Disney+ has the potential to utterly change the streaming market. First hinted at several years ago and announced in 2017, Disney’s bid to enter the field seemed to spur on its quest to purchase the 20th Century Fox assets and separate itself from Netflix.
One potentially important difference, depending on the details, is price: $6.99. Netflix’s lowest tier is available at $8.99 (one screen at a time with standard definition). Also, at launch, Disney+ will be available to U.S. consumers in a bundle with ad-supported Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month, CEO Bob Iger announced in a Walt Disney Company earnings call on August 6 — that is, the same as the mid-tier pricing plan for Netflix (watch on two screens at a time with HD available and video downloads available on two phones or tablets). Netflix’s premium plan is priced at $15.99 per month.
Now that the platform will launch in just a few months, the shape of Disney+ at launch is becoming clearer – as is its roadmap for the first few years of its life. With competitive pricing, key feature-film brands, and an impressive library, Disney’s streaming service could become a major competitor to Netflix. And now with Fox in the family, the potential is even bigger. Come take a look at what we know about Disney+ and how it might change your viewing habits in the 2020s.
UPDATE (8/16): A third Star Wars series is in the works with Ewan McGregor in talks to reprise his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a limited series.
The service will focus on the more family-friendly aspects of the Disney empire, including its Pixar Animation Studios films. Other film content includes the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars movies, and the animated library of the Walt Disney Studio itself.
The potential here is huge, especially when one considers just how vast Disney’s film and television holdings really are. Beyond the obvious Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Disney animation content, there is the wealth of ABC family sitcoms, older archival material from the ’50s and ’60s, and even PG material from 20th Century Fox. Not all of it will be available at launch, of course, but the content Disney+ can cycle in and out on a regular basis is staggering. So whether your nostalgia compels you to watch That’s So Raven, Malcolm in the Middle, or the odd episode of The Wonder World of Color, Disney+ will eventually have you covered.
Meanwhile, Disney’s less family-friendly material will likely find a home at Hulu, which Disney now controls after agreeing to buy Comcast’s stake in the service. Expect the Alien films and classic Fox fare like Dr. Dolittle and Cleopatra to appear on that service before too long.
As streaming services will need “killer app” style content at launch from now on, Disney+’s first announced exclusive series is The Mandalorian, a stand-alone Star Wars series from Iron Man director Jon Favreau. As he previously revealed, the series will feature all-new characters making their way in the galaxy after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, but before The First Order’s deadly attack on the New Republic in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Into that milieu, audiences will discover a Mandalorian gunfighter operating on the Outer Rim, where the worries of the New Republic barely exist and violence still forms the rule of law.
The Mandalorian will star Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog, and Nick Nolte, according to StarWars.com‘s official announcement. Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels) is directing the first episode (and executive producing alongside Kathleen Kennedy and Colin Wilson), while other directors will include Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates), and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok).
RELATED: “Everything We Know About The Mandalorian”
The second series, which has not yet been named, will feature Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Diego Luna reprising his role as Rebel spy Cassian Andor. Alan Tudyk will also return as Cassian’s droll droid accomplice K-2SO. Considering the events of Rogue One, the series will be a prequel to that film and chart his earlier operations with the still-growing Rebel Alliance.
UPDATE (8/16): In August, multiple outlets reported that Ewan McGregor was in talks to potentially return to the franchise as Obi-Wan Kenobi, reprising his role in a limited series on the streaming service after a potential prequel film about the character fell apart in 2017. The event series could consist of up to six episodes, according to original source StarWarsNews.net. McGregor famously took over the role of Ben Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels from Alec Guinness, who played Luke Skywalker’s Jedi mentor in the original trilogy.
The service will also be the exclusive home of Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ seventh season. The animated series was something of a victim of Lucasfilm’s transition into the Disney family, but its dedicated fanbase was happy to learn it would continue on Disney+ when executive producer Dave Filoni announced its return at Comic-Con back in 2018.
Each show illustrates Disney’s dedication to the Star Wars brand and the understanding that programs set in that universe will get people to subscribe.
While Marvel Entertainment will continue to produce television shows for ABC, Freeform, and other aspects of Disney’s broadcast and cable empire, Marvel Studios will enter the television format for the first time on Disney+ by producing a number of limited series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige mentioned when news of the limited series plan first broke, the format will allow the studio to focus on some of the films’ supporting characters whose stories may not fit well in a theatrical format. But each is an official part of the studio’s Phase 4 and will tie back in some way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe film series.
