Disney Plus: Our first look at Disney’s impressive new $7 streamer

Disney’s new streaming service, Disney Plus, is on its way this fall, and the company that owns Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and (seemingly) all of your other favorite franchises dropped a ton of information about the program during an investor’s call on April 11. In short: Disney Plus costs $7 a month, it launches November 12, 2019, and it’s full of stuff that you’re going to want to see. Disney also mentioned the possibility to bundle Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus, though the company did not confirm the move or talk pricing.

Here’s everything else that we learned in our first look at Disney’s sterling new Netflix competitor, Disney Plus.

Design and features

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Like other streaming services, Disney Plus will be available on smart TVs, set-top multimedia boxes, tablets, smartphones, and web browsers, and if you’ve used services like Netflix or Hulu, the Disney Plus app should look very familiar. The company claims its service will be available across a vast number of services, but only touted a few partners thus far (more on that below).

At the top of the Disney Plus home screen, Disney Plus will highlight new releases and special content it wants you to watch — a nod to your Netflix screen that certainly won’t be the last. Underneath that, brand-specific tiles will let you explore Disney Plus’ lineup by franchise, allowing you to jump quickly between Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic, and traditional Disney content. You’ll also be able to create unique Disney Plus profiles for each member of your family, which will allow the app to recommend titles based on your personal tastes as well as implement parental controls for younger viewers. The profiles will include the ability for parental blocking, though the speakers weren’t specific about how many profiles you can create.

For the most part, Disney Plus will look the same across all devices, although there are minor differences across the four different iterations editions. On television sets, for example, the branded tiles have unique animations (the Star Wars ones look particularly cool), while they’ll be static, blue buttons on mobile devices. We saw versions of the TV home screen, the tablet home screen, and mobile devices. Keep in mind that the app we saw today is just a prototype, however. Things might look different once Disney Plus launches.

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Disney Plus tablet prototype

One big feature that Disney highlighted during its presentation is the ability to download and watch all Disney Plus content onto your mobile devices and watch it offline for as long as you’re a Disney Plus subscriber. In addition, Disney confirmed that Disney Plus will stream 4K and HDR video.

Content

Disney claims that by the end of Disney Plus’ first year, the service will host an impressive catalog, including 7,500 television shows, 500 movies — including 100 “recent” movies and 400 “library” titles — and 25 original series across its multiple properties. By year five, Disney Plus is expected to have as many as 50 original series, 10,000 past TV episodes, and 120 recent films.

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In what was probably the biggest announcement of the afternoon, Disney Plus will host all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, which Disney recently acquired as part of its 21st Century Fox purchase, which should be another major incentive for new subscribers. Other, family-friendly Fox programs will also be part of the Disney Plus line-up, while less family-friendly fare is expected to head to Hulu (60 percent of which is owned by Disney).

A large portion of Disney’s animated feature films will also be available on Disney Plus, with many showing up at launch, including previously vaulted titles like 101 Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, and Snow White. The studio’s entire 2019 film slate, which includes Captain Marvel, The Avengers: Endgame, Frozen 2, and Toy Story 4, will be exclusive to the service and will appear on Disney Plus as soon as their exclusive pay-TV windows end.

All of the Star Wars flicks will also be on the service by the end of the first year, too, although Solo and Episodes 7 through 9 won’t be there on opening day.

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Similarly, eighteen Pixar movies will be on Disney Plus at launch as will all of the studio’s animated shorts, while the remaining three films will hit the service a little bit later. Disney Plus will also be home to Pixar spin-offs, including some Toy Story 4 shorts and an ongoing Monsters Inc. series.

Disney didn’t announce any new Star Wars or Marvel projects during its Disney Plus presentation, although it did give investors a sneak peek at John Favreau’s Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, as well as talking about the Diego Luna-starring Cassian Andor spinoff, as well as previous rumors of Alan Tudyk returning as K-2SO. 

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On the superhero side of things, the Scarlet Witch and Vision series got a name — WandaVision — as did Falcon and Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige also said that the upcoming Loki series will feature Tom Hiddleston on-screen (shooting down rumors that his role would be voice-over only). The rumored Hawkeye spin-off wasn’t mentioned.

Feige also promised that, unlike Marvel’s previous television projects like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Netflix’s Defenders series, Marvel’s Disney Plus shows will be core parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and will have direct effects on the feature films. There will also be some behind-the-scenes documentaries, like the previously reported Marvel 616 and Marvel Heroes Project shows.

Disney Plus will also have over 250 hours of National Geographic content available on day one, and is working on two new shows: Magic of the Animal Kingdom and The World According to Jeff Goldblum, in which the actor will explore various topics in a lighthearted documentary format. Rounding out the Disney Plus selection will be an archive of Disney Channel original programming, including old favorites like Hannah Montana, and live-action kids films and shows like High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

Devices

Disney has already secured deals to get the Disney Plus app on the PlayStation 4 and on Roku devices, but the company hopes to have the app running in all of the usual places at launch or shortly thereafter, from smart TVs to mobile devices.

During its big Disney Plus presentation, Disney showed a slide featuring all of the current generation video game consoles (including the Nintendo Switch), as well as streaming devices like the Apple TV, the Google Chromecast, the Amazon Fire TV line, and so on. That doesn’t mean that Disney Plus will be available on all of those devices right away (although Disney seems confident that most of them will be covered), but it does show that Disney is casting its net as wide as it can.

Availability

Disney Plus will launch in North America on November 12, 2019, while western Europe and the Asia-Pacific market will get it in Disney’s second 2020 financial quarter. Disney expects the service to arrive in all major markets sometime in the next two years. The service will cost $7 a month (or $70 for an annual package). The company is considering a special bundle that will combine all of three of Disney’s streaming services — Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Disney Plus — into a single package.

Thanks to various international deals, not all of the Disney Plus content will be available in all regions right away, although Disney claims that the line-up should be complete worldwide within the next four years. The company is also waiting to launch Disney Plus in certain markets until it can strike deals with its various partners around the world, and will team up with various rights holders as the situation dictates.

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