My Favorite Episodes from my Top Ten Favorite Disney Shows

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I love a variety of Disney TV shows.  I would love to go into depth over each series, and I might at some point. In other cases, I want to dissect specific episodes, but I didn’t want to dedicate an entire blog to a single episode.  So why not dedicate a blog to a single episode of each of my favorite Disney shows? 

So this one’s pretty simple:  I picked my ten favorite Disney shows from Disney Channel, Toon Disney/Disney XD, ABC, and so on, and I plucked my favorite solitary episode from each one.  Some were obvious, others weren’t, but I finally put together a pretty good list of episodes that I’ll always be down to watch.

And uh, spoilers for these episodes.  I guess that’s still a thing?

10. Lilo and Stitch: The Series: “Rufus”

When I was in high school, I watched both Lilo and Stitch: the Series and Kim Possible as much as I could.  I loved Stitch and a friend loved Kim Possible mostly due to Shego, Drakken’s lackey.  I got in pretty deep myself, but I’ve found Kim Possible didn’t quite have the same impression on me as it once did as I grew older.  So going through the episodes, I remembered ones I liked, but none stood out to me…and then this one popped up.  And not even an actual KP episode, but from Lilo and Stitch: the Series.

During Lilo and Stitch: the Series‘ run, the show creators dove into a highly captivating idea: that some of the Disney shows were part of the same universe.  Unless you saw the Hercules: the Series episode where Herc and Aladdin teamed up to fight Jafar and Hades, this was practically unheard of in the pre-MCU days.  But the template of trying to come up with 624 experiments prior to Stitch with varying gimmicks of annoyance basically forced the show writers to come up with as many creatures as possible.  As a result, the gangs from Recess, American Dragon: Jake Long, The Proud Family, and Kim Possible all found themselves in Hawai’i and shenanigans ensued.

When Stitch gets kidnapped by Dr. Drakken, employed by Dr. Jacques von Hamsterviel, Lilo is determined to get him back.  But Pleakley has a better idea: contacting globetrotting teen and heroine Kim Possible to find the blue alien.  Kim and Lilo butt heads as Lilo is determined to find Stitch without Kim’s help.  Meanwhile, Jumba panics at seeing Ron’s pet naked mole rat Rufus, believing him to be the incredibly dangerous experiment 607, who can warp time and space.

I loved how these two shows are two completely different worlds. Possible is action/adventure with combat and high stakes, but Lilo and Stitch has always had a backyard aesthetic where the stakes were usually considerably lower.  Even both shows had completely different looks to them.  Really, this episode isn’t without its issues, but it’s a great time capsule of two of their most popular series from 2005.

9. The Legend of the The Three Caballeros: ” Mount Fuji Whiz!”

The Legend of the Three Caballeros was a delightful surprise.  In 2018, it popped up on the Phillipines’ Disney streaming service, and Disney fans in the west like me were seriously perturbed.  How in the world did this get a whole season produced and released without a single press release?  Despite stealing what glances I could off of YouTube, I eventually saw them proper when the series was released on Disney+, but I think it’s a pretty good bet it won’t be getting another season.  Which is a shame, because it’s very entertaining.  More impressively, it took a movie that had almost nothing that qualified it to have a spinoff and make a unique backstory and series of adventures.

In the previous episode, Donald, José, and Panchito die (!!!!!) and wind up in the Underworld.  While Xandra, April, May, and June do everything within their power to get them back, the trio struggle to find their way back to the surface world.  Soon, they come across Clinton Coot, Donald’s ancestor, who gives the Caballeros some much-needed explanation as to why they’re paired up in the first place.

First, I discussed in my review of the 1945 movie that the plot was not particularly conducive to lore.  It was just three random personalities clashed together in a movie that was part travelogue, part music video, part psychedelia, part educational, and part SpikeTV.  But from the first episode, we see that sure, Donald’s late great-grandfather left him an eclectic cabana full of mystical curios along with two other random strangers.  But the reason why had been a bit of a mystery until this episode.  Especially since throughout the show, the trio are called the Caballeros, but they aren’t the three Caballeros.

