Signed up for The Mandalorian 2 but don’t know what else to watch? We’ve got some suggestions
When Disney tweeted out its mega list of the TV shows and movies coming to its streaming service Disney Plus on day one, two things were immediately obvious: there’s a movie called The Cat From Outer Space that I’ve somehow never seen, and the TV show department (and the movie department, for that matter) is heavily skewed towards Padawans.
Now that Disney Plus has a few original series’ in its cache (and a few more classics), we’ve decided to revisit our rankings. For those thinking of signing up for the $8.99 per month subscription, we’ve rounded up the best Disney Plus TV shows available in 2020.
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Earth to Ned
2020 – Present, Comedy Talk Show
Earth to Ned arrived when I was seriously considering cancelling my Disney Plus subscription (at least until The Mandalorian Season 2). A few familiar faces amongst the high-profile guests led me to take a chance on this Jim Henson Company joint. Before I knew it, I’d devoured the entire first season.
The titular Ned is an alien on a mission to launch an Independence Day-scale invasion on Earth. Despite his father’s orders, Ned becomes enraptured by Earth’s celebrities and pop culture and decides to launch a late-night talk show with the ship’s crew (co-host Cornelius is a highlight of the show).
Earth to Ned is an easy recommendation for those raised on Space Ghost: Coast to Coast; the comedy often feels like a mash-up of the Adult Swim classic and the Muppets.
It’s a family show, but the range of noted comedians and writers on-board make sure everyone will get a chuckle. Paul Scheer, Kristen Schaal, Jenny Slate, and Reggie Watts are just a few examples of comedian guests, but this is a Disney production, so you’ll also find interviews with Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars) and Gina Carano (The Mandalorian). Even sweet BB-8 makes an appearance (seems Little Baby Yoda wasn’t available).
2019 – Present, Sci-fi adventure
Now that The Mandalorian’s first season is over, we can officially say that lil’ Baby Yoda, IG-11, Kuiil, Cara Dune, Mando and Carl Weathers have all found the maintenance hatch into our hearts.
Sure, Mando didn’t have a perfect season, it was painfully padded out in the middle, the dialogue was straight cheese most of the time, and at times you really felt like it was just wasting time. But in the words of Arcade Fire, all that time we wasted, I’d only waste it again because The Mandalorian got the most important thing right: it’s just super fun.
And yes, you’d think the virality of Baby Yoda memes and GIFs would be overplayed but nope. Still cute as hell.
Don’t get us wrong, we think Season 2 will need some huge improvements in format and pacing if it’s going to hold our attention much longer but if they could make the entire second season as thrilling as the first season’s first few and last few episodes, we’d be happy travellers.
The World According to Jeff Goldblum
2019, Comedy Docuseries
Sure, The World According to Jeff Goldblum might be just an excuse for Goldblum to travel to globe on Disney’s dime but if anyone has earned enough goodwill for an all-expenses paid working holiday, it’s Dr. Ian Malcolm.
Tune in if you’re keen to see Jeff Goldblum live his best life, learning the ins-and-outs of seemingly simple topics: Sneakers, Denim, BBQs, you name it. The premise of The World According to Jeff Goldblum is that, unlike other educational travel shows, Goldblum does absolutely no research before meeting the experts in each field. This way, the audience and the host learn together, and Goldblum manages to secure maybe the cushiest gig in showbiz.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
2008 – 2020, Animated Adventure
Though not as consistent or as moving as Rebels, The Clone Wars, at its best, is essential viewing for Star Wars fans (we’d recommend finding a good episode guide and skipping the filler).
Set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, a galaxy in fresh turmoil provides rich ground for drama. Both Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are given greater depth than their cinematic counterparts, but the real star is Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan.
From Yoda’s journey to learn about life after death through the Force, to the Clone Troopers that discover their dormant Order 66 programming before it’s too late, there’s great canonical Star Wars tales to explore.
Editor’s Note: Season 7 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has now kicked off on Disney Plus so if you’re not up to speed, get cracking.
The Imagineering Story
When this docu-series first popped up on the Disney+ launch list, we didn’t really give it a second thought. We’d assumed it was just some corporate spin from the big Mouse up top but when Mando wrapped up and we were looking to get $8.99 per month’s worth, we decided to chuck it on one lazy Sunday. And it turned out to be pretty fascinating?
