In September 2017, Disney announced plans to create its own streaming video service to challenge Netflix, Hulu, and similar high-end streamers. Just over a year later, that service was given a name, Disney+, and we got our first look at the service in all its Disney-fied glory, as well as a price point of $7 per month and a launch date of November 12, 2019. Starting September 23, 2019, you can pre-order your Disney+ subscription.
Disney+ is intended to compete with industry leader Netflix and the various other direct-to-consumer streaming video platforms currently available and in development. It won’t have as many movies or television shows as Netflix and its ilk, but Disney hopes to draw customers in with lots of high-profile exclusive content and nearly every movie in Disney’s expansive library, including a number of previously hard-to-find animated features and live-action Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-offs.
Here’s everything we know about Disney+ so far.
What will it include?
Several original Star Wars projects are in development for the service, including the first-ever live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian, which follows the adventures of an outer-space gunslinger shortly after the events of the original Star Wars trilogy. A trailer for the series, which was created by Iron Man director Jon Favreau, recently dropped and has some major The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly vibes. The first season of The Mandalorian will be eight episodes long, and a second season is already in pre-production.
An action show featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi is also in the works, with Ewan McGregor confirmed to reprise the role he played in the three Star Wars prequels. At the D23 Expo in August 2019, McGregor said that the still-untitled miniseries will be about four hours long and that production begins in early 2020. The show will be set around the same time as Solo: A Star Wars Story, when Obi-Wan Kenobi is hiding on Tatooine and protecting young Luke Skywalker from afar, opening the door for all kinds of interesting stories.
In addition, Disney+ will stream a still-untitled Rogue One prequel following Rebel spy Cassian Andor and his reformed Imperial security droid K-2SO. Both Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk will reprise their Rogue One roles.
— Star Wars (@starwars) November 8, 2018
Finally, a new season of the award-winning Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series will debut on Disney+ in February 2020.
On the Marvel front, Disney+ will include (at least) seven live-action series tying directly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all of which will feature established MCU actors. In fall 2020, Falcon and Winter Soldier will follow up on the end of Avengers: Endgame by showing what happens after Sam Wilson takes charge of Captain America’s shield — and Cap’s legacy. In spring 2021, Loki will tell the story of the alternate-universe trickster god who escaped with the Tesseract during Endgame‘s time-travel shenanigans, while WandaVision will help set up Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In fall 2021, Hawkeye will see Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton train his replacement, a young woman named Kate Bishop.
Later, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and Moon Knight will introduce some new heroes to the MCU, although all three of those characters should be familiar to Marvel’s true believers. Kamala Khan, Jen Walters, and Marc Spector are expected to join their fellow MCU castmates on the big screen once their respective series have debuted.
An animated series called What If? will explore what would have happened if certain events in the MCU had transpired differently. For example, the first episode will explore a world in which Peggy Carter, not Captain America, received the super-soldier serum, transforming her into a hero called Captain Carter. Almost every major MCU actor will return to voice their big-screen characters, although Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Chris Pratt don’t seem to be on board. What If? will run for 23 episodes — one for each MCU film so far.
Coming exclusively to #DisneyPlus in 2020, @TheMuppets proudly present MUPPETS NOW, a new short-form unscripted series! I’d love to tell you more, but Joe The Legal Weasel is right behind me. Gulp! pic.twitter.com/UCXdaopQJR
— Kermit the Frog (@KermitTheFrog) August 24, 2019
Other original Disney+ series include Muppets Now, a “short-form unscripted series,” Monsters at Work, a cartoon based on Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. franchise, a Toy Story 4 spin-off called Forky Asks a Question, a Hannah Montana revival, and other live-action and animated fare for adults and young adults alike. 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 here.
Disney+ will also have a massive collection of pre-existing content, including new Disney movies like Frozen 2, Toy Story 4, Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker, and the live-action remake of The Lion King. The record-busting conclusion to Marvel’s Infinity Saga, Avengers: Endgame, won’t be available on Disney+ at launch, but it will be there by December 11, according to Disney’s financial reports.
Almost every single movie in the Disney catalog will eventually be available on the service, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger, including all of the animated films previously locked away in the Disney “vault”. The one exception is Disney’s Song of the South, which Disney has buried since the ’80s due to its racially insensitive content (a racist scene from the animated Dumbo will be removed for Disney+, too).
