Walt Disney Studios pumps out as many as 10 movies a year, and inevitably some of them are awful. They're hack jobs intended to make a quick buck before vanishing into oblivion - you all know Monsters, Inc. but I'd be impressed if you were familiar with Max Keeble's Big Move, which came out just a month earlier.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet and the fact that Disney executives would sell their own feces if they thought there was a market for them, these once-forgotten films are readily available online. Age hasn't been kind - they've gone from mediocre at best to laughably terrible. But what's bad for them is great for fans of unintentional comedy, so sit back and enjoy the awful.
7. The Million Dollar Duck
1971's The Million Dollar Duck somehow manages to make a story about a duck that lays golden eggs overwrought. The duck is a test subject of Disney veteran Dean Jones that escapes and wanders into a radiation lab. Because this is a movie, the duck gets a magical ability instead of tumors, but there's a catch - it can only lay an egg when a dog barks at it. I had a girlfriend like that once, but that's a story for another day. What's important is that this inane condition leads to what almost certainly has to be the low point of Jones' career: watch as he crawls on the ground and barks at an oblivious duck that's the most dignified actor in the scene.
He sounds like he's barking his way to an orgasm near the end, but even he's better off than Sandy Duncan, who's forced to play Jones' borderline mentally handicapped wife. Her applesauce recipe includes copious amounts of garlic (yes, that's relevant to the plot) and, during what passes for a high-stakes chase scene, worries that her husband will be "decaptivated." Get it? Because women are dumb!
"Jesus, I got nominated for a Tony award like a month ago. What the hell happened?"
When Jones' bureaucrat neighbor learns about the duck, he kicks off a government effort to seize it and stop the production of gold, which kind of makes this a horror movie to Ron Paul supporters. The rest of us learn a lesson about the dangers of greed and the importance of family, and the duck's powers just sort of wear off because conclusions are hard.
The Million Dollar Duck is infamous for being one of only three movies Gene Siskel walked out on, and considering the other two were a brutally violent slasher and a "comedy" starring David Spade, that's a pretty dubious honor. It's understandable, though - the 70s were a rough decade for Disney, and this was arguably the lowest point. It's got every bad family movie cliché, from the bumbling dad to the gee whiz! kid who loves animals. It's the perfect storm of stupid.
6. Monkeys, Go Home!
Dean Jones, God bless the poor bastard, has a long history of suffering though bad Disney comedies. In 1967 he starred in Monkeys, Go Home! as a young American who inherits a dilapidated French olive farm. Naturally he brings in four ex-spaceflight program monkeys to work for him, because it's supposedly cheaper than hiring people and apparently the French were still too busy recovering from the war to invent labor laws.
There's something strangely admirable about Jones' commitment to these awful roles. The man is a professional, dammit, and he's not going to let the fact that four of his co-stars spend their off-hours eating bugs they pick out of each other's fur keep him from delivering the best performance he can. That being said, there are moments when you see cracks in his facade.
"Well, it could be worse. It's not like I'm starring alongside a duck."
His sentient co-star is Yvette Mimieux, whose French accent would have set American-French relations back years if anyone actually remembered this movie for more than five minutes after seeing it. She teams up with a kindly local priest (the famous Maurice Chevalier slumming it in one of his final roles) to help Jones get the farm running again and win the trust of the local townsfolk, who are understandably ticked off about monkeys taking their jobs. There's also an unscrupulous property developer trying to steal the farm, because of course there is.
Watching Monkeys, Go Home! is like stepping back to a simpler era when men were men who worked with monkeys, women were eye candy and plot devices and everyone learned to love Americans who showed up out of nowhere and took away their livelihood. It's so innocent and wholesome and perfectly encapsulates the Disney of the '60s. Screwball plots! Cute animals! Very Important Lessons! It's a time capsule of terrible.
5. The Strongest Man in the World
You've probably heard of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, which stars a young Kurt Russell as a college student who gets shocked while fixing a computer and gains its abilities, because it was 1969 and nobody really knew how computers worked yet. What you may not know is that it was followed by two sequels - the terrible Now You See Him, Now You Don't, in which Kurt Russell invents an invisibility spray and in a stunning display of restraint doesn't immediately head to the woman's locker room, and 1975's The Strongest Man in the World. You get two guesses as to what the formula he invents in this one does.
You just witnessed Kurt Russell beating up a bunch of goons employed by a cereal company, because hired goons are apparently a thing cereal companies have. The fight choreography and editing is on par with a third rate Blaxploitation movie, and it ends with Russell using a bad guy to bowl down all his comrades, complete with actual bowling sound effects. Seeing whether someone cringes at that scene is a quick way to administer a Voight-Kampff test.
Like all good terrible movies, the villains are mustache twirlingly evil. The nefarious President of Krinkle Krunch starts his board meetings with a chant that would feel more at home in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
If you're wondering why a movie about Kurt Russell becoming the strongest person on the planet involves the political machinations of cereal companies, prepare to be underwhelmed. Russell's formula spilled into some cereal, making everyone think that the breakfast food was causing the superpowers. So Big Cereal tries to steal the secret from the underdogs in time for a weightlifting competition between Russell's college and State College, which presumably has a mean old dean and lots of snooty fraternities.
There's nothing quite like the high stakes drama offered by cereal-company sponsored weightlifting contests, which is why I'm currently penning a sequel featuring a new type of Cheerios that makes you incredibly virile. But when the big day comes and both teams start off by eating their respective cereals (just like they do in the Olympics), Russell's team starts getting their collective asses kicked. He realises that the strength was inside him all along, or at least inside the formula he made. So he chugs some down and demolishes the competition, winning the contest for his school and keeping the world safe from evil cereal executives for another day. That's right, Disney once taught kids that you should use drugs to cheat at sports.
4. The World's Greatest Athlete
Disney went through a brief period where they were all about telling the story of the world's somethingest something. Look for The World's Most Rotund Child and The Best Competitive Crocheter in the World in some future sequel to this article.
But in this movie, the Fresh Prince's girlfriend's father and Barnacle Boy are coaches of a college academic program so inept they could be beaten by a team of leprous orphans. Things seem hopeless until a plot coincidence takes them to Africa where they discover boy wonder Nanu, a young man so awesome that his opening scene features him outrunning a cheetah with the help of some glorious 1973 special effects.
I'm not sure if white boy Nanu being way better at everything than all the black Africans is racist, but since this movie is inspired by Tarzan we can let it slide. What is racist is the role of Nanu's witch doctor Godfather. Roscoe Lee Browne brings all the dignity he can to the role, but when you're walking around in feather dresses and casting spells on your co-stars it's hard to come across as respectable.
Anyway, the coaches bring Nanu back to Africa, where he's introduced to his tutor, Jane. Jane heroically agrees to rearrange her entire academic career so she can teach Nanu/continue undressing him with her eyes, because Disney's idea of feminism in the 70s was letting women talk.
Nanu's meteoric rise through the ranks of collegiate athletics annoys some people because otherwise the movie wouldn't have any villains, but it's hard to take the plot of a movie that features Browne shrinking Tim Conway down to the size of an ice cube seriously. In a climatic race, which Disney inexplicably chose to use as the entirety of the modern trailer, Nanu fights the establishment by starting from the standing position. This is enough to make Howard Cosell lose his shit.
We then get to see the entire race in slow motion, complete with tacky soundtrack. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will tell you to keep an eye out for Nanu's pet tiger in the crowd, because apparently you can bring apex predators to sporting events if they're dapper enough. Try it yourself!