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Some movies are classics and other movies are just old. It’s not clear if Disney+ knows the difference.
Earlier this month, Disney unleashed a massive Twitter thread of largely forgotten films—some of them decades old—that are coming to Disney+ when it launches in November. The thread seems like it was supposed to overwhelm the Twitterati with the power of the Disney back catalog and encourage a surge in Disney+ subscriptions. It started out normal enough, with films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Pinocchio, and Fantasia being featured.
Pinocchio (1940) pic.twitter.com/XMEC4IlM5h— Disney+ (@disneyplus) October 14, 2019
But then about 50 or so entries in, things got weird. Disney tweeted out titles many people had never heard of, including That Darn Cat! (1965) and The Ugly Dachshund (1966).
The Ugly Dachshund (1966) pic.twitter.com/r1sfkr895P— Disney+ (@disneyplus) October 14, 2019
The Barefoot Executive (1971) pic.twitter.com/IeRULhsqxE— Disney+ (@disneyplus) October 14, 2019
The thread went on for hundreds of titles, each stranger than the last. Some of them looked almost unbelievably ridiculous. Disney digging into the dregs of their vault also inspired some excellent parody content. One such account, @WatchWithDisney, took some of the strangest pieces of key art on offer and turned them into something even weirder and more wonderful.
Mr. Boogedy became Leprosy Dad.
Mr. Boogedy (1986) pic.twitter.com/681PUfyS2L— Disney+ (@disneyplus) October 14, 2019
Leprosy Dad (1986) pic.twitter.com/HOO4V9m0WQ— Disney+ (@WatchWithDisney) October 17, 2019
The Ghosts of Buckley Hall became A Witch Turned Us Into Civil War Reenactors.
The Ghosts of Buxley Hall (1980) pic.twitter.com/dEJ35yfiJ7— Disney+ (@disneyplus) October 14, 2019
A Witch Turned Us Into Civil War Reenactors (1980) pic.twitter.com/bViaDuDEA8— Disney+ (@WatchWithDisney) October 16, 2019
The Daily Dot talked to the mind behind @WatchWithDisney, who asked to remain anonymous, about their parody account and the art of viral content.
As with many other Twitter pranksters who go viral, @WatchWithDisney isn’t new to the Photoshop parody game. The creator of the account tried a similar stunt with the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards (@KCA_2019) that got some attention but didn’t get quite the same viral interest.
When they talked about the motivation behind their parody Photoshops, the artist said, “I’m just trying to create the change I want to see in the world.”
If they aren’t changing the world, at least they are changing Twitter. Most of @WatchWithDisney’s posts get thousands of likes. The most successful tweet to date is their first, which renamed Operation: Dumbo Drop as Operation: Fuck This Elephant.
Operation Fuck This Elephant (1995) pic.twitter.com/6AES8eBpRx— Disney+ (@WatchWithDisney) October 15, 2019
We asked them why they thought this account worked so well. They feel that it is how close the original content already was to parody that made it ripe for mockery.
“I think it’s partially the expectant tone that Disney gave when revealing that these vintage films—most already resembling extremely niche parodies —would be offered next to their huge blockbusters,” they said. “It’s like they assumed that I wouldn’t subscribe to Disney+ unless Darby O’Gill and the Little People was streamable.”
“If Disney takes my advice and gives the people what they want, predominately Sinbad as a genie and a movie about a cat who shits gold, Disney+ will be a huge success,” they added.
It says something about the Disney+ back catalog that @WatchWithDisney and other content creators could make so many funny riffs on the company’s vault titles, and even have some of their fake titles mistaken for the genuine article. Perhaps it is the hubris that comes with being a nearly monopolistic media company, or perhaps it is the fact that few companies amass such an extensive back catalog, through various genres and trends. But, no one can stream through that entire thread without laughing at least once.
For their part, @WatchWithDisney resists getting political. They don’t view Disney as a particularly attractive target. They say, “My attitude towards Disney Entertainment does little to influence my online jackassery. I create these films to make myself, and hopefully, others, laugh. That being said, if you find some higher meaning in James and His Big Skittle, more power to you.”
@WatchWithDisney was willing to speculate on the thin line between their parodies and the actual titles Disney+ is putting out in the world. They said, “I don’t know how many of my followers know I’m a liar. I don’t know how many of my followers think I’m actually Disney+ tweeting swear words. All I know is that every one of my followers is a hero with great taste.”
The world definitely needs more heroes, especially ones that are good at Photoshop.
Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.