Disney Plus is the future of streaming services, for better and for worse. Instead of major content living on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video as it once was, the future of streaming is that each media conglomerate launches its own streaming service, featuring its own material.
This means that people have to spend more to get everything they want, a situation that will not improve with future HBO Max and Peacock launches, but it also translates into deeper content catalogs and offers more specialized. Disney Plus sums it up, with decades of obscure material you wouldn't find on Netflix or Amazon Prime, as well as classic movies you wouldn't see available elsewhere.
Disney Plus launched six months ago in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands on November 12, 2019. It launched a week later in Australia and New Zealand, with a release in the United Kingdom. in March 2020.
If you like Disney, Marvel and Star Wars, this is definitely the service to get, and that hasn't changed. Its basic film offering is still green (who didn't want to watch Something Relating to Star Wars on May 4?), And the price is reasonable for what you get compared to its competitors, especially with the generous help of the 4K HDR movies available.
Six months later, this archive is still the main reason for getting Disney Plus. If you are an older user without children, you might find the service less attractive than Netflix or Amazon Prime. Family orientation, however, means that it is the ideal service for children's viewing habits: that is, watching the same movies over and over, until the songs of Frozen or Moana are breakthroughs in your brain. At this level, the archive does its job.
The originals, however, are the obvious area where Disney Plus could use the growth. There are also gaps in the library, especially in the United States, where some prominent films like the live versions of Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book are still tied to existing agreements with other points of sale. While Disney's most obvious children's cartoons are also taken into account, like DuckTales or Recess, it would be cool to see more obscure and friendly 90s prizes like Lloyd in Space or The Weekenders.
Another problem was the Simpsons' continued lack of a 4: 3 aspect ratio option, with previous episodes (so the vast majority of good ones) appeared on the image to achieve an aspect ratio of 16 : 9. This should be fixed by the end of May 2020, but has now been a problem for six months, suggesting that Disney is not so quick to implement changes to its application.
Yet movies are Disney Plus' calling card, and that hasn't changed in the past few months. In fact, the acceleration of the release of films on the platform helped the service to remain vital at a time when everyone broadcast much more at home.
How the pandemic has affected Disney Plus
The only factor in the first six months of Disney Plus that was not expected, of course, is the global health pandemic. This has shaped several important service decisions. Pixar's Onward, a movie that lost millions of dollars at the end of its brief theatrical release, ended up being an extremely compelling reason to sign up (British viewers, however, have yet to wait).
It was also a smart decision by Disney to push forward the streaming release dates for Frozen 2 and The Rise of Skywalker. On a similar note, Disney's efforts to make a big event on May 4 Star Wars day were also enjoyable, as the list pages for each film were redesigned with original designs to mark the occasion. It's the kind of contact that gives the impression that the service the destination for fans of these fictional universes.
More recently, Disney made a huge move by abandoning its intention to release the original Broadway recording from the musical. Hamilton in theaters in 2021, rather deciding to release it on Disney Plus in July. It was a great decision – and it will open the musical to a much larger audience. Obviously, you still have to pay for Disney Plus and have a device to stream it, but that dramatically lowers the class and geographic barriers that would keep people from seeing Hamilton live.
Maybe it wasn't always the plan for the first six months of Disney Plus, but it continued to give people reasons to be passionate about the service. The worldwide number of Disney Plus subscribers was 54.5 million in early May 2020 – and its target was 60 to 90 million in the first five years, which indicates a good start. Retention is the challenge for the coming months, especially when annual subscriptions start to run out in November. But hey, it's Disney's problem, not yours.
The best Disney Plus deals today
And the originals?
The easiest stone to throw at Disney Plus in the first six months is its lack of highly publicized original content. The Star Wars The Mandalorian television series ended in December in the United States, and it's still the service's most compelling original offering. Other big hits include the live action movie Lady and the Tramp, which arrived at launch, the fantastic documentary series The Imagineering Story, and the final season of The Clone Wars.
Disney has in fact rolled out many original shows alongside its Star Wars titles, as well as valuable National Geographic content like the movie Elephant. Did you watch Shop Class, a competition show hosted by Justin Long, with the same enthusiasm you saw The Mandalorian? Probably not, but the service is intended for a wide audience. The original recipients of Diary of a Future President and High School Musical: The Series are intended for pre-teens, traditionally the responsibility of the Disney Channel.
