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The Most Successful Disney+ Original Movies So Far

Disney+ is arguably best known for its original TV shows. "The Mandalorian" was an instant success and, since then, other programs like "WandaVision" and "Obi-Wan Kenobi" have been heavily responsible for drawing eyeballs to the service. But Disney+ is also home to an ever-expanding library of original movies. Initially including smaller-scale fare like "Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made" and "Noelle," they quickly expanded to bigger and flashier original features. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic closing down movie theaters, titles intended for big-screen debuts, like "Soul" and "Hamilton," were instead sent to the streamer. As a result, its library of original motion pictures varies wildly in terms of scale and budget.

Across these productions, ten particular Disney+ original movies stand out as the most successful feature films hosted by the service. The measurements for success for these titles are a bit peculiar, since, unlike with a theatrical release, there aren't box office figures one can turn to when determining a flop from a hit. Instead, "success" here is determined by viewership measured by third-party services, proclamations from Disney, and award season recognition, among other factors. The impressive achievements across this crop of Disney+ original movies reflect once again that this streaming service is far more than just its library of TV programming.


It goes without saying that "Hamilton" was a rousing financial success on Broadway. Smashing box office records and embedding itself into the cultural zeitgeist, this landmark musical, which chronicled the life of Alexander Hamilton and dug into the nuances of other Founding Fathers, was changing the game. In the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, "Hamilton" moved to a whole new medium, thanks to Disney+. A filmed version of the show, starring the original Broadway cast, debuted on this service over the Fourth of July weekend in 2020 instead of its original October 2021 theatrical release. It was a big risk forgoing all those box office dollars in favor of giving the streamer a boost. However, this release shift ended up paying off as the highly anticipated arrival of "Hamilton" proved to be a juggernaut in its own right and brought countless eyeballs to Disney+ within its first year of existence.

While Disney never disclosed official viewership numbers for "Hamilton," third-party services have offered a fascinating glimpse into its reach. 7Park Data, for example, reported to Variety that "Hamilton" had been more viewed than any other streaming project in July 2020 by a massive margin. In December 2020, it was revealed that "Hamilton" was the second most watched streaming movie of 2020, only behind "Wonder Woman 1984." Any concerns that the success of "Hamilton" wouldn't translate to the small screen were eradicated with these reports.


"Togo" told the true story of dog trainer Leonhard Seppala (Willem Dafoe) working with his trusty sled dog, Togo, to get medicine to a tiny town during a fierce Winter in Alaska. On the surface, "Togo" doesn't seem like an especially noteworthy Disney+ original film, especially if one is familiar with the kind of dog-oriented movies Disney has previously made. Made in the mold of earlier live-action Disney movies about dogs in chilly environments such as "White Fang," "Snow Dogs," and "Eight Below," "Togo" ended up receiving positive marks from critics. It adapts the real-life story of a sleddog and his intrepid trainer as they race to deliver a diphtheria serum to However, it didn't inspire any follow-ups or rampant merchandise and, in hindsight, is much smaller in scale than subsequent Disney+ features like "Pinocchio" or "Turning Red."

However, "Togo" was still a noteworthy success for Disney+ on one crucial front: awards. "Togo" became the first movie from Disney+ to score a nomination from the Writer's Guild of America. Competing against the likes of "Chernobyl" and "True Detective," its mere presence in this category was impressive, establishing that Disney streaming movies could compete in the major award ceremonies. This served as a precursor for later titles like "Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers" or the various Pixar movies that premiered on the streamer to get recognized during awards season. Holding a small but extremely noteworthy place in the history of Disney+ motion pictures, "Togo's" accomplishments are very much worth remembering.


Leo Borlock (Grahave Verchere), the teenage protagonist of "Stargirl," is fascinated by Susan "Stargirl" Caraway (Grace VanderWaal). She just walks to the beat of her own drum, clutching her ukulele and perky spirit. Audiences also fell in love with her — the adaptation of Jerry Spinelli's "Stargirl" ended up being among the top 25 most-watched streaming movies of 2020. This was an especially impressive feat, since "Stargirl" beat out streaming films like "Greyhound" and "Palm Springs," both of which featured much bigger names in their respective casts than the actors assembled for "Stargirl."