The first of these will be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in the title roles. Picking up from the events of Avengers: Endgame, the series will reportedly deal with Sam (Mackie) deciding to pick up the shield and name Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) gave him in the film’s closing moments. Emily VanCamp will return as Sharon Carter, while Daniel Brühl will reprise his role as Zemo, the man who brought down the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. Will he stoke the flames of unrest around the Falcon’s ascendancy as the new Cap? The series is set to debut in August 2020.
Next will be WandaVision with Elizabeth Olsen returning as Wanda Maximoff – aka the Scarlet Witch – and Paul Bettany as Vision. But how can this be as Vision died in Avengers: Infinity War and was not one of the lucky ones revived during the Second Snap? Olsen once said the series will see Wanda and Vision in a “1950s” setting, which suggests the series may be taking its cues from the 2015 Vision comic book series. In that story by Tom King and Gabriel Walta, Vision created his own ideal nuclear family. It goes very wrong. And whatever Wanda does to make her own idyllic life, a grown up Monica Rambeau (played by Teyonah Parris) will be there to bring her back to the present. Also, the events of the series will tie directly to the upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will also feature Olsen. The series will arrive on Disney+ in early 2021.
Tom Hiddleston will return as the God of Mischief in the 2021 limited series Loki. The story will follow the Loki who escaped from custody in Endgame with a divergent copy of the Space Stone. It seems he will also get access to time travel as early photos see Loki in a 1970s New York. Divergent timelines are a hell of thing and this will presumably be the series to examine what it means for the MCU going forward.
Marvel Studios will also provide Disney+ with an animated series. Based on the classic Marvel Comics title What If …?, each animated segment will address a different outcome to key MCU events – probably through the lens of those pesky divergent timelines. As an example, the first episode will ask “What if Peggy Carter took the super solider serum instead of Steve Rogers?” The answer will feature the voice of Hayley Atwell as a super-strong Agent Carter and, presumably, the voice of Evans as a 98-lb Steve who becomes the first Iron Man thanks to Howard Stark. Tying the series together will be Jeffrey Wright as Uatu the Watcher, the host of the What If …? comic book and the viewer’s guide into the strangest of the Marvel series for the streaming service, which will debut in mid 2021.
Finally, Jeremy Renner will play Clint Barton once more in Hawkeye. The last of the Phase 4 Disney+ series will see Clint meeting and training a new Hawkeye named Kate Bishop. The part has not yet been cast, but the character is a fan favorite from comic books like Young Avengers and her own Hawkeye comics. It will premiere in 2021.
Outside of Marvel and Star Wars, Disney+ will rely on some of its best-known properties to entice Disney fans into subscribing. Series based on Monsters Inc. and The Mighty Ducks are both in development. A new version of High School Musical based around one school’s production of High School Musical, is also on its way.
The service is also reportedly developing a series based around the iconic Disney villains. Said to be called Book of Enchantments, it will be based on Serena Valentino’s Villains book series and tell the origins of characters like The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs‘ Wicked Queen.
And for fans of Disney history, the service will also feature Ink & Paint, a docu-series centered on the women who “made many of the Disney animated classics possible with little or no recognition for their work” as members of the studio’s Ink & Paint department. Another untitled docu-series is also in the works.
In the realm of features, Disney+ will be the exclusive home of the upcoming Lady and the Tramp live-action remake. Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux will voice the title roles, with Yvette Nicole Brown, Benedict Wong, and Janelle Monáe set to lend their talents to the production.
The service will also revive Touchstone’s Sister Act series with a third installment, although, according to Whoopi Goldberg, her participation may be limited to a walk-on cameo as the film takes the concept of a witness hiding in a convent in another direction. Insecure‘s Regina Hicks and Star‘s Karin Gist are developing the feature for Disney.
Additionally, the service will mine the 20th Century Fox library. During the August 6 earnings call, Iger revealed plans to develop new versions of Home Alone, Night At the Museum, Cheaper By the Dozen, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It is unclear if they will be a television series or feature-length Disney+ original films, but Iger said each property will be “re-imagined for a new generation.” And thanks to Disney acquisition of the Fox assets, it will also offer 600 hours of National Geographic content at launch.
