By Joi Bass
Since quarantine started over a month ago, I have been on Disney+ constantly. I genuinely believe that this streaming service has had a positive impact on me and others.
For ’90s babies like myself, Disney+ is like heaven. It gives people the opportunity to watch the Disney shows and movies they have grown to love.
I will admit, coming up with my list of binge-worthy shows was difficult.
However, I believe that these shows and movies will give everyone that amazing feeling of taking a blast through the past and remembering the good old days of Disney. Disney Channel in the early 2000s was known for creating shows and episodes that taught us special lessons we will remember forever. I have chosen these shows because the lessons they taught us back then are excellent reminders of how to navigate life through this time.
5. Kim Possible
When this show premiered in 2002, I can say nearly every three-year-old girl including myself wanted to be like Kim Possible. The idea of an ordinary girl who fights villains on the side was amazing.
Kim played by Christy Carlson Romano is a confident, smart and popular student at Middleton High. Kim constantly divides her time between fighting crime and cheerleading practice. While many people feel that fighting evil villains like Dr. Drakken and Shego is something that comes natural to Kim, dealing with the normal difficulties of a teenager isn’t that easy.
Of course Kim Possible can’t save the world and fight off villains by herself. Her childhood best friend and eventual love interest Ron Stoppable aides Kim on every mission along with his pet naked mole rat Rufus.
Kim Possible is one of those shows that appears entertaining on the surface, but disguises how educational it actually is. These lessons teach kids in their early teenage years important lessons at a time when they are experimenting most with their lives and personalities.
One lesson is to never judge a book by its cover, which is shown through Ron. Most people view Ron as strange, unintelligent, clumsy and unpopular. Despite popular opinion, Kim sees Ron’s value and they have been best friends since their childhood and are inseparable. Same applies to Rufus. Naked mole rats are commonly perceived to be unappealing pets unlike cats and dogs, but Rufus is an essential character in the show. He is smart, funny and frequently saves Kim and Ron when they are in trouble.
Another lesson that I distinctly remember from this show is that determination is important and you should always aim to pursue your goals, but don’t take on too much by yourself. There is one episode in season one where Kim is overloaded with responsibilities. For example, planning the dance, being captain of the cheerleading squad and saving the world. As teenagers, we want to be absorbed in everything and will take on numerous tasks. However, like Kim Possible, we cannot do everything by ourselves and we have to give up some responsibilities and even the glory for the betterment of our mental health.
The final lesson that I have learned from this show is the importance of self expression and staying true to yourself. This lesson is present in many episodes of the show. The two that stand out to me include one where Ron becomes popular and he lets the popularity get to his head and he ends up neglecting his true friends, especially Kim. In the end of the episode when he loses his power, he realizes how valuable Kim is to his life and promises to never neglect their friendship again. In the other episode, Kim’s outfit becomes a trend and everyone starts dressing like her. Towards the end, she realizes that it makes you feel less important when everyone else is imitating you.
I believe that Kim Possible is an impactful show for young people because it teaches them the important morals of life that will stick with them forever.
One thing that I love about Disney is their ability to tap into all cultural and ethnic backgrounds through their shows and movies. One example of this is the 2017 Disney Pixar film Coco.
The story is set during Dia de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of loved ones who have passed away. Another element of the movie that is very prevalent is the fact that Disney placed special emphasis on some Hispanic traditions that remain relevant in modern day Mexico.
Whether in Mexico, the United States, Africa or Asia, families around the world have adapted to contemporary practices and traditions; however, there are some who refuse to give up on tradition because for them that’s the way “it has always been.”
That is central to the plot of this movie. We follow a young boy named Miguel who was raised to hate music but wants to pursue the life of a musician. He aspires to be like his idol, accomplished musician Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel constantly faces judgement from his family while trying to convince them that music is his passion.
