WandaVision (episodes 5-8, of 9)
The first Marvel production from Disney+ has also been one of Kevin Feige’s most unusual and potentially polarizing projects: each episode has been a pastiche of a different era of U.S. television sitcoms, complete with laugh tracks and exaggerated sitcom acting, with hints of a larger mystery poking through every week but no actual explanations of what’s going on or why the characters are there. It might be described as the show David Lynch might make if he was homaging old pop culture unironically, but will Disney be able to keep people coming back until the final episode—and the inevitable action climax that MCU viewers have been waiting for?
Disney has not provided episode titles or descriptions, but trailers and publicity photos have offered some clues as to which sitcoms are being homaged.
Friday, February 5: Episode 5 – There still isn’t much information about how the 1990s will be represented, but…
Friday, February 12: Episode 6 – The show’s cast and crew have hinted that “Malcolm in the Middle” will be homaged at some point, which would make sense, not only because it would allow them to phase out the laugh track as the show gets darker, but because Disney now owns that show due to the Fox buyout.
Friday, February 19: Episode 7 – Clips from the trailers have shown that Fox/Disney’s “Modern Family” will be homaged at some point, with a similar set and mock-documentary format. Well, “The Office” used that format too, but Disney doesn’t own that one.
Friday, February 26: Episode 8 – With only two episodes to go, they may have run out of sitcoms to parody, at which point the show will probably have more action scenes in keeping with its reported $225 million budget.
The Muppet Show (Friday, February 19)
This isn’t an original show, but it’s still big news: Though Disney+ has had lots of Muppets content, the big prize, the original variety show from the 1970s, has been absent. Finally, the music and other rights issues have been sorted out, and all five seasons of the show will be available to stream—though don’t expect high-definition quality from a videotaped show from over 40 years ago. Now the people who grew up with the show can watch it with their kids and explain to them who most of the guest hosts are… though even the parents may have trouble remembering Jaye P. Morgan, Lola Falana or Señor Wences.
Flora & Ulysses (Friday, February 19)
While this film is based on the 2013 Newbery Award-winning novel by Kate DiCamillo, the premise seems like it was made for Disney, due to its story of a human kid and a talking animal sidekick: a plucky girl named Flora (Matilda Lawler) adopts a squirrel who has been turned into a superpowered talking squirrel by an accident. Flora names the squirrel Ulysses and tries to get him to be a superhero, but his real superpower may be helping her get closer to her mother (Alyson Hannigan). John Kassir, aka the second Buster Bunny from “Tiny Toon Adventures,” voices the squirrel.
Myth: A Frozen Tale (Friday, February 26)
Disney Animation produced this short, a spinoff from the Frozen franchise, where a family is transported to a fantasy world partly inspired by the the films, and partly by Disney’s classic animation designers, particularly Mary Blair (Alice in Wonderland) and Eyvind Earle (Sleeping Beauty).
Inside Pixar: Portraits, Second Batch (Friday, February 12)
A series of promotional shorts about people who work for Pixar and what they do: Patty Bonfilio, who directs the day-to-day operations of Pixar headquarters; Rachelle Federico, a production assistant hoping to climb the ladder at the company; Barney Jones, the studio music editor; Cynthia Lusk, who supervises the dubbing and adaptation of Pixar movies for different countries; and Marylou Jaso, who bakes pastries for the studio cafeteria.