We have the feeling that The Mandalorian is doing a little too much work in terms of the originals, especially since its most convincing offer at the moment is a (large) documentary series on the making of the show. But, as the service rolls out in Japan in June, more Europe in September, then Latin America in late 2020, this Star Wars TV show is still a compelling incentive to sign up, even if another major original live would have been ideal for this first semester 2020.
What happens next?
With the rest of the world, Disney was unlucky in the schedule for Covid-19, which suspended production of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier just weeks from its scheduled end date. WandaVision, we learned, finished filming in early March.
In a timeline where Covid did not perform, Disney would have two live MCU series and another season of The Mandalorian in the last four months of this year. So far, Disney has only confirmed that it will reach its previously announced release date.
That would pretty much guarantee Disney Plus a series of successes in a row. Yet the enthusiasm for The Mandalorian must have exceeded even Disney's expectations, as Baby Yoda has taken over social media – and another season of this year is rumored to star Boba Fett and Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars will likely capture imaginations in the same way.
In addition, Disney has reconfigured its schedule to make the next Artemis Fowl film an original service offering. In our opinion, the trailer for this film – an adaptation of a series of popular books on an early brain – makes a bad first impression, although it is directed by the reliable Kenneth Branagh. It's streaming on June 12.
It's also very likely that Disney Plus will add season 31 of The Simpsons when it airs on Fox this summer, which will be a good boost for the content. And, as mentioned, releasing Hamilton in time for the weekend of July 4 will be a massive deal.
When it comes to how it reacts to the world of standby film and television, it looks like Disney is making the right choices. In the long run, a lot depends on how quickly Hollywood gets back to work, and it's hard to consider this priority given all that's going on right now.
Disney has also committed to offering more original shows, most recently an untitled Star Wars television series by co-creator of Russian Doll Leslye Headland, a television version of National Treasure (probably without Nicolas Cage) and an adaptation of RL Stine's Just Beyond the Book Series. Other highlights include a new version of Mighty Ducks, starring original star Emilio Estevez and Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls, as well as the long-known shows Obi-Wan and Cassian Andor Star Wars.
According to a THR report in March, more than 50 scripted series and about 50 unscripted shows are in development for Disney Plus.
Our Disney Plus wish list for the next six months
When you think about it, The Simpsons is as adult as any prime time show. Frank Grimes electrocuted to death is something you can watch on Disney Plus, as is Barney's addiction to alcohol and, um, Homer's “ woe ” at the hands of a panda. So why not other sharper shows?
It always seems that the offer of classic TV shows on Disney Plus is a little too conservative. Some really obvious stuff should have jumped in now. Malcolm in the Middle, which was the closest thing to a live Simpsons like there was during the broadcast, was teased by Disney itself in August, but after six months, there is still no sign of his arrival at Disney Plus. It would be nice to see a more regular program schedule for all ages in prime time like this.
According to a Reddit user, a Disney Plus survey asked if people would be interested in seeing sitcoms like Black-ish and Modern Family on the service. It would certainly be a very good choice. The investigation also mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who is probably too adult for Disney's image (not that it bothers us). We asked Disney to confirm if this investigation was real some time ago and we have not received a response.
Even if Disney is not ready to show new originals, it might be good to have an updated preview of what's planned. Everything we've seen so far from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki and Hawkeye has come in the special brief Expanding the Universe on Disney Plus, and of course, a fantastic Super Bowl teaser.
Disney will never move its true versions of tentpole to a streaming service before making money in theaters, simply because their budgets are astronomical and they dominate at the box office. But what if he shows the first five minutes of Black Widow or Mulan, just to excite people and remind them to go to the movies once it's safe for them to reopen?
There is room for more experimentation, with the old and the new programming. And Hamilton shows that Disney is interested in trying bold moves.
Disney Plus has a good start, but the next few months will be decisive
Disney Plus could certainly use some more prestigious originals. But in an unprecedented period, these first six months of service were supported by regular film releases and engagements at major events to excite subscribers.
The next six months will be more crucial than the first ones, because viewers will really know where Disney Plus fits into their online viewing habits – and we'll see if a slow drip of big originals works as well as a strategy. Netflix-style shoot them.