Second, the stakes are obviously higher here.  Like I pointed out, Donald and his friends are basically dead and their spirits are struggling to find their way back to the land of the living.  This is even one of the few episodes that forces the heroes to actually fight.  Their nemesis, Sheldgoose (Voiced to utter perfection by Wayne Knight), has pulled together all his ancestors to take them down.  And how do they fight back?  Well, the writers pulled a very pointless scene from the OG movie where Donald’s body warps like a balloon.  And with this, our heroes apply the same looney logic to inflate their hands to punch the bad guys.  That’s just…brilliant.

Plus, you got to love some of the other gags here: that the Underworld is basically a huge DMV, that Sheldgoose’s ancestors are basically all middle management, and the boss is…you know what, I’ve said too much already.

8. House of Mouse: “Ask Von Drake”

I was not kind to this show when I reviewed the Christmas movie last year and I still stand by the things I said.  House of Mouse was the epitome, the pure embodiment of “wasted potential”.  I’m sure the creators were given a criminally small budget, which forced them to reuse Mickey MouseWorks cartoons and the same bumpers over and over.  Still, what isn’t there to admire about a show that crammed nearly eighty years’ worth of Disney animation into one series?

In this episode, Donald’s eccentric uncle Ludwig von Drake helps Minnie with a question and Mickey, annoyed the answer was something he could have solved for her, issues a challenge to the professor.  Because Von Drake claims to know everything, Mickey wagers a penny that he doesn’t, in fact, know it all (Clearly Mickey isn’t a big gambler)  for the rest of the episode, Von Drake answers everyone’s questions: he tells Goofy to check his hat for his notepad, tells the queen who the fairest one of all is, and who is afraid the Big Bad Wolf.  You get the idea.

In the final section, Daisy’s computer glitches and loses the seating chart.  Thus, Mickey poses Von Drake one last question: “where does everyone sit?”  And he is up to the task.  He launches into “The Ludwig Von Drake song”, where he – like Yakko and his countries – lists a ton of animated Disney characters.  This episode makes the list for this segment alone. 

And yes, he does reference Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear.  So sue me.

7. Zorro: “The Sergeant Regrets”

I sadly don’t get to talk about Zorro nearly enough on this blog, and it’s a shame.  It was so good, much better than it had any reason to be for a show back in the late fifties.  Yes, most of the actors clearly are not Spanish, but darn if they don’t put forth every effort possible into it.  The stakes are real, the comedy is fun, and Zorro himself is basically Batman in a period setting.  Only instead of fighting psychos, he fights diabolical political corruption.  What isn’t there to love about that?!

Late in season one, Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro discovers that the reason so many corrupt politicians have moved into Pueblo de Los Angeles is because it’s a plot by a man who calls himself the Eagle, and he wants to instill puppet governments throughout California.  After Zorro has wrecked so many of his plans, he makes a surprise arrival at Los Angeles, moving into the wealthiest hacienda to keep a close eye on things…the hacienda owned by Don Diego’s father, Don Alejandro.  Virtually under house arrest, Diego has to find some way to foil the Eagle without arousing suspicion.

When the Eagle gets wind that some of the local dons might instigate an uprising, he is determined to find out whom they might be.  He deceives a local péon to tell the local dons about a secret meeting, setting a trap.  Diego asks his friend, Sargeant Garcia, to deliver a super secret, super important note to the péon in an effort to thwart the scheme.  Sadly, the Sargeant gets distracted by two of his greatest nemeses – Corporal Reyes and food – and he fails to deliver the message.

I normally dislike the underuse and non-use of actors of color in shows like these as Guy Williams (Diego) was Italian and Henry Calvin (Garcia) was clearly not Spanish in any way.  But I like these characters so much.  Garcia is a sort of Sheriff of Nottingham sort, the second-worst nemesis of Zorro as the primary lawkeeper in the pueblo, long desiring to capture Zorro, collect the reward, and retiring comfortably.  But despite this, Diego understands Garcia is really a teddy bear, who cannot order around citizens without a soft-eyed “please?” after every command.  Because Sargeant Garcia is a bit slow on the uptake, a kind man, and he enjoys a glass of wine, Diego befriends him and often loosens his tongue for information and the political machinations going on, with the help of another glass of wine, of course.

