Disney Plus (stylized as Disney+) could be the biggest streaming service of 2019. That's saying something as this is the year Apple will launch its own streaming service called Apple TV Plus. It poses a real threat to smaller streaming services, and – now that we know most of the Disney Plus show lineup – to Netflix too.
UPDATE: Disney Plus has gone live in a free pilot for viewers in the Netherlands, though there's still no sign of a Disney Plus UK release date. Disney CEO Bob Iger has also stepped down from Apple's CEO board, just as Apple unveiled the pricing and launch date for its Apple TV Plus streaming service (via The Verge).
Disney Plus will be an all-in-one video destination for movies, TV series, and cartoons from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel – packing plenty of existing movies and TV shows along with a stack of brand-new content. With Disney's acquisition of Fox now complete, we'll also be seeing the likes of The Simpsons, and even X-Men titles, come along to the service.
By now we know the pricing model and launch date (November 12), as well as a planned Disney Plus app that's coming to the Nintendo Switch. The advantage of Disney's large portfolio also comes to bear with a joint Hulu and ESPN+ bundle for $12.99 per month (for US viewers only).
Where will you be able to watch it? Disney has announced the list of platforms that will support Disney Plus at launch, including Apple TV, iOS and Android, and Xbox One. There's no sign of Amazon's Fire TV Stick on that list, but we're hopeful it will come either at launch or soon after.
Read on for all the latest news on Disney Plus pricing, subscriptions, and what movies and shows will be available on the service when it launches later this year.
Cut to the chase
- What is Disney Plus? An online streaming platform for Disney-owned movies and shows. Yes, it's like Netflix.
- When will Disney Plus launch? November 12, 2019
- What will Disney Plus cost? $6.99/month in the US, $8.99 in Australia and Canada, $9.99 in New Zealand, and €6.99 in the Netherlands. No UK pricing announced.
- Where can I find it? Disney Plus will launch on iOS, Android, Apple TV, PS4, Xbox One, browsers, and Android TV.
Disney has been working on the Disney Plus platform for some time now, acquiring a controlling stake in streaming technology provider BAMTech in 2017 following a first investment the previous year. BAMTech spun out from Major League Baseball's streaming efforts and now powers platforms like HBO Now and ESPN+, so it knows a little something about on-demand video traffic.
So what kind of quality can we expect from Disney Plus video streams? Apparently, Disney Plus will stream to up to four devices simultaneously in 4K HDR at no extra cost. (Currently you have to subscribe to Netflix's highest package to get that kind of quality.) Even better, according to Dolby, the service will support both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, making it great for cinephiles out there.
Disney Plus release date
The Disney Plus streaming service will launch on November 12, 2019 in five territories: US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the Netherlands. There's no UK launch date confirmed, though we expect / hope it will be following soon after.
Disney will be looking to bring the Disney Plus platform to "all major markets within the first two years", so it does look like the rollout will go wider over time (via ScreenRant).
Disney Plus pricing and bundles
Though Disney Plus only put out its US pricing at first, we now have details about a lot more territories. Disney Plus will cost $6.99/m (around £6 / AU$10) in the US, $8.99 in Australia and Canada, $9.99 in New Zealand, and €6.99 in the Netherlands. No UK pricing has yet been announced.
In the US, this means it looks like Disney has kept its promise about undercutting Netflix – at least for now.
"I can say that our plan on the Disney side is to price this substantially below where Netflix is. That is in part reflective of the fact that it will have substantially less volume," said Robert Iger, The Walt Disney Company's chairman and CEO. "It'll have a lot of high quality [content], because of the brands and the franchises that will be on it that we've talked about. But it'll simply launch with less volume, and the price will reflect that."
Iger also suggested that the price could rise gradually over time as the service expands, which is hardly surprising—Netflix's prices have risen alongside its pivot towards original content.
However, Disney then turned heads with its plans for subscription bundle that will certainly rival Netflix in terms of price – while possibly offering closer to the site's volume of content. The US-focused bundle will include Hulu (with ads), ESPN+ and Disney Plus for $12.99 per month – the same price as Netflix's Standard subscription. It's a good deal if you want all three services or if you live in a home with multiple age ranges who could enjoy the full range of content on offer.
