Today (Nov. 12), the Walt Disney Company launched Disney+ at about 7 a.m. Eastern time, and within a half-hour, due to unanticipated demand, users were reporting problems signing in, logging in, and streaming programming. The massive entertainment conglomerate hopes this isn't a portent of things to come for its new streaming service, which includes the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic brands.
There's some original content, most notably Star Wars: The Mandalorian (review here), a new, live-action Star Wars spin-off series; NatGeo's The World According to Jeff Goldblum (review here), in which the Jurassic Park franchise star explores the surprising connections in the world around us; and High School Musical: The Musical -- The Series (review here), a spin-off of a Disney Channel property, in which a school stages the TV musical. Note: it features a guy cast in a formerly female role, and a character raised by same-sex parents -- part of Disney's ever-widening "progressive" streak.
There's even a Christmas movie, called Noelle, which is available today to stream. It stars Anna Kendrick as the title character, Santa's perpetually cheerful daughter (review here).
But the bulk of the offerings of Disney+ (homepage here) is legacy content, drawn from Disney's own proprietary and licensed properties -- like Pixar, Marvel, The Muppets, etc.-- and Disney Channel, along with content from its recent merger with 20th Century Fox.
Disney hasn't provided an exhaustive list of the offerings, but website Collider, bless them, has published a list of every movie and TV show it confirmed for the service as of today. Click here for that.
There are Marvel originals, Marvel comic-book movies and TV shows (both live-action and animated); Star Wars originals, all the movies and animated TV series; Pixar originals and shorts, and a massive movie list; all the seasons of Fox's The Simpsons; original Disney animated series, legacy animated series, and animated and live-action movies galore from the Mouse's vaults, including the entire Signature Collection. Basically, you can go from Bambi and Bedknobs and Broomsticks to Frozen 2 and Pete's Dragon.
Among other current and future Disney+ originals, aside from Noelle, is a live-action (kinda -- think like Babe, where real animals have animated talking mouths) remake of Lady and the Tramp; Diary of a Female President, produced by Gina Rodriguez; a series based on Love, Simon, a feature film about a gay teen boy; Muppets Now, where celebrity guests join the puppets; and a December film called Togo, an Alaskan adventure featuring a hero sled dog.
Toss in documentary and reality shows (some from NatGeo, part of the Fox acquisition), and you have enough stuff to put in your eyeballs for the next hundred years or so, even allowing for snack and bathroom breaks.
Not all of the content is going to be family-suitable, partly because not all of it is Disney-produced content, and even that has steadily been introducing "progressive" characters and story elements.
So, parents and caregivers are going to have to exercise the same discretion they do with any other streaming service. As for parental controls, here's what The Verge had to say on the subject:
Disney+ subscribers will be able to set up individual profiles for those they live with; parental controls will automatically be applied for child profiles. All Disney+ content will be available for offline download, and the company is promising 4K HDR presentation where applicable on TVs.
As for cost, Disney+ is 6.99 per month, after a 7-day free trial. If you wish to bundle together Hulu and ESPN+ with Disney+, that's $12.99 per month. This is the ad-supported version of Hulu, which costs $5.99 on its own. So, if you're paying $11.99 for the mostly-ad-free premium version of Hulu, switching might be letting ads back into your life. More info here at the Hulu Help Center.
Obviously Disney hopes to throw cold water on the roaring fire that is Netflix, which is comparable in price. New site Axios offered this analysis:
Our thought bubble: Disney is most competitive thanks to its content offerings and competitive pricing, costing less than Netflix and Amazon Prime — and its bundled service costs the same as Netflix's most popular subscription tier.
Disney+ is available on desktops, Android and Apple phones and tablets; smart TVs; through various set-top boxes (NOT your local cable box); and via other streaming devices, including Apple AirPlay, Chromecast and Amazon FireTV. More here.
We may be hitting an event horizon with streaming services, where the complexity and cost gets too great for some people to navigate. Disney has always been about fiercely protecting its brand and limiting access to content to maximize profit. Now owner of some of the most successful content libraries and franchises in entertainment history, it's aiming square at the family market, hoping to wean these users off the other services and keep them in the Disney corral.
For a while, you could get great movies and original shows on Neflix, and then watch your broadcast-network shows on Hulu. We may look back on that as the golden age of streaming simplicity. Disney is counting on its world-beating brand and vast libraries to draw users in and keep them there.
It's worked since Walt's time, and you'd probably be foolish to bet against the Mouse now.
Image: Screenshot of Disney+ interface
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.