While it makes sense for Disney to lean heavily on its proven stable of intellectual property, Disney+ has acquired a number of films and put several series in development based on concepts new to the corporation, like Diary of a Female President. Created by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend veteran Ilana Peña, it will center on a 12-year-old Cuban-American girl on a mission to become the president of the United States. Of course, she has to survive middle school first. The series already has a 10-episode commitment.
The service is also said to be developing a comedy series called Four Dads about a gay couple who divorce, marry other people, and find they still need to spend time together as they raise their pre-teen daughters.
The film slate includes Noelle, in which Anna Kendrick plays Santa Claus’s daughter Noelle. Bill Hader, Billy Eichner, and Shirley MacLaine also star. Originally set to be released theatrically next November, it joined the Disney+ roster last year.
The often-delayed Magic Camp will also find a home on Disney+. Directed by Mark Waters, the film stars Adam DeVine as a magician who takes a job counseling at a magic-oriented youth camp in the hopes of reigniting his career.
Stargirl – not to be confused with the upcoming DC Universe series of the same name – will also land on the platform. Based on the novel by Jerry Spinelli, it tells the tale of Stargirl Caraway (Grace VanderWaal), a homeschooled teen who shakes things up when she enrolls in an Arizona high school.
And, finally, Disney+ is developing a feature based on Polly Shulman’s YA series The Grimm Legacy, which follows a group of teenagers who work at a library specializing in arcane materials uniquely suited to characters from the Grimm fairy tales. Tolkien screenwriter David Gleeson will write the script.
In August of 2017, Disney bought a controlling interest in BAMTech, LLC, a technology firm specializing in streaming service apps like HBO Now.
According to Iger, the Disney+ platform will feature “elegant navigation” and ways to personalize content. Which, considering the way Netflix hides personalized watch lists these days, may be a bigger competitive feature than currently thought.
In fact, that “elegant navigation” may be more of a selling point as streaming services tend to follow the Netflix model. If Disney can reinvent navigating to content — especially for the company’s vast library — it could prove to be a compelling way to pull people away from their chief rival in the streaming sphere.
In April, Disney finally unveiled the most important details about the service: its launch date and price. Starting November 12, 2019, subscribers can enjoy 7,500 episodes of both current and concluded TV shows (like The Simpsons), 25 original series — including The Mandalorian at launch — 10 original movies and specials, 100 recently released Disney theatrical films, and 400 movies from Disney’s library for $6.99 a month (or a yearly price of $69.99). That pricepoint will definitely make people give Disney+ a try. Then there is the bundle with Hulu and ESPN+ at $12.99 announced on August 6.
Iger also said it may be possible to add Disney+ to existing distribution services like Amazon. Though nothing is firmed up yet, he said discussions are ongoing as he wants the sign-up process to occur with “incredible ease.” Also, members of the D23 Fan Club will be among the first to receive the opportunity to subscribe.
Some of the specific content you can expect on launch day includes the Marvel Studios films Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Iron Man 3, and Thor: The Dark World, which is suddenly a more vital film in the series thanks to Avengers: Endgame. That film is expected to join Disney+ in December, while the rest of the Marvel Studios library will be added over the course the first several years. The Marvel’s Hero Project reality series is also expected to debut during the service’s launch.
All Pixar films, aside from the recently released Toy Story 4, will be available at launch, but expect Toy Story 4 to join its brethren by early 2020.
Star Wars fans will be able to watch all of the live-action films except Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (Feel free to snark about those omissions in the comments below.) On the TV end of the galaxy, all of Star Wars Rebels and the extant seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be available in addition to Mandalorian.
Outside of the company’s big IP farms, other content expected to launch on November 12 include The World According to Jeff Goldblum and the Kristen Bell–produced Encore!
Disney film library content will be quite robust, with films like Tron, Lilo & Stitch, 101 Dalmatians, the new version of The Lady and the Tramp, and the film that started it all, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, all available at launch. Television library highlights include the original DuckTales series and the first season of the current revamp, the aforementioned Simpsons, and Malcolm in the Middle, proving integration of Fox properties was always a priority for the service.
As Iger put it, the launch day lineup will be “significant in quality.”
While Disney+ will become the service for Star Wars and Marvel fans, it will also indicate the market’s future as other corporations make moves to silo content on their own services and Netflix plans for a future in which most of its content is home-grown. But with its strong brand recognition and library – to say nothing of the price – it may quickly become the leader in streaming services.