Categories:Blog

Best Disney Documentaries on Disney+



So maybe you’ve recently found yourself with a whole lot of free time, and after your 47th viewing of High School Musical, you might be asking yourself, “man, what else should I watch on Disney+”? As one who has been down that exact road…on several occasions, I know where you’re coming from! I’ve found that some of the best features on Disney+ are Disney documentaries. You might not have bought into the streaming service for Disney documentaries but I can assure you, this list is filled with very entertaining features. Here are the best Disney documentaries on Disney+ that you can start watching after you’re done viewing the eternal love story of Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez.

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Let’s kick off the list with one of my favorites and one that I think is underrated and that very few people know about. This feature centers around the Walt Disney animation department in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 70s and 80s the animation department was among the worst performing departments in the company. Dud after dud was released. 

But in 1984 a new leadership team came to Disney with Michael Eisner as the head of the company. This is where our story begins and over the next hour and a half you hear the story of the Disney Renaissance. That’s the time period where the Disney Animation Department could not be stopped. Starting with the Little Mermaid and ending with the Lion King, the accomplishments of this department during this time period were epic. 

In this doc not only do you see the success but you also see the turmoil and the tension between the animators and the executives. Don Hanh who was the producer of many great Disney animated features like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King is the producer, director and narrator of this film. Having someone, like Don Hanh who was right in the middle of the action during the Disney renaissance be the one to create this film, makes it that much better. Plus, he brings in past animators and executives to talk about the turmoil and the success that occurred during this period.

The Imagineering Story

The Imagineering Story
Credit: Disney+

Now this is actually a documentary series but it was one of the first things I fired up on Disney+. There are so many things I love about the Imagineering Story. For starters I love how comprehensive it is. It starts at the beginning with Disneyland in the 50s and goes all the way to today. You get to see the generations of Imagineers who have helped build and create the magic. They are all fantastic story tellers and you can see how passionate each and everyone of them is.

The footage is equally incredible. Not only do you go behind the curtain at places that the public has never seen before, but there’s also a treasure trove of archival footage that make this series epic. The Imagineering Story is one that will be replayed for years and years to come.

Frank and Ollie

Frank and Ollie
Credit: Disney+

Walt Disney had his nine old men which is how he would refer to his group of core animators. Each of the nine old men drew and created some of the most iconic characters to ever grace the big screen. Those nine individuals included Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Not only were Frank and Ollie two great animators, they were also best friends. They met in college and ended up both getting jobs at the Disney studio together. In fact, they were so close that they even lived right next door to each other. 

The film focuses on their careers which lasted until the 1970s when they retired. They swap stories, tell anecdotes about studio life and sometimes they even act out parts of films they animated. This is a great Disney documentary because it will show you what it was like to work at Disney during the golden age of animation.

One Day at Disney

One Day at Disney
Credit: Disney+

There’s a couple components to this documentary. The first is the main feature length doc, which is about an hour long and it profiles a handful of individuals who work for the Disney Company. You see how the Cast Members spend their days and what their roles entail. The full length feature is great but each Friday in 2020 Disney is also releasing a One Day at Disney short film.

Each short focuses on one singular person. It could be a Cast Member who was profiled in the main doc but more often than not it’s someone new. In one you’re following Bob Iger, when he was CEO, as he goes about his day, and then you’re with an imagineer putting the finishing touches on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and then you spend a day with ESPN Sportscenter anchor Sage Steele before heading to Disneyland to meet up with a scuba diving maintenance Cast Member as he performs his maintenance checks in the waters of the Jungle Cruise. 

Those little stories are so unique and I love hearing about them because you realize just how gigantic the company really is and how many different ways they make the magic. 

If you want even more from this documentary, check out the companion book that was created for it.

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (Coming to Disney+ May 22, 2020)

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story

The Boys is about the writing team of brothers Robert and Richard Sherman. Together they created some of the most iconic Disney music of all time. Music for animated movies, live action movies, music for theme park attractions. We’re talking Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, it’s a small world, Carousel of Progress, Enchanted Tiki Room and many more. This documentary tells the story of these two Disney legends. 

Walt & El Grupo (Coming to Disney+ June 12, 2020)

Walt & El Grupo
Walt & El Grupo

In the 1940s the US government asked Walt Disney to take some of his animators on a goodwill tour of South America. There was a lot going on in the world then and the US government wanted to keep its allies close and happy during this time. The film is about that trip and discusses how while on the trip, Disney and his animators came up with material for Saludos Amigos and the Three Caballeros movies. 

The Pixar Story (Coming to Disney+ November 18, 2021)

The Pixar Story
The Pixar Story

The Pixar Story is exceptionally well done and not only does it talk about all the success Pixar has had but it also talks about the complicated history the company had with Disney. Plus, it shares how difficult it was in the early days for Pixar to even get any traction at all. 

There you have it! My favorite Disney documentaries on Disney+. Did I miss any of your favorites? Share your favorite Disney documentary with us in our WDW Opinioneers online community.

Once you start watching these documentaries you’re probably going to start craving more history and stories about Disney. There are some great books about Disney parks and movies that go more in depth on these topics. I talk about all those books here.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you buy from them, at no additional cost to you.


To top