"Stargirl" also gave Disney+ its first original movie franchise. Early Disney+ features like "Lady and the Tramp" and "Noelle" never spawned sequels, but the world of "Stargirl" returned in 2022 with "Hollywood Stargirl." This subsequent adventure shifted all of the focus onto Stargirl as she and her mom moved to Los Angeles for further heartfelt escapades. The first Disney+ original film to warrant a follow-up, "Stargirl" demonstrated that features from the House of Mouse sent to streaming could still spawn sagas that, much like their big-screen counterparts, span multiple years.

The One and Only Ivan

One of several theatrical Disney titles given a streaming release in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, "The One and Only Ivan" hit the Disney+ platform in August 2020. The project, focusing on the unlikely friendship that blossoms between a gorilla and a baby elephant held inside a mall circus, garnered generally mixed reviews from critics. Nonetheless, it provided Disney+ with a star-studded and costly family film during its first year of existence. Beyond just helping to boost the library of exclusive programming on Disney+, though, "The One and Only Ivan" ended up garnering awards attention for the streaming network.

In March 2021, "The One and Only Ivan" was nominated for the Academy Award for best visual effects. This impressive feat ensured that Disney+ fare was all over the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony. Among titles shortlisted for best visual effects that year, "The One and Only Ivan" managed to beat out "Soul," "Welcome to Chechnya," and Best Picture nominee "Mank" for a spot in the final crop of nominees. Coming out on top against all those other films solidified that "The One and Only Ivan" was a pivotal title in the Disney+ library.


In October 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to keep movie theaters shut down, Disney made a momentous decision. It suddenly announced that "Soul" would be going directly to Disney+ on Christmas Day. This happened just three days before the film's big-screen premiere at the BFI London Film Festival and marked the first time in history a new Pixar title wouldn't premiere in theaters. It was staggering to consider, particularly given how costly features from this animation studio are. Could Disney make a profit on "Soul" if they released it for free on the Disney+ platform?

Though these questions lingered over the streaming debut of "Soul," there was no denying the film brought a lot of eyeballs to Disney+. Just a few days after its premiere, it was reported that "Soul" had the third-best streaming launch of 2020 in terms of viewership, helping Disney+ reach just under 95 million subscribers by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, "Soul," even while deviating from Pixar's usual release plans, continued Pixar's streak of winning big at the Oscars. It scored two Academy Awards, for best animated feature and best original score. Such prestigious victories underscored what a mammoth success "Soul" had been for Disney+, even if its release on the platform was a last-minute decision.


A month after its release, Nielsen streaming viewership numbers finally came in for "Luca," the second Pixar movie ever to debut directly on Disney+. This story of a fish-boy (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) who yearns to go up onto the surface world was drumming up remarkable viewership figures. Even without a big-screen launch, the fishy saga of "Luca" was still drawing in a sizeable audience. From June 14th to June 20th, 2021, "Luca" chalked up 1.573 billion minutes of viewership. Despite only being available for three days of this recorded period, "Luca" was the most-watched streaming movie of the week by a massive margin.

This was an impressive launch, but there was always a chance "Luca" would be a movie that got a lot of early attention before fading off quickly. By the end of the year, though, it was apparent that "Luca" had staying power. "Luca" was the most-watched streaming movie of the year, giving Disney+ a massive win. But "Luca" kept on generating more glory for Disney+ by scoring a best animated feature nomination at the Academy Awards. Whether you determine its success by viewership or award season presence, "Luca" made a massive splash on Disney+.

Turning Red

In January 2022, the entire existence of "Turning Red" was flipped upside down. Up to this point, the film had been planned as a theatrical event to be released on March 11. But two months before that debut, Disney announced that "Turning Red" would follow in the footsteps of the previous two Pixar movies, "Soul" and "Luca," and premiere exclusively on Disney+. The public reasoning was that the then-surging cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 were making it dangerous for families to go to movie theaters. However, public speculation ran rampant that the shift was only done to maintain subscriber growth for the Disney+ platform.

Whatever the reason for the change in release plans, "Turning Red" did end up being a big win for Disney+, at least by the company's own metrics. A few days after it dropped on the streamer, Disney announced that "Turning Red" had scored the largest three-day viewership in history for a Disney+ exclusive movie. No exact figures were provided for how many people watched it. Nielsen ratings would later reinforce the success of this project by revealing that "Turning Red" was the most watched project on any domestic streaming service in its first week of release. While depriving "Turning Red" of a theatrical release was a controversial move, it did end up providing a massive hit for Disney+ in terms of viewership.