If you're in the UK, journalist Tom Butler pointed out on Twitter that you can already get some of the content that's planned for Disney Plus on the Disney Life app for £5 (around $6 / AU$9). But that doesn't include some of the biggest draws of the new streaming platform, like Marvel and Star Wars properties – although it does currently have past seasons of The Clone Wars.
Disney Plus: Marvel TV shows and films
Marvel fans, rejoice: not only will you get a huge back catalogue of MCU movies on Disney Plus, but you'll also get a number of original TV series and spin-offs with some of your favorite characters.
The first will be Falcon and The Winter Soldier (starring Anthony Mackie), coming in Q3 / Fall 2020, around a year after the platform goes live – so we'll have some time to wait before exclusive content really gets going.
Hiddleston-lovers will be happy to hear that next in the new Marvel line-up will be the Loki TV show, a six-episode miniseries featuring the iconic trickster and landing in early 2021 (via MTV News). We also know from San Diego Comic-Con that the series will kick off after Loki's sudden escape in Avengers: Endgame, via the Tesseract. Who knows what japes he'll get up to after that?
2021 will also see WandaVision, a spin-off following Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) that will tie into the events of the Doctor Strange sequel – and a Hawkeye TV show, with Jeremy Renner reprising the role.
Marvel's head of television, Jeph Loeb, has said there'll be more "street-level heroes" coming to the Disney Plus service too, with Marvel TV shows set to replace or expand on the likes of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Iron Fist, and The Defenders – all of which were axed from their home on Netflix (via Deadline).
Interestingly, there's also going to be a Marvel TV show that puts a different spin on the MCU. Called Marvel's What If...?, the animated series is based on a comics series and will give fans a glimpse into what might have happened if some of the universe's biggest stories went a little differently. Like how would Agent Peggy Carter have fared if she'd taken the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers?
At Disney's D23 Expo in late August, Marvel President Kevin Feige announced three new series – She-Hulk, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel – that would all debut on the service, too.
When it comes to old Marvel movie properties, we can expect those to be pulled from Netflix as soon as contracts run out before being moved across to Disney Plus when it launches. In an earnings call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger clarified that 2019's Captain Marvel would be the first Disney movie exclusive to the service – and we know Endgame will follow the month after launch.
Full returning cast for #WhatIf #SDCC2019 #SDCC pic.twitter.com/5S6Yrp8Ra6July 21, 2019
Disney Plus: Star Wars TV shows and films
One of most exciting original announcement so far is that of a brand new live-action Star Wars TV series from Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book) who will both write and executive produce the show. We've been waiting for details about it for what feels like years, but the title has finally been revealed as The Mandalorian.
For those not in the know, Mandalorians are a race of jetpack-toting warriors with a lot of political baggage. Now unless you've watched Star Wars Rebels, the only Mandalorian you're likely to have met before is Boba Fett.
But the new series will introduce us to a Mandalorian we've never met before and will follow his (or her?) adventures throughout the Star Wars universe.
Favreau will also be joined by other great directors, including Star Wars alum Dave Filoni, who’ll direct the first episode, as well as Bryce Dallas Howard, Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and Deborad Chow (Jessica Jones).
It's not the only new Star Wars episodic content that'll be on the service early on, either. Rogue One's Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) will also get his own prequel TV series exploring his life before the events of the 2016 film.
We also now have word of an Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series, with Ewan McGregor to reprise his role from the prequel movies (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith), a surprise that was met with a standing ovation at D23.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2018, Disney announced that a new, concluding season of animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars will also be on the service. We have to imagine that the existing episodes, currently on Netflix, will also join the fray.
Disney Plus: 21st Century Fox
Disney's acquisition of Fox was a very, very big deal – especially for Disney Plus.
Fox own the rights to a huge amount of classic television, including The Simpsons, which will see every episode in its 30-year history come to the Disney Plus streaming service.
