Bedford), portrayed as a literal fox, and his band of Merry Men (Merry Animals?) rob from the rich, give to the poor, steal away with Maid Marian (Monica Evans), and trip up the Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram) and the bumbling Prince John (Peter Ustinov) in their vile attempts to overtax the population. Little John is basically the exact same character as Baloo from Disney's adaptation of The Jungle Book (and indeed, voiced by Phil Harris as well), but his good-time personality fits right in with the joyful band of Merry Men as they make the most of their righteous thievery. The madcap mayhem is juxtaposed with both somber and romantic moments, making Robin Hood a well-rounded film, sure to please all kinds of viewers.

The Sword in the Stone

Before Robin Hood, there was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The 1963 film The Sword in the Stone tells the tale of a young Arthur, known as Wart (Rickie Sorenson), a kitchen boy and squire to the knight Sir Kay. The boy is scrawny and clumsy, always getting into trouble, but through happenstance, he becomes a student of the great wizard Merlin (Karl Swenson). Wart spends his time with Merlin as a fish learning about physics, a squirrel learning about gravity, and a sparrow learning about flight — puzzling the other characters, whose Dark Ages education (or lack thereof) leads them to believe the worst of him. 

Wart is the boy who would be king, pulling the legendary sword Excalibur from its stone when he realizes he's forgotten to bring Sir Kay's sword to a tournament. Spoilers? Perhaps so, but the movie doesn't work very hard to talk up the sword or its purpose, instead focusing on Wart's personal struggles and Merlin's magical antics. For a film about one of the most legendary figures of all time, The Sword in the Stone is a fairly laid-back movie, shedding a different light on Arthurian legend.

Treasure Planet

If it's not animals reenacting the classics, it must be aliens. After you've watched Muppet Treasure Island (also available on Disney+), it's time to check out the sci-fi version of Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate tale, Treasure Planet. Young Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a troubled teen, stuck helping his mother run the Benbow Inn after his father has left them both high and dry. When a spaceship crashes near the Inn, Jim is given a mysterious sphere by a man named Billy Bones, who tells him to "beware the cyborg." The sphere contains a map, and Jim is whisked off on an adventure to find the legendary Treasure Planet. 

Along the way, he will have to contend with space pirates aplenty, as he sails aboard the RLS Legacy under the fearsome command of the catlike Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson). Between the gorgeous animation and emotional family moments, Treasure Planet provides a lot of satisfaction as an adaptation and expansion on an old favorite.

Ice Age

Early in the new millennium, Ice Age stampeded into theaters to present audiences with some climate anxiety cloaked in comedy. Centered around Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), Diego the saber tooth tiger (Denis Leary), and the human child they find abandoned in the vast frozen wilderness, the film presents nature's wrath as the enemy, killing millions of animals and humans without remorse in what we commonly call the Ice Age. 

The premise sounds dreary, but Ice Age is largely a heartwarming family comedy, following our prehistoric protagonists as they attempt to reunite their human charge with his rightful family. Manny, remembering a time when he had his own baby, is fiercely protective of the human child. And while Diego spends a good portion of the movie attempting to feed the child to a pack of fellow starving smilodons, even he is eventually moved to see their reunion mission through to the end. And Sid? Well, Sid is simply hilarious, with a heart so warm that it helps keep the frozen wasteland at bay.

Darkwing Duck

"Let's get dangerous," commands the opening sequence of the beloved '90s cartoon series Darkwing Duck. A cheeky parody of pulpy noir comics like The Shadow, Darkwing Duck brought a little edge to after school cartoons. Darkwing's alter ego, Drake Mallard (Jim Cummings), lives a seemingly unassuming life with his adopted daughter, Gosalyn (Christine Cavanaugh). Drake is torn between his lust for fame and his desire to be a good father and helpful member of the community of St. Canard. Along with his hapless sidekick, Launchpad McQuack (also seen in DuckTales, voiced by Terence McGovern), Darkwing uses vigilante justice to keep the peace in his city. This series was certainly fun to watch as a kid, but revisiting it as an adult helps to shed some light on the ways it lovingly pokes fun at the tropes of pulp fiction, like a slapstick Batman with a beak.