Desperate to prove his talent and to break his family’s ban on music, Miguel embarks on a journey through the Land of the Dead where he meets Hector who is known as a trickster. They set off to unlock the truth behind Miguel’s family history.
Miguel’s constant yearning for his family’s approval along with the shocking twists and turns of this movie are what made me fall in love with it. I also found some crucial lessons that not only resonated with myself, but what I believe will resonate with every age group.
The first lesson that I learned in this movie is the best way to prove a point is by doing it. Miguel is a symbolic character in this movie. He represents the importance of breaking barriers of tradition and the journey to do so is very long and crucial. He also represents today’s two young generations of Generation Y and Generation Z. Just like Miguel, our generations are known for our ability to not conform to the societal norms, wanting to be accepted socially, our reluctance to carry on the traditions of those who came before us and most importantly, our willingness to be different.
The most important lesson of this movie is the importance of telling your story and those before you to the upcoming generation. As human beings, we are prone to make mistakes, but we grow wiser by improving from those mistakes. This is why failure is so important. It gives us the opportunity to grow and become better, stronger and wiser.
Regardless of our heritage, as we get older we have the responsibility to act as role models for the younger generations of our family.
We all come from different backgrounds that are historical. Our stories are filled with beautiful and not-so-beautiful moments. That is why it is our duty to inspire, encourage and enlighten our younger family members and use these important parts of our history to guide them to grow.
In 2013, there was one movie that took everyone by storm: Frozen. At the time, nearly everyone I knew had seen the movie and raved about how good it was and of course couldn’t go minutes without singing “Let it Go” and “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?”
Frozen centers around two sisters who are princesses in the country Arendelle. Elsa and Anna were very close when they were younger. However, Elsa was different. She possessed magical powers that allowed her to create ice and snow and she would use them when playing with her younger sister Anna.
One day, Anna is accidentally injured by Elsa’s magic. The king and queen take Anna to Grand Pabbie, who leads a colony of trolls. He heals Anna, but her memory of Elsa’s magic is altered. Grand Pabbie warns Elsa that she must learn how to control her magic and that fear will be her greatest enemy. For years, Elsa and Anna are isolated within the castle and Elsa cuts off all contact with Anna, creating tension between them.
Fast forward to Elsa’s 21st birthday, when she is to be crowned queen of Arendelle. Despite her fears of citizens finding out about her powers and ultimately fearing her, Elsa allows the castle gates to be open to the public which hasn’t been done in years. During Elsa’s coronation ceremony, Anna meets Prince Hans of Southern Isles. She immediately falls in love with him and they develop a quick romantic connection and in the spur of the moment, Hans proposes to her. When Elsa denies Anna her blessing for the two to marry, she unleashes her powers, causing Arendelle to engulf into an eternal winter.
Elsa flees Arendelle and during that time she acknowledges her powers and builds herself an ice palace where she can live her life in isolation without the fear of harming anyone else. Desperate to find her sister and to save Arendelle from an eternal winter, Anna sets off with an iceman named Kristoff, his reindeer and of course a snowman named Olaf to mend the relationship with her estranged sister and to save their kingdom.
Frozen is not only the perfect family movie because of the lovable characters, the colors and of course the songs, it is memorable because of the life lessons it teaches.
The first lesson that this movie teaches is the importance of family. For years, Anna and Elsa were estranged. Due to this separation, Anna longed for her sister’s company and due to the lost memories, she wanted to build that relationship even more. When Elsa fled Arendelle, Anna made it her mission to save her sister even if she had to go at it alone and she wouldn’t stop until she and her sister were reunited. Of course there are moments where families are going to disagree, but those disagreements shouldn’t severe the family dynamic.
Another lesson that I believe Frozen exhibited beautifully is the importance of being unapologetically yourself. Due to her magical powers, Elsa was considered an outcast and when people found out she was exiled from her kingdom and some threatened to have her killed.
