It seems like it’s easy to keep track of what movies are and aren’t Disney films. After all, Disney relentlessly promotes its vast library of titles, especially in the age of Disney+, and most of the company’s titles promote happy endings and feel-good entertainment. Even the youngest viewers know the quintessential ambiance drummed up by a conventional Disney project. However, the catalog of films Disney has released includes a variety of unexpected movies, many of them hailing from the company’s Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures labels, which were aimed at delivering adult-oriented films.
While Touchstone and Hollywood have gone the way of the dodo, their films remain a part of the Disney library. A handful of them, such as "Three Men and a Baby" and "Turner & Hooch," remain prominent parts of the modern Disney brand image. The vast majority of these films, though, have had their connection to Disney wildly downplayed. This leaves a treasure trove of surprising titles to be unearthed within the vast Disney filmography.
One note before going forward, this article does not include 20th Century Studios or Searchlight Pictures titles, which Disney acquired in 2019 but the majority of which were not initially released by the Mouse House. This piece also excludes Miramax titles, which Disney did distribute from 1994 to 2010. But after selling them off in 2010, films like "Shakespeare in Love" are no longer in the studio’s library of titles.
Wild Hogs burned rubber outside of Disney norms
In the 2007 comedy "Wild Hogs," some of the comedic antics that the four middle-aged protagonists get into include blowing up a biker bar, an encounter with a male cop yearning for same-sex intimacy, and accidentally looking at pornography in a coffee shop. This is not exactly the kind of behavior that you’d expect from the studio that brought you "Cinderella." But "Wild Hogs" is indeed a Disney movie, courtesy of its Touchstone Pictures division. In fact, "Wild Hogs" was par for the course in terms of what kind of comedies this Disney label produced during the first decade of the 21st century.
Many Touchstone comedies in this era centered on older comedic actors navigating strange scenarios that they would seemingly be too old for. Other notable examples of this trend included "Bringing Down the House" and "Calendar Girls." Whether intentional or not, the emphasis on these kinds of stories helped separate Touchstone titles from mainstream Walt Disney Pictures fare, which skewed significantly younger. "Wild Hogs" stands out as a strange anomaly viewed through the lens of Disney of 2021, which is defined by "The Mandalorian" and "Avengers: Endgame." In 2007, however, "Wild Hogs" was a typical release from Disney’s adult-skewing side.
Tim Burton’s masterpiece Ed Wood was released by Disney
Tim Burton got his start in the film industry working for Disney Animation on projects like "The Fox and the Hound" as well as his own short films like "Vincent." Though he would eventually leave the Mouse House to direct his own feature-length projects, Burton would return to Disney regularly in the years to come to direct various high-profile feature films like "Dumbo" and "Alice in Wonderland." But less well-known among those collaborations, however, is the 1994 Burton directorial effort "Ed Wood."
Released through Touchstone Pictures, this project was actually Burton’s first feature film for Disney, although it wasn’t initially intended to be released there. Columbia Pictures was the first studio where Burton set up "Ed Wood," but concerns over its commercial viability and budget led to the studio letting go of Burton’s passion project. Luckily, Touchstone was around to save the day and brought Burton back home after years of him doing features for rival studios like Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox. Though "Ed Wood" wasn’t a moneymaker at the box office, it remains one of Burton’s most acclaimed films as well as one of the best things to come from Disney and Burton working together.