The transition from being a child to becoming a teenager is a tough one, and the subject of probably thousands of after school cartoons and sitcoms. But something about the series Doug captures the insecurity and anxiety of adolescence in a way that very few other cartoons of the time managed. Doug Funnie (Billy West) is the new kid in Bluffington at the beginning of the show, and he immediately makes new friends and enemies — and finds himself falling in love with the gentle Patti Mayonnaise (Constance Shulman). 

All straightforward stuff, but the show was just so wonderfully weird, with a scat singing soundtrack, a perplexingly persistent food-themed nomenclature, and a nod to aspects of '90s counterculture (like Doug's sister's interest in spoken word poetry and jazz). Previously available on Hulu, Doug takes its place in the Disney+ library as a reminder of those awkward early days of our lives — and hopefully provides some solace to a new generation, as well.


If you were a fan of Batman: The Animated Series, there's a good chance you also enjoyed Gargoyles. In this similarly dark cartoon, six gargoyles who guarded a castle in Scotland find themselves in modern day New York City after their home is air-lifted to the top of a skyscraper owned by the billionaire David Xanatos. The series follows our stone friends night after night as they befriend NYPD detective Elisa Maza and fight back against evils both new and ancient. 

The sinister Xanatos is played by Jonathan Frakes, and anti-hero gargoyle Demona by Marina Sirtis — but these aren't the only two Star Trek alumni lending their talents to this gripping urban fantasy show. Check it out and see if you can spot guest appearances by the likes of Michael Dorn, Nichelle Nichols, or Levar Burton (just to name a few) — as well as some big-name non-Trek guests like Tim Curry and John Rhys-Davies.

The Proud Family

Another throwback favorite, The Proud Family stood out as an excellent animated sitcom featuring mostly characters of color. Penny Proud (Kyla Pratt), eldest daughter of Oscar (Tommy Davidson) and Trudy (Paula Jai Parker), is a smart and talented young Black girl who faces the trials and tribulations of any young teen. Along with her friends, she gets into all sorts of teenage shenanigans, but ultimately makes good choices and serves as a role model for her young audience. The Proud Family really does center on family dynamics, especially between Penny and her father, who seems to be almost as immature as his teenage daughter and her friends. But at the close of each episode, the familial bonds remain strong. 

Aside from being lots of fun for young viewers, the series is stylish and features an opening theme song performed by Solange Knowles, featuring none other than Destiny's Child. It makes sense that the show's creators wanted some serious star power behind that theme, since Penny aspires to be a singer herself, echoing the desires of so many teenage girls. What's more, Disney+ has announced that there will be a revival series, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, coming soon to Disney+!


Playtime was serious business in elementary school, and no show exemplifies that more than Recess, where kids make all the rules. The show focuses on six fourth-graders — T.J., Vince, Spinelli, Mikey, Gretchen, and Gus — as they play their way from episode to episode. In their little Arkansas school, recess has its own hierarchy, and the kids are all ruled over by a student named King Bob. 

The satirical tidbits thrown into the series may have flown over the heads of many a child audience member, but watching it as an adult will shed some light on its insightful glimpse into society. On top of that, the series makes references to prison break movies that can only really be appreciated by an audience with a broader background in pop culture. So it's time to relive those carefree days of youth — albeit with more Cold War references than any of us ever recognized at the time.


If you couldn't get enough of Baloo in The Jungle Book (or Little John in Robin Hood), you can enjoy a new interpretation of the great big bear in TaleSpin. In this series, Baloo (voiced by Ed Gilbert, taking over for Phil Harris) is an extremely talented but lazy pilot, whose bumbling and fumbling often leads to problems for his friends. He works for Rebecca (Sally Struthers), a shrewd businesswoman with a young daughter, who bought out Baloo's air service and plane when he was unable to pay a bank loan. Along with the young navigator Kit (R.J. Williams), the group has many adventures in their work at Higher for Hire moving cargo. 