Each episode focuses on a different period in Walt Disney Imagineering’s (essentially Disney’s R&D for theme parks and attractions) storied history, beginning with the creation of Disneyland and ending with the park’s most recent attraction Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
1994, Animated Series
Despite only running for two years, Disney’s animated series about Scottish Gargoyles in the Big Apple has cemented itself as one of the coolest kids shows from the early 90s.
After a centuries-old curse is lifted, Gargoyle godfather Goliath and his band of scrappy statues make it their duty to protect the streets of New York at night.
According to /Film, Jordan Peele (Get Out) pitched a live-action remake back in 2018 so now could be a good time to reawaken your fandom.
Star Wars Rebels
2014 – 2018, Animated Series
A CG series based on the Star Wars prequels sounded like a terrible idea at the time but somehow, showrunner Dave Filoni managed to pull it off, creating a series that’s more beloved than the source material itself. Then in 2014, Filoni and co. released Star Wars Rebels; knocking the Marksman-H out of the park once again.
Set fourteen years after Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars Rebels follows a ragtag group of rebels aboard a covert ops starship known as Ghost. Where Clone Wars was partially hamstrung by the events that occurred throughout the prequel trilogy, Rebels was free to explore some of the wider Star Wars lore only seen before in comics and novels.
2012, Animated Series
Gravity Falls is a rare example of a kids’ show that starts a quiet life in the mix with every other cartoon before snowballing into a cult phenomenon, like Adventure Time or, more recently, Steven Universe.
When Dipper and Mabel Pines (Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal) are forced to spend their summer with their Grunkle Stan in Gravity Falls, they are sucked into solving the small town’s many mysteries.
The series was conceived with a core principle in mind: that animation doesn’t have to be ‘just for kids’ and it nails it. This is a cartoon that the whole family will enjoy.
1989 – Present, Animated Series
As the longest-running scripted primetime television series in America, you’d think The Simpsons‘ back catalogue would have been easier to track down on streaming services but that’s never been the case here in Australia.
Disney Plus marked the first time Australians could access to the entire back catalogue and binging through Springfield’s golden years was a big reason many signed up to Disney Plus on day one.
Mickey Mouse Shorts (2013 – 2018)
2013 – 2018, Animated shorts
If you need a quick-fix cartoon to keep the kids entertained for a spell, you can’t do better than these goofy slapstick shorts starring Disney CEO (Cheddar Eating Officer) Mickey Mouse. This short-form animated series features Disney OGs Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy, in a modern adaptation of their classic Steamboat Willy-era designs.
Episodes are only five to six minutes long on average, but there’s five seasons in total, each with eighteen to twenty episodes to binge through.
Mickey Mouse Shorts will keep the young ones entertained for hours but as far as kids shows go, this one’s a good laugh for the parents too (and expertly animated).
1997 – 2000, Animated series
This long-running series depicts elementary school as a small civilisation, complete with a reigning monarch, King Bob (sixth grader).
Schoolyard chums T.J., Spinelli, Mikey, Vince, Gretchen and Gus are freedom fighters resisting the oppressive tyranny of Principal Prickly and (ugh) Miss Finster every Recess.
2012 – 2013, Animated series
2010’s long-awaited sequel to TRON (1982) divided opinions. It was a super flashy sequel to a classic that’s charm was specifically its retro view of computer programming.
Still, the main thing is that it was fun and painted Jeff Bridges as the techno Jesus he was born to play.
The animated follow-up series TRON: Uprising is less divisive: it’s a bonafide banger that extends TRON’s lore with an incredibly unique and contemporary art-style.
1991 – 1992, Animated series
In the early 90s, before Batman: The Animated Series even aired, Disney took its own quack at creating a cartoon caped crusader with the seminal Darkwing Duck.
The animated parody of early superhero and spy fiction, Darkwing Duck follows the fame-hungry Drake Mallard and his titular alter ego as he balances crime-fighting by night and suburban life by day in an anthropomorphic parody of Gotham City.
1990 – 1991, Animated series
Another one from Saturday Disney’s glory days, TaleSpin is an animated series that takes characters from The Jungle Book, such as Baloo and Shere Khan, to new heights.