Yes, Garcia, is often the butt of fat jokes and is kind of a buffoon, but he’s still a sweetheart who earnestly means well.  So when he ashamedly confesses about forgetting the message, Diego is enraged and rightfully so, but you still feel for the poor sargeant.  I know I’ve been there too many times to count myself.

What makes this episode shine, though, is also knowing despite his prominent rank in the army, Garcia is a coward who will lead his soldiers into battle, but almost never engage himself.  When the Eagle’s plan starts to unravel, and Garcia starts to understand the ramifications of his actions, he willingly steps forward, risking physical harm and his career to make up for his egregious error.  For 35 episodes, we watched Garcia mocked, humiliated, called “Baboso”, and fail time and again, and in one shining moment, we see this man’s integrity and commitment to disappointing his closest friend.

6. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: “Along Came a Spider”

I’m just going to come out and say it: I really don’t care for Spider-Man.  It’s nothing against anyone or anything, it’s just aside from his powers and skill set that barely interest me, the whole angsty, constantly down on his luck aspect just frustrates me.  I get the relatability, but if superheroes are escapism, I’d prefer my heroes that have their crap together.  Perfect example, someone like one whose shield whose opponents must yield, if you get what I’m saying.

In the finale of the first season, Captain America gets abducted and replaced by a Skrull (the shape-shifters from Captain Marvel, back when they were the bad guys).  For a significant chunk of season two, the Avengers break up, effectively nullifying their effectiveness to the Skrull’s secret invasion.  When they finally break all pretense and invade proper, Skrull Cap goes on live TV internationally and tells the world the Skrulls must be welcomed to help humanity.  Needless to say, the Avengers get it together and stop the invasion cold, complete with a freshly-returned-to-Earth Steve Rogers taking out his imposter.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  “Along Came a Spider” is the fallout of the events I just described.

Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson has been running a smear campaign against Captain America (and if Jameson isn’t printing slanderous stories about masked vigilantes, he obviously would be a Skrull), stoking public opinion that Cap sold out the human race to aliens.  He demands at Tony Stark’s behest to allow his photographer Peter Parker to tag along with Cap on a prison transport run for a band of dangerous supervillains, the Serpent Society.  During the errand, the trucks get stuck underground, and Cap, Peter, a wounded S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a small group of people who hate Cap all have to work together to get out. And worse, the Serpent Society members have escaped.

We know Cap was wronged and he has every reason to defend himself, but he instead stays stone-faced and stoic, only declaring that he takes full responsibility for his actions.  Even when one of the citizens openly argues against Cap, the superhero wastes no breath in his own defense and simply informs everyone what they have to do to get out safely.  At a key point, Spider-Man asks Cap why he doesn’t bother standing up for himself, and Cap gives a surprising answer.  He reminds Spidey how he watches Jameson smear Parker on a daily basis, and despite the bad press, Peter never asks for recognition or reward.  Cap simply explains how it’s important to just keep doing the right thing and let his actions define him to others, knowing that the truth will come out eventually.  When Cap finishes, Peter squeaks out an awestruck response, “Can I be your sidekick?”  Honestly, it’s a beautiful monologue.

This is why I prefer heroes like Captain America and Superman.  I like my heroes to be the kind of people that can inspire others to be better.  The ones that have power and choose to not wield it at others in an aggressive, vindictive, or even petty way.  I almost put the episode “Prisoner of War” on here because it similarly focuses on the absolute awesomeness, wholesomeness, and derring-do-ness of Cap, but this one squeaked by just barely for Cap’s attitude concerning the righteousness of actions.  It’s inspiring.

5. Scrubs: “My Lunch”

Scrubs is not often considered a Disney show.  It was produced by Disney’s subsidiary Touchstone and ran on NBC from seasons one to six.  Its last three seasons (And arguably their very worst ones) switched over to ABC, so as far as I’m concerned, it counts.

