There are more than 200 Disney films available right now on Hoopla, one of our digital services at Mentor Public Library. And you can watch as many as 12 a month for free anytime and anywhere, as long as you have a MPL card.
But with so many movies to pick from, it’s difficult to know where to get started. Here’s your primer for 20 of the rare and classic Disney live-action films you can find on Hoopla.
1. The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band
There’s a lot happening in this film: a love story; family togetherness; a presidential battle between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison; but it’s all about the music. The eponymous band introduced a few classics into the Disney catalog—particularly “10 Feet off the Ground,” a tune so good that Louis Armstrong wanted a crack at it.
2. The Muppet Movie
This film is ex-post-facto Disney. It entered Disney’s collection when the company purchased The Muppets from Jim Henson. But who cares about intellectual-property deals? What matters is you can see the perfect Muppet film for free right now!
Classic song alert: There are several here; and, while our favorite is “I Hope that Something Better Comes Along,” the objective tops is “Rainbow Connection.”
Less-than-classic sequel alert: Muppet Treasure Island may be less fondly remembered than Jim Henson-led Muppet films, but it’s still a lot of fun. Anything that teams Gonzo and Rizzo is worth watching.
3. Old Yeller
You’re going to cry. A lot.
4. Bedknobs & Broomsticks
When young Charlie, Carrie, and Paul move to a small village during World War II, they discover their host, Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), is an apprentice witch. Magic, hijinks, and the craziest soccer game ever committed to celluloid ensues.
Classic song alert: “Substitutiary Locomotion” and “Beautiful, Briny Sea” are the sing-alongs, but “The Age of Not Believing” will put a lump in your throat.
5. The Misadventures of Merlin Jones
This comedic campus romp features a murder plot, chimp-napping, and Annette Funicello. It was both funny and odd enough to inspire a Futurama spoof.
Classic song alert: None, if we’re being honest; but the sequel, The Monkey’s Uncle, gets a theme song by Funicello and The Beach Boys.
6. Swiss Family Robinson
This film tells the story of the Robinson family after they are shipwrecked on a deserted island. It’s stuffed with South Seas scenery, hundreds of exotic animals, and pirates—so many pirates.
Classic song alert: “Swisskapolka,” which joins “It’s a Small World” on that thin border between catchy and mind-numbing.
7. So Dear to my Heart
A young boy hopes his literal black sheep, which everyone treats like a figurative black sheep, can win the blue ribbon. Walt Disney called it one of his favorite films, saying that it reminded him of growing up in Missouri.
Classic song alert: Academy-Award-winning “Lavender Blue.”
8. Darby O’Gill & the Little People
It’s Sean Connery versus leprechauns. What more do you want from life?
9. The Story of Robin Hood & his Merrie Men
This might not even be Disney’s best Robin Hood movie, but it’s a fun and faithful telling of the tale.
10. Return to Oz
No mere sequel in execution or spirit. Return to Oz is scarier than any other film in the Disney canon (except for maybe The Black Cauldron.) Instead of a glittering emerald, Oz is now the center of urban blight where most of Dorothy’s old friends have been petrified into stone. And it’ll take more than a glass of water to destroy the evil gnome king.
11. Treasure Island
The first live-action Disney film ever does right by Robert Louis Stevenson’s source material. (And there’s always the Muppet version…)
12. Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
Davy Crockett fights an alligator, duels an Indian chief, and battles for freedom at the Alamo.
Classic song alert: Can you even read the name “Davy Crockett” without humming the movie’s theme song?
Less-than-classic sequel alert: Davy Crockett and the River Pirates may have pirates, but it lacks alligator fights.
13. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
You think your job’s hard? Sonora Webster rides a horse off a high-dive into a swimming pool. Also, she’s blind.
14. Summer Magic
Hayley Mills—she of The Moon-Spinners, In Search of the Castaways, The Parent Trap, and seemingly every other Disney film from the 1960s—stars as a young girl from a family that’s recently lost its fortune. It’s more fun than it sounds. There are a lot of quirky family members and neighbors. It’s kind of proto-Wes Anderson-ish.
Classic song alert: “The Ugly Bug Ball” and Burl Ives’ “On the Front Porch.”
15. The Love Bug
It’s probably an exaggeration to call the Herbie film series “beloved,” but the first film has its moments.
Less-than-classic sequel alert: Take your pick. There’s Herbie Goes Bananas, Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo…
16. The Happiest Millionaire
Fred MacMurray does wealth right. He’s got pet alligators roaming his conservatory and a Bible-and-boxing school in the stables. He also has a daughter, a tough tomboy, who’s about to fall in love for the first time.
Classic song alert: “Fortuosity” and “When a Man Has a Daughter.”
17. The Shaggy Dog
No, not the Tim Allen remake, the original. But the joke’s the same. Man hates dogs. Man becomes dog. Antics, slapstick, and sight gags ensue.
Less-than-classic sequel alert: The Shaggy D.A.—same joke, but now the dog’s running for district attorney.
18. Sign of Zorro
Don Diego returns from his schooling in Spain to challenge the cruel tyranny of Monastario, commandante of Los Angeles. No one knows that Diego, a fop and a flop, is secretly the masked avenger Zorro.
19. Apple Dumpling Gang
Don Knotts and Tim Conway (as the least threatening outlaws in the entire Wild, Wild West) plot with three adorable orphans to steal back a fortune in gold that was discovered by and then stolen from the kids.
Less-than-classic sequel alert: Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. Conway and Knotts try to go straight but accidentally rob a bank.
20. Air Bud
A dog plays basketball. You either love this or hate us for even mentioning it.
Less-than-classic sequel alert: A lot, but Golden Receiver has the best pun.
By the way, if you’re not sure how to use Hoopla, we made a how-to video.