What is Disney+?
Disney+ is a streaming video service owned by Disney. It’s similar to services like Netflix, Apple TV+, and Amazon Prime Video in that it is a video-on-demand service with a library of movies and TV shows that can be viewed at any time across a wide range of devices. It was originally announced in September 2017, and launched on November 12, 2019.
Currently available in the U.S., Canada, The Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, Disney+ will launch in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain on March 31, 2020.
Though it doesn’t have as many movies or television shows as Netflix, Disney+ is the exclusive streaming home of a significant chunk of Disney’s massive archive of content, and is the only place to see new material like the first-ever live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, as well as upcoming content from Marvel Studios.
A rocky start
As far as content is concerned, is Disney+ great? Technically? Not so much. On launch day, many users experienced problems connecting to the new streaming service. Even people who could get in reported broken images, categories that refused to load, and lots of problems actually getting Disney+’s shows and movies to play.
Those problems have been ironed out somewhat — with over 10 million sign-ups on launch day, a few problems were inevitable — but Disney+’s user interface still needs some work. As we noted in our review, Disney+’s search function is fundamentally broken. Quality-of-life features, like the ability to jump to the shows you’ve been watching directly from the front page, are missing.
That being said, it’s early days yet, and things seem to be getting better. Disney recently added a playback indicator to show how far into a TV show or movie you are to the Disney+ web interface, as well as a resume button to let you pick up where you left off. We’re hopeful that those features will arrive on other devices soon. It’s clear that Disney is devoted to fixing Disney+’s shortcomings. At the moment, however, the app is still underbaked.
Which devices does Disney+ support?
Disney+ is available on:
- Apple TV (tvOS)
- Google Chromecast
- Android TV
- PlayStation 4
- Xbox One
- Select Amazon Fire TV devices
- LG Smart TVs
- Samsung Smart TVs
If you’re an Apple device owner, or you have one of the many smart TVs and streaming devices that feature the Apple TV App, you can subscribe to (and watch) Disney+ within that all-in-one streaming interface. Disney+ also supports in-app purchases on Apple devices.
How much does Disney+ cost?
Disney+ costs $7 per month or $70 per year, and comes with a 7-day free trial. However, Disney+ isn’t Disney’s only streaming service. Following its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, Disney also controls Hulu, and it offers a sports-focused service called ESPN+. For $13, you can get a bundle that includes all three services, saving you $5 a month.
Programming is ad-free, although you’ll see some banner advertisements for Starz, the premium cable network, on the login page. Reportedly, Disney signed over the streaming rights for some of its movies (most notably Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens) to Starz a few years back and had to give Starz something in order to get those films on Disney+.
What does Disney+ include?
Disney+ currently hosts hundreds of Disney-related movies and television series. Classic animated features like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio are there, as is modern-day Disney Channel fare like Descendants, vintage live-action features including The Parent Trap and Old Yeller, forgotten oddities like the made-for-TV Fuzzbucket, a huge collection of ’90s Marvel cartoons, almost every Star Wars flick, Pixar movies, and much, much more.
The service currently includes most Marvel movies (16), as well. Most of the MCU entries that you can’t find on Disney+ (i.e., hits like Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War) will be unavailable until 2020 due to a licensing agreement with Netflix. Disney+ has all of the Star Wars movies except for Solo and The Last Jedi, which are similarly under lease to Netflix for a few more months.
All of the animated films previously locked away in the Disney “vault” can also be found on Disney+, with one exception: Song of the South, which Disney has buried since the ’80s due to its racially insensitive content. Some of Disney’s other animated features have also been edited (Dumbo is missing a racially insensitive scene, for example), and Disney+ is running advisories ahead of content that it believes could contain “outdated cultural depictions.”
Speaking of animation, Disney+ is now home to the entire Simpsons catalog. Currently, episodes are only available in a joke-killing widescreen format ,
Original series currently on Disney+ include The Mandalorian, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and a number of lighthearted reality shows and cartoons.
There’s a lot — too much to share here — so check out the complete list for all the details. If you have time, you can also check out the three-plus-hour trailer Disney put together, which previews pretty much everything on Disney+ (although it’s missing a few big hits, like Avengers: Endgame and James Cameron’s Avatar, that were added to Disney+ at the last minute).
What is on its way?
New Disney movies like Frozen 2, Toy Story 4, and Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker will appear on Disney+ sometime after their theatrical and home-video releases. Disney CEO Bob Iger says that Disney+ will eventually stream everything made under the Disney banner, although more mature movies released through Disney-owned Fox will be relegated to Hulu.
However, Disney+’s original productions are where things get exciting. In addition to The Mandalorian, Disney+ will host at least two more live-action Star Wars series: A Rogue One prequel in which Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk will reprise their roles from that film, and an Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope that features Ewan McGregor reprising his role from the prequel films. A seventh season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars will debut on Disney+ in January 2020.
Disney+ will also include seven live-action shows that tie directly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Falcon and Winter Soldier, Loki, WandaVision, and Hawkeye, big-screen stars like Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Hiddleston will reprise their MCU roles in shows that will directly affect Marvel’s big-screen adventures, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The next string of shows will introduce characters like Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and Moon Knight to the MCU before they appear in feature films. The Marvel series start rolling out in fall 2020, and will release through 2022 (at least).
Muppet fans have two new series to look forward to. The Jim Henson company will produce Earth to Ned, a half-hour talk show parody hosted by a blue alien, for Disney+, while Muppets Now, a “short-form unscripted series,” is scheduled for a 2020 release.
Disney is also digging into some of its back catalog to create new Disney+ shows and movies. A Hocus Pocus sequel is currently in preproduction at the streamer, with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy all rumored to return. Monsters at Work, a cartoon based on Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., was one of the first titles announced for Disney+, while Hillary Duff has agreed to appear in a Lizze McGuire revival. Certain Fox properties, including Home Alone, are slated for Disney+ remakes, while several unscripted series and original content from National Geographic are also in the works.
You can see the full list of upcoming original Disney+ series here.
Impressive video and audio quality
Disney+ offers select content in both Dolby Vision, Dolby’s dynamic version of HDR that offers evolving content to supported TVs squeeze the best contrast out of each scene, as well as Dolby Atmos, which provides an immersive, hemispheric soundstage for those with supported hardware.
While Dolby Vision is becoming more common, both Vision and Atmos are still rarities in streaming land, supported by only a few services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and only with select content. One of the most tantalizing aspects about Disney+’s 4K content — for Star Wars fans at least — is the availability of its Star Wars films, including the original trilogy (that is the ’90s special editions) in 4K with Dolby Vision and Atmos support. This makes Disney+ the only way to view these films in these formats.
For those wondering about family viewing, Disney+ offers four simultaneous streams at once on its service for its basic $7-per-month fee.
How big will it get?
On the first day of service, Disney confirmed that it had reached over 10 million subscribers. Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne has previously projected that Disney+ could have 13 million subscribers by the end of 2020, and 50 million subscribers across all of its online video services, which include Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. By 2024, the analyst projected that Disney+ could have more than 130 million subscribers.
That projection is considered a conservative one, as it has just 10% of broadband-ready homes subscribing to Disney+, as compared to the 25-30% that have Netflix subscriptions.
What it won’t include
In keeping with Disney’s family-friendly approach to programming, there won’t be any R-rated projects available on Disney+, either. Any movies or TV series that push the boundaries of Disney’s typical PG-13 audience will be diverted to Hulu, according to various reports. This includes titles like Marvel’s Deadpool.
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