This is why “Let it Go” is such a powerful song in the movie. Elsa realized that there was no point in hiding who she is and it is fine to not be like everyone else. Elsa is a representation of embracing uniqueness, because when you are comfortable in your own skin and continue to be yourself, the beauty within you will come out.
2. That’s So Raven
Now let's admit, many of us who were born in the late 1990s or early 2000s have seen at least a few episodes of “That’s so Raven.” I know for me, it was my guilty pleasure show.
The show follows Raven Baxter, played by Raven Symone who has a unique gift: she’s psychic. The show follows Raven as she navigates through her teenage years, pursuing her dream of becoming a fashion designer and how she uses her psychic abilities to help maneuver through some crazy scenarios.
Growing up, Raven was my role model. I loved her confidence, her sense of style and the morals and values she stood by. After rewatching the show, I realized that this show had many important lessons that it emulated in their episodes.
The episode that stands out most to me is one that aired during season three called “True Colors.” In this episode, Raven and Chelsea apply for a job at a clothing store. During the interview, Raven exhibited that she was very much qualified for the position, unlike Chelsea. However, Chelsea was offered the position and Raven was denied an offer.
Suspicious as to why she wasn’t selected for the position in spite of having the qualifications, Raven has a vision of the manager stating the reason why she didn’t hire Raven was because she didn’t hire black people. After learning of this clear example of racism and discrimination, Eddie, Raven and Chelsea make it their mission to expose the truth of how racism unfortunately still exists in modern society.
This is one of few television shows that chose to shed light on this controversial topic. While shedding light on the topic of racism, Corey had to write a report for Black History Month and deemed the assignment as boring. Later in the episode, Corey has a dream where he was introduced to many historical figures in Black History and this dream made him realize that African Americans have made a huge impact on United States history and it shouldn’t be forgotten.
1. The Proud Family
Many people ask me, “What is your favorite Disney show hands down?” and I immediately think of The Proud Family. The show follows Penny Proud, a 14-year-old African American girl as she navigates through her teen years. The show also follows Penny’s overprotective father Oscar, her loving mother Trudy, her twin siblings Bebe and Cece and her hardcore grandmother Suga Mama. Penny is a smart, confident and respectful young lady, but she is very prone to getting into trouble as a result of her friends. However, she can always count on her family to have her back. To me, The Proud Family is an underrated show. It talked about many hard hitting issues like racism, divorce, and homelessness. This show has had several episodes where they aimed to teach life lessons and these episodes to this day have a strong impact on me. For example, there is an episode in the second season called “Cultural Shock.” Remember, The Proud Family came out in 2001. September 15, 2001 to be exact. In this episode, Penny’s school is having a cultural heritage event where different families show off their heritage in the gymnasium. To further help the students learn about each other’s heritages, the teacher Ms. Hightower announces that the students will be placed with a different family for a week and to report about it when the assignment is complete. Penny is exchanged with Radika Zamin, a young girl from Pakistan. While Penny is with the Zamin family, she learns many aspects of their culture. For example, the Zamins celebrate Ramadan and fast for numerous days. Women are also required to wear a head scarf and unlike women in America, they don’t have the freedom to simply do whatever they want. A pivotal moment in the episode that is unforgettable is when the Zamins and the Prouds return to the Zamin home after dinner to find the Zamins’ house vandalized. On the house, the vandals wrote, “Go back to your country, America for Americans.” Now as a young girl looking at that episode, I wasn’t fully aware of how Muslim Americans were poorly treated post 9/11. However, when I recently rewatched this episode, it made me realize that families like the Zamins faced brutal hate, discrimination and even acts of violence. I was truly touched by this episode because it made me realize that regardless of the color of our skin or where we come from, we are all unique. No race or ethnicity is better than the other and we live in a democracy where everyone is created equal.
Joi Bass is an editorial writer who specializes in social justice, mental health advocacy, online safety and the well-being of our youth. You can follow her on Instagram.