In this episode, J.D. is desperate to have lunch with his mentor, Dr. Cox, and this endeavor gets him stuck with an obnoxious ex-patient named Jill.  The next time he sees her, she’s in the ICU and she dies.  The last time she was in the hospital was because she almost committed suicide and J.D. knew she was having new issues lately, so he blames himself for her death.  Cox finally invites J.D. to lunch and he has an earnest heart-to-heart about doctors who blame themselves for deaths that aren’t their fault, and how he won’t let that ruin him like it ruined a lot of other good doctors.  When they return to the hospital, the three patients who received Jill’s organs are tanking.  Turned out Jill didn’t commit suicide, alleviating J.D.’s stress, but contracted rabies, and her organs were infected.  One of these patients was one of the very few human beings to ever connect with Dr. Cox, which leads to him descending down into the very same spiral he warned J.D. about.

John C. McGinley’s performance here is (Chef’s kiss) perfect here.  For over four seasons, the grouchy misanthrope has berated and insulted everyone around him, particularly J.D..  Even his relationship with his wife Jordan is strained beyond measure.  The patient Dr. Cox connects with is astoundingly unusual, while his constant rebuffs on J.D.’s lunch invites are perfectly in character.  So when he opens himself up to J.D. and asks him out to lunch, you feel just how serious he is about the topic.

But man, that finale…I think some might find the use of The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” a bit on the nose, but this was my introduction to the song. Seeing Dr. Cox lose those two patients is hard enough, but it gets me every time watching him struggle with his friend, trying to get his heart going again…the song crescendos, Dr. Cox overthrows a table and starts screaming in anger…it’s gut-wrenching. It’s beautiful. It’s profound. And I couldn’t love it more if I wanted to.

The only reason this episode didn’t make it higher on the list was because of the episode’s B-plot. Amid J.D. and Cox’s emotional strife is a cringeworthy plotline where Carla and Elliott think dude-bro Todd is secretly gay and want to make him their gay best friend, an endeavor that is just as uncomfortable as it sounds. On the other hand…I think they alluded to Todd being possibly pansexual, so…props for representation? Still, when Todd is shown ogling a handsome guy, Turk’s reaction shows you EXACTLY when this episode aired.

4. Phineas and Ferb: “Roller Coaster: The Musical!”

Most Disney shows run on a simple formula where most episodes are pretty cut-and-paste. You know Kim Possible’s going to save the world in between classes. You know Darkwing Duck’s going to solve a crime and stop a villain. You know the kids from Recess will deal with the complex social systems on the school playground. But instead of bucking the trend, Phineas and Ferb leaned into it. Every episode was almost completely repetitive, but even in the times where they were reusing story elements, they did the unthinkable, and leaned in even harder.

In the show’s inaugural episode, the boys built a roller coaster, and Doofenshmirtz covered Danville in foil to reverse the rotation of the Earth. Toward the end of season two, Phineas suggests that they do the exact same thing…but make it a musical! So everyone – Candace, Isabella, Buford, Baljeet, Perry, Doofenshmirtz, and all the rest – do their own showstopper musical numbers. The songs of Phineas and Ferb were already insanely fun (“Gitchee Gitchee Goo”, anyone?), and the same energy is maintained in all six songs.

Of course, everyone keeps making the remark that they’ve done all this before, but don’t seem to mind that much. It even gave the writers a chance to embellish some gags from their first go-around. We actually see Candace take up her mom’s offer to yell at some cheese, and Buford stops some “lousy extras” when they take the poster advertising the roller coaster.

What’s even better is it truly showcases just how absurdly passionate the writers were about the show. Among other things I love are during Phineas’ “Hey Ferb”, there’s a montage of classic musicals: Cats, The Music Man, Singin’ in the Rain, Les Miserables, and more. During the final song, “Carpe Diem”, we get a surprise cameo from High School Musical director and choreographer Kenny Ortega as himself. During the last half of the same song, we get a glorious nod to virtually episode up to that point. And also in the same song, I often use as an example to show others just how smart the show was. Seriously, when was the last time you heard even an adult use the word “didactic”, much less as a song lyric?

Honestly, words fail me. It was just that good.

3. Dinosaurs: “Variations of a Theme Park”

I already did a top ten list of my favorite Dinosaurs episodes, but the reason I did not include this one was because unlike the others, the social commentary wasn’t as poignant. I wanted to delve deep into all the ones that had deep, significant things to say, particularly about society, the environment, and politics. But then this former WDW cast member found this episode and…whoof.

