The entry of Disney+ into the brave new world of streaming was the biggest thing the still nascent content platform has seen. Before that, Netflix had been the undisputed leader, lording it over the likes of Hulu, Amazon and Stan (in Australia) and, admittedly, is still the industry’s true power player.
Disney+, however, has substantial weaponry when it comes to mounting a challenge. Backed by one of the most instantly recognisable entertainment names in pop culture history, the streaming service also boasts content from the company’s recent high profile acquisitions: Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox. “This is where we, as Disney, have a real advantage,” President of Disney Streaming Services Michael Paull said upon the launch of Disney+. “We have these incredible brands. We have these incredible franchises. Making programming is hard, but our hand is very good on that.”
All of that content has been widely discussed, with Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian (the first Star Wars live action TV series) the flagship title for the Disney+ launch. It’s a superb inclusion into the Star Wars canon, and it bodes well for future small screen adventures in a galaxy far, far away. There’s not a huge amount of newly created, original content at this stage, with a remake of The Lady & The Tramp; the self-explanatory and very entertaining The World According To Jeff Goldblum; the truly charming docu-series Pick Of The Litter; the new series, High School Musical: The Musical; and the telemovie Togo (starring Willem Dafoe) leading the way.
Most of the Marvel Studios films are here (pre-existing rights deals mean that other titles will eventually cross over once those deals are done), as are all the Pixar titles, plus a fine selection from National Geographic, which is also owned by Disney. There are, however, a few nice surprises in amongst these high profile franchise inclusions.
As well as the Pixar movies, for instance, all of the short films which have screened before them theatrically (including the likes of Lava, Float, Presto, Smash And Grab and Piper) are also on the service. The Marvel Studios titles, meanwhile, are bundled with DVD-style extras (most are previously released on that format), including deleted scenes, featurettes and even audio commentaries, which is a largely undiscussed first for a streaming service. There are also a few Marvel docos (Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp To Pop!; Assembling A Universe), as well as a host of animated titles, the Marvel TV series screened on ABC in the US (Season 1 of Agents Of SHIELD, both seasons of Agent Carter, and the sole season of Inhumans), and the Marvel films recently acquired in Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox (the X-Men series, Fantastic 4).
The bulk of the content on Disney+, however, comes from the jam-packed Walt Disney vaults, with the highly trumpeted likes of Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Dumbo, Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Pinocchio and so on all included on the service. But aside from these obvious much loved classics, there is an absolute treasure trove of less lauded titles that will stoke instant waves of nostalgia for subscribers of a certain age.
A quick trawl through the easy-to-navigate interface reveals 1960s and 1970s gems like The Castaway Cowboy (pictured above; a real gem starring James Garner as a westerner washed up in Hawaii), The Shaggy DA, Escape To Witch Mountain, The Love Bug, Freaky Friday, Swiss Family Robinson, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Million Dollar Duck, Davy Crockett: King Of The Wild Frontier and many, many, many more. For those that grew up watching The Wonderful World Of Disney on a Sunday evening, this will be like taking a tour back to their childhoods.
Right now, Disney+ is a great fit for kids and their parents. Yes, irritating showboating millennials have been cockily posting that they’re dumping the service now that they’ve finished watching The Mandalorian, but they’ll be back when Season 2 kicks off. And while the immediate future looks very, very good indeed (with a whole host of series knitted into The Marvel Cinematic Universe just around the corner, including WandaVision, pictured, Loki, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel and What If…, along with more Star Wars series, including the much touted Obi Wan Kenobi project with Ewan McGregor), there’s much to speculate on with regards to where Disney+ will go further down the track.
At the moment, it’s very much a G-to-PG-rated place (Logan is noticeably absent from the list of X-Men titles), but could that change if Disney+ opts to dig into its grab-bag of not-so-family-friendly assets? There are the considerable Disney-owned catalogues of 20th Century Fox (a literal cavalcade of classics), Touchstone (the production division established by Disney in 1984 to release more adult themed films like Three Men And A Baby, Pretty Woman, Dead Poets Society, Sister Act and many, many more), Miramax (the indie company started by, gross, Harvey Weinstein, which Disney bought in 1993), the subsidiary Buena Vista International, and more to play with, but are these too off-brand for Disney+? Will Disney+ shift focus to include films from these content pools on the service? Or will it go international with something like Hulu, its secondary streaming service in the US, which carries more adult oriented material? Either way, Disney looks set to really bed in as a major force on the streaming scene.
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