Where Darkwing Duck is Disney’s early attempt at the superhero genre, TaleSpin is its anthropomorphic take on the same action-adventure classics that inspired Indiana Jones.
1993 – 1994, Animated series
Bonkers is what you get if you take Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and remove the live-action parts, Bob Hoskins and the rampant horniness.
In the world of Bonkers, the titular is an ex-cartoon superstar who takes up work as a cop in Hollywood. The twist is that Bonkers is (enthusiastically) partnered with a Detective Lucky Piquel, a cop with no time for toons. Bonkers is a buddy-cop comedy inspired by movies like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs.
1992 – 1993, Animated sitcom
Everybody remembers the 1995 classic A Goofy Movie but tends to forget where it all began: the 1992 series, Goof Troop.
This animated series introduced the effortlessly cool Max Goof, the Goofs’ intense rivalry with Peter Pete Sr., and Goofy’s full name, G.G Goof.
X-Men: The Animated Series
1992 – 1997, Animated series
For people of a certain age, X-Men: The Animated Series is the definitive version of Marvel’s spandex-clad super mutants.
With a stellar line-up of revolving heroes and villains, the show wasn’t afraid to dive deep into the X-Men bench, making stars of then lesser known characters like Gambit and Archangel. It was also surprisingly dark: to this day I’m still haunted by an image of Wolverine’s skeleton from the Days of Future Past arc.
Also, there’s that theme song, which you now have stuck in your head, sorry.
1987 – 1990, Animated series
Speaking of theme songs… DuckTales has the alpha jam. The hook that all others aspire to. A god amongst lesser mortal bops. Having access to that bouncy bassline at the touch of a button is going to change lives. Possibly not for the better. But it’s not all about the earworm.
Based on the bizarre premise that Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie go to stay with the insanely wealthy Scrooge McDuck while Donald ships off to join the US Navy (seriously), DuckTales was a bonafide cultural phenomenon for Disney. All four seasons and the spin-off movie Treasure of the Lost Lamp are present and accounted for.
By David Milner
1994 – 1998, Animated series
There’s a confusing amount of Spider-Man cartoons on Disney Plus, seven by our count, but the pick of the bunch is easily the 1994 iteration.
Across five seasons and 65 episodes, Spider-Man took on the likes of Kraven the Hunter and Doc Ock, all while needing to get Peter Parker’s homework submitted on time. It might seem standard practice nowadays, but the producers of Spider-Man made the ground-breaking decision to follow a single storyline across an entire season, meaning larger, grander arcs from the comics were able to play out on Saturday morning TV screens across the world.
It’s not as meme-able as the corny 1966 cartoon, but it’s infinitely better.
By David Milner
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
1989 – 1990, Animated series
After the runaway success of DuckTales in the late 1980s, Disney commissioned more big-budget animation to bulk out the line-up hoping lightning would strike again. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is the result (alongside other entrants on this list, Darkwing Duck and TaleSpin).
The premise is as old as time itself: two chipmunks form their own detective agency, solve crimes, and semi-regularly need to take Fat Cat, a mafia don that’s also… a cat, down a rung or two. It’s fun, light-hearted, and no slouch in the theme song department either.
By David Milner
2001 – 2004, Family comedy
Watching Lizzie McGuire was one of the most formative television experiences a young teenager could have.
If you didn’t have Hilary Duff’s guiding hand to help you transition out of the 90s and into the terrifying 2000s, you’re probably still walking around with a Sony Ericsson flip phone and a pair of wrap-around shades.
It’s a perfect time to take a stroll down memory lane too as Disney Plus is reviving the show with Hilary Duff returning to the iconic role.
Editor’s Note: The Lizzie McGuire reboot is in a bit of a weird place at the moment.
That’s So Raven
2003 – 2007, Family comedy
In the early 2000s, celebrities were typically billed with their first and last name e.g. “Brad” and “Pitt” or “Cory” and “In The House” but that was a time before the trailblazing star of Disney’s supernatural sitcom, That’s So Raven.
Raven, just Raven, revolutionised traditional naming conventions by implying that she was the most important Raven in the world. Raven ran so Bono could fly.