Disney+ has become well-known as a home for big-budget TV shows based on "Star Wars" or Marvel Cinematic Universe characters, while its original movies often include lavish Pixar titles or updates of classic Disney characters. But it also features some smaller-scale works, including documentaries. An especially notable example is the 2020 feature "Howard." Directed by Don Hahn, it offers a profile of the life and career of songwriter Howard Ashman. This was a career that spanned from his days on Broadway to his time working on some of the beloved animated Disney features in history. In the mold of past Hahn documentaries, "Howard" is told with voice-over anecdotes rather than on-screen interviews, which allows the visuals of the piece to take center-stage. These interviews including countless yarns from Disney veterans recounting moving stories about Ashman's essential contributions to movies like "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast."

This reflection on a cinematic legend is an emotionally powerful feature, albeit one that doesn't have the spectacle that usually lures audiences to Disney+ programming. However, that doesn't mean "Howard" didn't leave an impact after its release. The feature proved quite successful once award season rolled around, with "Howard" scoring a nomination for best historical/biographical documentary at the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards and winning a special achievement in animation prize at the Annie Awards. In addition to providing the streamer with some award-season glory, "Howard" also benefited Disney+ by expanding on what kind of stories it could tell.

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers

The "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" TV show got a new lease on life with a 2022 Disney+ original movie. Taking a wry, satirical approach to the beloved chipmunk characters and planting them into a modern-day variation on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?," "Rescue Rangers" saw the now distant Chip and Dale (voiced by John Mulaney and Andy Samberg, respectively) having to reunite to solver a case revolving around missing toons. What follows has famous cartoon character cameos, absurdist jokes, and classic Mulaney line deliveries to spare. This unorthodox approach to reviving the classic Saturday morning cartoon gave the Disney+ platform a big win in terms of viewership. "Rescue Rangers" came in behind only the Netflix comedy "Senior Year" among streaming movie viewership in its first week of release.

Even better, though, "Rescue Rangers" ended up scoring an Emmy nomination for outstanding television movie. The feature was nominated alongside glossy adult-skewing fare such as "Ray Donovan: The Movie" and "The Survivor," making the inclusion of a kid-friendly pastiche of detective movies all the more surprising. The first instance of Disney+ scoring a nod in this category, it contributed to Disney networks scoring a combined 147 nominations at the 74th Emmy Awards. Whether it's in securing strong viewership or award season glory, the titular heroes of "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" definitely came to bat for Disney+.

Black is King

It wasn't enough that Beyonce Knowles gifted the world the soundtrack album, "The Lion King: The Gift," in 2019. She then proceeded to take the tunes on this album and turn them into the basis of a 2020 feature film entitled "Black Is King." This visual album, directed by Knowles and a slew of other filmmakers (including Jenn Nkiru and Blitz Bazawule), chronicles a young African prince (Folajomi Akinmurele) who must come to terms with who he is and his responsibilities as he grows older. This journey is told through songs from the "Gift" soundtrack, including "Brown Skin Girl" and "Already," functioning as an exploration of the difficulties of Black people in connecting to their heritage due to the lingering after-effects of colonialism.

"Black Is King" was universally praised by critics, who were especially impressed by its visual splendor. A review from Variety also remarked on how noteworthy it was that such a bold and subversive project was premiering on Disney+, with writer Matt Donnelly going so far as to note that "Black Is King" was a welcome challenge to what many would expect to see emerge from the House of Mouse. Any way you look at it, this passion project from Beyonce Knowles turned into an essential feature in the Disney+ library.


There will always be debate over whether or not releasing the 2020 live-action remake of "Mulan" to Disney+ as a premium video-on-demand title was a profitable exercise or not. In the weeks after its debut, reports came out describing various degrees of success and failure for this massive project. Some saw the viewership numbers as a win while others saw them as underwhelming. There's a reasonable argument to be made that "Mulan" would've been much more lucrative as a big-screen event, as it was originally intended before the COVID-19 pandemic threw a kink in those plans.

However profitable or unprofitable "Mulan" ended up being, it was a concrete win for the Disney+ service. Over its first weekend of availability, "Mulan" inspired a massive wave of sign-ups to the streamer. Later Nielsen numbers also indicated that "Mulan" was the most watched streaming movie in North America in its first week of release. The title also helped lend further layers of prestige to Disney+ when it scored two Academy Award nominations for best visual effects and best costume design. Though it wasn't a perfect hit in every regard, "Mulan" was still a successful and splashy project for the fledgling Disney+ streaming network.