Dinosaurs have been dropping dead from exhaustion a lot lately, and the government has at long last devised the concept of a two week vacation. Fran, distressed that the family doesn’t spend time together lately, suggests they use their vacation by going to the swamp cabins. Earl, however, gets persuaded by his boss to instead take the family to the brand-new theme park, Wesaysoland. Upon arrival, the Sinclairs soon find the park isn’t the magical land of enchantment they were sold.

I’ve seen FAR too many shows that take cheap potshots at the Disney theme park machine and mock the long lines, the crazy prices, vindictive employees, and the disgruntled teenagers dressed as mascots. But the thing is, it’s like laughing at superheroes for wearing tights. Yeah, it’s funny, but unless you bring something new to the table, it’s barely more than a flaccid effort.

Like, did you notice the park layout bears an uncanny resemblance to Epcot, complete with the monorail track?

Did you see their hotel room is overly themed to the point of obnoxiousness? Hey, remember those 24-hour channels in the hotels that are just shameless ads for the park and their services? Boom. Earl works for Wesayso…so he gets a 1% employee discount and gets cheated by using fake park currency! And of course, not only do they not get a refund, but they are literally barred from exiting so they are forced to spend money for two whole weeks!

Having been part of a conglomerate-controlled magical world of make-believe, I laugh/weep at these jokes.  While I disagree with the stereotype that employees are grumpy, unfocused, or lazy, I definitely have had those days where I’m barely able to stand on my feet and deliver the quality guest service I was charged with.  But even without that perspective, the episode still works: great lesson, great jokes, and great commentary.  Yet another wonderful entry in this show that doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

2. DuckTales: “The Duck Knight Returns!”

Some are probably shocked that I put a Darkwing Duck-focused episode from the DuckTales reboot on here, but it’s not the hour-long awesomeness that was 2020’s “Let’s Get Dangerous!”  It was an incredible episode, to be sure.  I loved every minute of it.  But let’s be real: that episode would not have existed had show creators Matt Youngberg and Fransisco Angones not put in the legwork to get it to that point.  In the end, good as it is, it’s basically a Darkwing Duck episode with cameos from Scrooge and his nephews. 

By the time this episode begins, it’s established that Darkwing Duck is a corny, vintage series like Adam West’s Batman.  Launchpad is the show’s number one fan in its rather small fanbase, and the show’s star, Jim Starling (Voiced by OG Darkwing actor Jim Cummings) has become a has-been coasting on his past success.  When he, Launchpad, and Dewey catch wind that a Darkwing Duck movie is in the works, Starling has no doubt he’s back on top…except the director (Played by Shaun of the Dead‘s director, Edgar Wright) has hired a much younger actor in his stead.  Ever the egotist, Starling will do anything to get rid of his replacement.  Launchpad agrees to help his idol, primarily because he feels he needs to preserve the integrity of his obsession.

There’s a lot more to this episode, really.  For one thing, the film is being made by Scrooge McDuck Studios (Because of course it is) and its logo is a parody of Walt Disney Animation Studios.  The DW movie is clearly meant to parody Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, right down to a suspiciously Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon-looking character and Megavolt made to look like Bane.  Darkwing Duck’s creator, Tad Stones, even cameos as a security guard.  A short flashback sequence for the actor was drawn by Mike Peraza, who worked as a art director and layout artist for the OG DuckTales and a concept designer for Darkwing Duck.

But here’s the biggest thrill I find with the episode: the original DuckTales and Darkwing Duck were bizarrely  canonically at odds with each other.  If Launchpad was Scrooge’s on-call pilot, how could he also be Drake Mallard’s live-in sidekick?  And add on how to transition fans from Cumming’s Darkwing to a new actor, with the narrative of duality permeating the episode.  What they wrote in was this plotline of a vindictive actor, unable to accept that his time was over, and we see the rise of a more earnest DW, eventually seeing the origins for his greatest nemesis, a treat we nineties kids never even got from the original show.

