With a lot of potential, and still in its early days, there's a lot of hope for what Disney+ may become, even if it stumbles along the way.
Like many other forms of media, Disney+ thrives on nostalgia and childhood memories, making it a great service for rediscovering old programmes and films from your past. However, with a surprisingly limited library and a family-friendly title slapped to it, the streaming service can’t manage to hold itself up and compete with Netflix or Amazon Prime, at least… not yet.
Upon signing up for Disney+ and creating an account, the first thing you’re asked to do is to create a viewing profile for yourself. Scrolling through the vast library of Disney characters available for my avatar, I eventually stumbled across the “Disney villains” category and decided that Scar from the animated (and far superior) version of The Lion King was the avatar for me. Then, to get it out of the way, I decided to add everyone else who would be using the streaming service alongside me and started choosing their avatars for them (all Disney villains of course). From Little Mermaid’s Ursula to The Emperor’s New Groove’s Yzma, I took great delight in matching character personalities to people while all the time trying to cause the most offence. It was an entertaining start to my experience with Disney+, bringing out a childish glee in me. A task that should have been boring instead had me stifling laughter like a child surreptitiously hiding that they were doing something mildly naughty. It genuinely brought out my inner child and excellently, if probably unintentionally, established what Disney+ is about. As a family-friendly streaming service, it’s not only about the current world’s children but about bringing back the child in adults and letting them relive the films and shows that made up their childhood.
You can bet then that the first thing I did was start to relive my childhood through Disney+. Without hesitation, I jumped into the first episode of That’s So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place and worked my way through the episodes unlike how I did as a child. No longer was I restricted to watching the episodes in a seemingly incoherent and random order, but as functioning linear narrative the flowed from episode to episode. The shows I had watched for years when I was young suddenly became new, striking gold when I stumbled upon many episodes that I had missed along the way. It felt like discovering a mini horde of treasure, and every time my younger self did a leap of joy as memories and nostalgia hit with delightful force. And yet, it also became a chance for my younger siblings to discover shows that Disney Channel no longer air, finding a wealth of content from a time when Disney was in its prime for TV. Granted, some of the programmes show their age to the now-adult eye, but to children, they are the same enjoyable shows with the same loveable characters that older generations fell in love with, and I found myself sinking into the living room to watch the TV with my siblings once again as they stumble upon a favourite episode of mine. It excelled at bringing me into the room with them and laughing at the onscreen shenanigans once again, highlighting the key focus of family that Disney is built upon.
However, Disney+ doesn’t just have TV shows but films as well, a barrage of original content nearly 100 years in the making. From the true classics like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty to modern successes like Frozen and Moana, the Disney Princess library has never been as accessible as it is now. Although, Disney benefits from much more than their princess selection, but to a substantial chunk of all their output, surmounting to a library of original content much bigger than any other streaming service currently available. With the addition of Disney owned companies like Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and the recently acquired 20th Century Fox, the available streaming library is by no means small, and there’s plenty of opportunities to stream films that haven’t usually been associated with Disney until now. Disney has even gone one step further to also begin to produce content exclusive to their service like The Mandalorian and the live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp in a further bid to draw in those subscriptions. Whereas this content remains sparse for now and the quality fluctuates, it still becomes a landmark in making Disney+ a good service with a childish simplicity that is undeniably alluring.
Yet, despite all this praise, Disney+ still fumbles far too often to make it a truly great service. The biggest drawback is the limitations that family-friendly streaming service would understandably have: the lack of mature content. Nothing with an age-rating above 12 makes it onto the streaming service’s site, which sadly limits much of the 21st Century Fox content that could have made a meaningful contribution to the current library. With plans to have everything that is deemed “inappropriate” for families to be streamed on Disney’s other owned property Hulu; the fact that the UK doesn’t have access to Hulu by legitimate means, raises the issue that we can’t access this content like other countries are capable of. While a total of 500 films and over 100 series sounds like a phenomenal amount, it still pales in compression to what other streaming sites currently offer. Plus, family-friendly TV is great but it’s not enough to hold us indefinitely and it can pale quite quickly for some viewers as nostalgia and childhood memories aren’t solely enough. This issue is also keyed with the fact that despite Disney owning all of the content on their site, they still have plans to revolve content in and out of the site. Whereas Netflix and Amazon Prime do this due to viewing numbers and having to pay for the rights to stream content that isn’t originally there’s, with Disney owning all their content, it seems unnecessary and pointless, a way to shortchange their subscribers. It begs to question that if a child becomes hooked on a film and wishes to rewatch it for the 100th time in the space of three months, will it suddenly disappear with no apparent reason other than to keep content “fresh”?
However, Disney+ is by no means a good service in its current state. Offering a sizeable library that is ready for all the family to watch, it will serve faithfully the Disney ethos of bringing families together. Treading childhood memories and nostalgia, it’s great to be carried away with content you remember from years ago, somehow seeming new along the way. Although with the potential to stale far too quickly that I would like to admit, and the fact the Disney’s services are not fully optimised for any country outside of the Americas, holds it back a little too much.
Disney+ is available in the Uk now. Watch the trailer for The Mandalorian below: