Disney Plus movies add emojis and group playback in slew of social features

(Image credit: Disney)

Disney Plus now lets users sync playback for group watching.

Through the new GroupWatch feature, up to seven users can now sync any film, TV show, or documentary on Disney Plus – with any user being able to play, pause, rewind, or fast-forward the title at their leisure. It might get chaotic if anyone starts 'fighting over the remote', as it were, but there's no denying the usefulness of allowing all members access to playback tools.

In a time of lockdowns, eternal Zoom calls, and a large reliance on digital platforms to stay connected with our friends and family, a video syncing feature feels like a very smart move from Disney. A number of emoji reactions that users can post onscreen (like, funny, sad, angry, scared, surprised), too, means viewers can share their emotional journey without committing the terrible crime of talking through a movie.

GroupWatch works across "web, mobile, connected TV devices and smart TVs", so any device that supports Disney Plus will be also support the feature. (It's worth noting that Panasonic TVs don't yet carry the app, but otherwise most smart TVs will have it.)

The group sync feature, which had previously been trialled in Canada and New Zealand, but is only now launching in the US, adds a sizeable new social element to the Disney streaming service. It's expected to launch within the coming weeks for the UK and Europe, too.

US users, though, can kick things off by heading to the GroupWatch icon – a small circle with three figures within it – that will be found next to the Play, Watchlist, and Download icons found on the landing pages for each title. A link can then be shared with other Disney Plus subscribers – though it must originate on mobile or a web browser.

Let's get social

(Image credit: Disney)

The rise of social features for online TV has been inevitable for some time, as streaming service providers seek to up engagement with their products and recreate the thrill of watching a movie with your friends – even when you're in different homes.

Especially in a time of limited in-person interaction, and cinema chains either shut or operating at reduced capacity, features like GroupWatch offer stand-in interactions that may help some viewers feel more connected to their loved ones.

We've seen similar features through Netflix Party, a third-party Chrome add-on for syncing Netflix playback – as well as the official Watch Party function on Amazon Prime Video. Disney isn't first to the party, then, but it's certainly dropped an official, fleshed-out version with its own emoji spin on things. We just wish we had those angry reacts when we tried watching the Mulan remake...

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.