1. Gargoyles: “Deadly Force”

My passion for Song of the South notwithstanding, I’m a pretty liberal dude.  Among my top beliefs, I’m a solid proponent of gun control.  I hate the things.  I think I get why some people feel they need them, but in the end, if I could live in a world without firearms, I’d be the first to sign up.  But fine.  Let’s assume we live in a world where people need guns.  Thank Ambiguous Deity we have episodes like this one.

After getting hyped up from watching a gun-happy spaghetti western, Broadway flies over to Elisa’s apartment.  He plays around with her NYPD-issued firearm when it goes off and…

Yeah.

Broadway rushes her to the hospital, but her condition is touch and go.  Elisa’s captain, her family, and Goliath are all convinced she was shot by Tony Dracon, a scumbag arms dealer who frequently stays one step out of the law’s reach and is the perpetual thorn in Elisa’s side.  While Dracon regales over her injury, Goliath is on the prowl, and Broadway is wracked with guilt over potentially killing a close friend.

What I find particularly inspiring about this episode is addresses the primary issue with guns in a way both sides of the aisle can agree.  Not in a hacky, weak-willed, nonpartisan, both-sidesy way, but with a legitimate direction where kids can draw their own conclusions.  This episode further cemented my perspective that guns, outside of John Wick-type movies, were stupidly dangerous machines that made killing people super easy.  For gun advocates, however, it had a similar lesson – that guns are dangerous – but added that that’s why it’s so important to exercise care when storing firearms.  Elisa hung her loaded gun in the holster on her coat rack, which made it easy for Broadway to find.  At the end of the episode, when Broadway takes accountability for his accident, Elisa admits fault for not being more careful.  I hardly think responsible gun owners would object to this perspective.

I respect this episode because it is bold as heck.  I mean, consider this:  Gargoyles was by far Disney’s most mature show, rivaling Batman: The Animated series, with also-rans like Darkwing Duck considerably less so.  This was also the nineties when hot-button issues were generally avoided in favor of accessibility, unless you count those “Very Special Episodes” from prime time sitcoms that denounced drugs, meant to get the whole family talking about Just Saying No.  But guns?  No, we were still in the “violence shouldn’t be in our children’s media!” age of kid’s programming where bad guys could only use lasers (Which, ironically, Gargoyles also followed: only the police used real firearms).  And also of note: this was only episode eight of the series, and that includes the five-part pilot.  In other words, right out of the starting gate, Gargoyles jumped right into a gun PSA.  How nuts is that?

But far and away, the number one thing I respect about this episode isn’t even in it.  And it boils down to one word: consequences.

Most shows in the nineties had the “blank slate” format: at the end of each episode, the status quo would revert everything back to square one, allowing episodes in syndication to air out of order and wouldn’t alienate the audience.  However, Gargoyles was a trailblazer in children’s programming in that they weren’t afraid to build on past episodes to establish continuity.  So when Broadway shot Elisa, most kid’s shows would have had Elisa show up next week completely fine.  But instead, in the following episode, “Enter MacBeth”, Elisa appears on crutches.  There was no awkward exposition, just a quick recap. Sure, by her next appearance, she was fine, but even that short time onscreen was more than what most other cartoons would have allowed at the time. Broadway soon developed a deep hatred for firearms, which wasn’t all that highlighted afterward. But then came season two, episode six: “The Silver Falcon”.

Image from Gargoyles TV

Elisa is shown explicitly taking her gun out of a locked box from a kitchen drawer while glancing at Broadway. After eleven episodes, long after most kids would have forgotten anything that wasn’t the fight scenes or a few witty lines, the writers showed Elisa taking great pains to show the audience she learned a valuable lesson about proper firearm storage. And it “only” took a bullet to the spinal cord.

I back the blue, all right…the blue-haired cop who denounces xenophobia and promotes responsible gun ownership.

**************************************

And that pretty much sums it up. What are YOUR favorite episodes? What shows deserve more credit? Let me know what I’m missing!

And no, I’m not going to start watching The Mandolorian. So stop it with the Baby Yoda memes already.

Author: TAP-G

Writer, former podcaster, entertainment enthusiast. Movies and media have the power to shape our world and vice versa. Let’s take a deeper look at them.

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