Fox also oversees the X-Men IP, which was made for some very strict stipends about what can and can't be shown in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (such as the word 'mutant' never being used onscreen). The merger could pave the way for mutants appearing in the MCU, or at the very least having some form of reboot for the Disney Plus service. Given the disappointing box office returns of the last couple of X-Men movies, it may be just what the franchise needs.
We will, however, be getting a bunch of animated 90s cartoons of X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and others (via HypeBeast).
Keep in mind that Sony still owns the rights to Spider-Man and a number of associated characters like Venom and Black Cat (with some of the above being somewhat lent to Marvel). What you waiting for, Disney?
Other Disney Plus movies, shows, and exclusives
It won't all be superhero and space flicks, though. Many additional new shows and TV series have also been announced, including a new Monsters Inc. project called Monsters at Work, and a fresh take on the once-popular High School Musical franchise that, no joke, is called High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
For classic Disney lovers there'll be a live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, while '90s kids will get a new live-action Mulan that will likely come to both theaters and the streaming service. Deadline suggests that projects based on Don Quixote, Sword and the Stone, and 3 Men and a Baby are in the works, along with other projects titled The Paper Magician, Togo, and Timmy Failure.
If you want to rewind the clock all the way, however, Disney says it will include every movie that's ever been locked away in the Vault, and could possibly include some of the first, harder-to-find Mickey Mouse flicks.
For younger kids there'll also be plenty of television programming from the Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD.
Disney Plus will also be a home for DisneyNature documentaries, including Dolphin Reef – which will be narrated by none other than actress Natalie Portman (Jackie, Black Swan). Disney Nature works both in documentary films and animation, and will also be bringing animated feature Penguins to the Disney Plus service.
All told, you can expect "thousands of hours" of Disney TV shows and films on the service, including existing content, and that new Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars films will be available to stream at some point following their theatrical releases.
Will Disney Plus have classic Disney movies?
Oh yes. We have word that every Disney film ever made will be coming to the service, so everything from the original Lion King to... er... the new CGI Lion King should be available on the service soon after launch.
What will Disney Plus be missing?
The Disney streaming service won't have content from outside of the Disney ecosystem, as far as we know. That might seem obvious enough, but services like Netflix and Hulu have such diverse offerings because of their wide partnerships and licensing deals.
But, of course, Disney has plenty of content to draw from, especially if all Fox content comes onboard as well, but this will still be a very Disney-centric offering. On top of that, there won't be any R-rated or adult-oriented content on the service. That stuff will go to Hulu instead, according to a report from Deadline.
Though Disney has now closed its acquisition of Fox, it's unlikely then that the R-rated Deadpool will come to Disney Plus. There's talk however of a PG-13 take on Deadpool 2's X-Force for the platform (via ComicBook).
Also, the Marvel TV original series on Netflix won't be crossing over to the new Disney Plus service – as far as we know. That means the likes of Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones won't be rebooted on Disney Plus in their current iterations. They've all been cancelled from further seasons, but we're assuming previous seasons will continue to stay on the Netflix platform.
That's not to say Hulu might not pick up these series and run with them, or maybe they'll get a more family-friendly re-imagining for Disney Plus?
Should I subscribe to Disney Plus?
We haven't tried the platform ourselves yet, so even though more information is revealed every day, it's hard to make a solid recommendation. But now details have been revealed about pricing, the early signs are certainly promising.
Disney plans to tap into its estimable vault of franchises to create exclusive and potentially compelling new content, along with creating a single streaming service for watching all of the latest and greatest movies and TV shows from across the Disney creative ecosystem.
Disney Plus will have less content than Netflix, but the price is lower – and Disney Plus may prove more appealing as an add-on to your current subscriptions, rather than a full-on replacement for Netflix or Hulu.
The Disney streaming service won't be as comprehensive or wide-ranging as some rivals, but Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel fans might have trouble resisting some of the original shows and movies coming down the pipeline. We're certainly excited to see what Disney Plus has in mind for the live-action Star Wars series, above all, but other projects sound compelling as well.