The series borrows from many of the same old '30s and '40s action-adventure stories that inspired Indiana Jones, from a time when planes were the coolest way to journey into thrilling jungles. Though the show couldn't be farther from The Jungle Book in its plot or setting, many of the Disney film's characters make an appearance, including the sinister tiger Shere Khan. This is the show of choice for high-flying adventure!

George of the Jungle

Before Disney presented their animated interpretation of Tarzan, they made a live-action film parodying the Edgar Rice Burroughs character, based on an old cartoon: George of the Jungle. Starring the handsome and hilarious Brendan Fraser as the titular hero, the film follows George, a man raised by animals in the wilds of Africa, as he learns to fit into modern human society. From King of the Jungle to hapless human-in-training, George must overcome the hurdles of poachers and evil fiances in order to live happily ever after with Ursula (Leslie Mann), the woman who introduced him to life in San Francisco. 

Despite touching on some serious issues like poaching, George of the Jungle is mostly a screwball comedy, full of pratfalls, puns, and plenty of manly yelling. Fraser is, as always, an utter delight, and his performance is a good enough reason to grab a seat on the nearest tree branch and give it a go.

Never Been Kissed

Live action romantic comedies aren't the first thing one thinks of when considering the Disney oeuvre. And yet, the Drew Barrymore flick Never Been Kissed stands proudly among the princess films and wacky animal adventures, providing some sweet escapism for an older audience. Barrymore plays a 25-year-old copy editor named Josie who is made to go undercover as a high school student in order to report on the lives of teens. She immediately falls back into her less-than-popular high school persona, befriending a nerdy classmate (Leelee Sobieski) after getting on the wrong side of the popular crowd early on. She begins to fall in love with her English teacher (Michael Vartan), who ends up confused about his feelings, believing that Josie is a student and therefore not an appropriate love interest. 

Never Been Kissed has all the classic ups and downs of a romantic comedy and a high school drama, and the sweet ending makes it an excellent feel-good flick that could easily get lost in the shuffle. Like a first kiss with the right person, it's totally worth seeking out.


In the early '80s, the arcade was the coolest spot to hang around — after all, they were pretty much the only place that video games could be played. The rise in technology stoked the imaginations of many, and TRON was there to ask the big question: what if you got caught in a video game? A fresh-faced Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, a software engineer who runs an arcade. His attempts to hack into his former employer's mainframe cause his old coworkers, Alan and Lora, to warn him that he could be in big trouble. When Flynn tells them that he's trying to prove that his work has been plagiarized, the three hatch a plot to unlock the "TRON" security program and get Flynn his proof. But in the attempt, Flynn is zapped into the program and must fight — and play — his way through digital dangers to find his way out. 

Aside from being a thrilling sci-fi adventure, TRON just looks cool, using the computer aesthetics of the time to create a fantasy world where overbearing computer programs rule and subjugate others, and only an outsider with some engineering know-how can set things right.

So Weird

While adults were getting their fix of the paranormal from The X-Files, Disney dreamed up a tween equivalent with So Weird. The first couple seasons follow Fiona (Cara DeLizia) as she travels from place to place with her rockstar mom, Molly (Mackenzie Phillips), and her family and crew. Fiona keeps a blog where she recounts her various run-ins with the paranormal, from encounters with aliens and ghosts to altercations with a Bigfoot and a Scottish will o' the wisp known as a spunkie. 

The reason Fiona continues to seek out these interactions with the other side is that she's desperately trying to contact her father, who died when she was just three years old. This was the show for budding conspiracy theorists, and it's another one that's fun to revisit, especially if you have a penchant for the odd and the ability to suspend your disbelief in things like vampires and werewolves!