Approximately 7,000 episodes of television series and 400 to 500 movies are expected to be available on the service when it launches, including some of the aforementioned shows and films. Compared to Disney+’s biggest competitor, Netflix, that’s not a lot. According to a study by research firm Ampere Analysis, the Disney+ television show totals only amount to 16% of what Netflix offers. Netflix’s movie library is also eight times bigger than Disney+’s launch lineup. In terms of sheer numbers, Disney+ also falls short of Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, and HBO Go.
However, before long Disney+ will be the only place where you can find some of the biggest franchises in entertainment, making it a must-have for fans of Star Wars, Marvel, the Disney Channel, or Disney’s classic animated features.
How much will it cost?
The service will cost $7 per month at launch, or $70 per year (don’t be surprised if that price rises quickly). But there’s more to the story.
Disney+ isn’t Disney’s only streaming service. Thanks to its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, Disney also controls Hulu, and if you want to subscribe to both, you have options. In addition to the Disney+ stand-alone service, Hulu Senior Vice President Craig Erwich says that you’ll also be able to get Disney+ as a Hulu add-on.
Similar to other add-ons, like HBO, subscribing to Disney+ through Hulu means that you’ll have to use the Hulu app to watch shows like The Mandalorian and Falcon and Winter Soldier, but it also means that you’ll be able to keep all of your shows in one place. If HBO is any indication, Disney+ should cost the same — $7 –whether you get it through Hulu or all by its lonesome.
In addition, if you want Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu, Disney will offer a bundle that will include all three. The bundle will cost $13 a month, which is $5 cheaper than subscribing to all three separately.
Impressive video and audio quality
The service was revealed to offer 4K resolution with HDR support upon its initial unveiling, but news from Disney’s D23 Expo gave cinephiles and A/V fans even more to be excited about. As confirmed by Dolby directly, Disney+ will offer 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 support, 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. We don’t yet know what content will boast either of Dolby’s A/V enhancements on Disney+, but if its streaming rivals are any indication, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos will likely only be offered for newer original series like The Mandalorian, and possibly newer Disney film releases.
In addition, Disney+ will offer four simultaneous streams at once on its service for its basic $7-per-month fee.
Release date and first look
Disney rolled out a long and somewhat star-studded presentation (does Jon Favreau count?) to investors on April 11 to give a first look at its new service, along with some intriguing details. The highlights? Disney+ will debut on November 12, 2019, and will have quite a bit of content, including The Mandalorian and all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, at launch. Canada and The Netherlands get the service on the same day, with Australia and New Zealand getting it the following week.
— Disney (@Disney) April 11, 2019
The company also showed off a prototype of its new service’s app, which looks very Netflix-y — but in a Disney kind of way. The smooth and clean interface offers a row of tiles at the top of its home screen differentiating the multiple tiers, including Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, Disney, and National Geographic tiles for each of the service’s marquee properties.
Disney also shared some other details including a road map for the service’s first year, which is set to include 25 original series (starting with The Mandalorian), a whole slate of films from its vault (including classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid, and Pinocchio), and MCU movies like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Avengers: Endgame.
How big will it be?
In June 2019, Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne 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.
Which devices will it support?
Disney+ will be available on iOS, Apple TV (tvOS), Google Chromecast, Android, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Roku, and Xbox One at launch. Notably absent from this list is Amazon’s Fire TV platform. Disney and Amazon are said to be in heated talks over the service’s presence on the Fire TV, according to The Wall Street Journal. A fight over who gets to sell the ad space could prevent Disney+ from being on Amazon’s platform for launch.
If you’re an Apple device owner, or you have one of the many smart TVs and streamers that will feature Apple’s TV App, you’ll be able to subscribe to (and watch) Disney+ within that all-in-one streaming interface. Disney+ will also support in-app purchases on Apple devices.
What it won’t include
In what could be a sign of things to come, Netflix announced a series of cancellations in late 2018 and early 2019 that brought its five live-action Marvel series to an end following their most recent seasons. Various reports indicated that Netflix and Disney had reached an impasse in negotiating the terms of the series’ continuation on the streaming service, with Netflix looking to reduce costs for future seasons, only for the streaming provider to eventually pull the plug.
As initially promised by Disney, however, the existing episodes of every show will remain exclusively available to view on Netflix. However, Marvel TV teased that the series could return elsewhere. “As Matthew Murdock’s Dad once said, ‘The measure of a man is not how he gets knocked to the mat, it’s how he gets back up. To be continued…!,” Marvel told Deadline. Could that mean a Disney+ revival for Daredevil and his friends? It’s not out of the question.
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.