Remember when Netflix started launching around the world? If you lived outside the US, you probably looked at the shows and movies on the US version of the service with envy. These days, it's a lot more balanced, with tons of original content that exists across all regions and plenty of local licensed offerings. In fact, Netflix US is having a hard time holding onto licensed favorites like Friends and The Office these days, meaning you might find better shows and movies elsewhere.
Now that Disney Plus has launched in parts of Western Europe as well as North America and Australia, you might be wondering if a similar content disparity exists between various versions of this newer streaming service. The truth is, while there are curious differences, it's not nearly as big a deal as it was on Netflix five or six years ago.
In this piece, we'll mostly focus on the differences between the UK and US versions of Disney Plus, with some discussion of the regional variations in The Netherlands, Canada and Australia too.
Disney Plus US vs Disney Plus UK
The most obvious difference between Disney Plus US and its recently-launched UK counterpart is how more recent Disney films are being rolled out on the service. In the US and Canada, Onward and Frozen 2 are now available to stream, while in the UK, Onward has no release date and Frozen 2 isn't streaming until July.
That suggests the different territories aren't entirely in sync, and it's mildly frustrating for UK viewers. There are signs, however, that all the Disney Plus regions are starting to join up in how they distribute content, with the upcoming release of Artemis Fowl scheduled for June 12 worldwide, and the simultaneous worldwide release of the recent Simpsons short film.
Where Disney Plus UK pulls ahead, though, is in its archive of movies that the US simply doesn't have yet, due to 'pre-existing agreements'. The Incredibles 2, Tarzan, Tomorrowland, Christopher Robin, The Jungle Book (2016), Beauty and the Beast (2017), Maleficent, John Carter and Ralph Breaks the Internet are all available to stream now in the UK. US viewers have to wait for those.
The differences go deeper than that, too. Disney Plus in the US has none of Fox's X-Men movies, while the UK variant has the original trilogy, Days of Future Past and two Wolverine spin-offs. America also won't start getting the classic Mighty Ducks movies until July, whereas the whole trilogy is available now in the UK, despite the ice hockey-focused movies having far more cultural resonance in the US.
Almost all Disney Plus regions have a complete line-up of Star Wars movies, except America, which lacks Solo (only until July 9, though). On the Marvel front, too, the US lacks Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, though both will arrive this summer, which will help when you're planning to watch the Marvel movies in order.
Outside of kids' movies and superheroes, the UK has all three Home Alone movies, while the US just has the third one (not that you're likely to be watching those outside of the holiday period). Disney Plus did launch with slightly more interesting adult movies in the US, like (500) Days of Summer and Never Been Kissed, but they're no longer on the service (they'll likely return, though, and are probably the result of existing agreements (opens in new tab)).
The UK has Never Been Kissed, but not (500) Days of Summer, while the UK has Edward Scissorhands, and the US does not. The US is getting The Princess Bride on May 1, it was announced on Twitter (opens in new tab), whereas the UK hasn't had a similar announcement. The UK has three Ice Age movies, whereas the US just has the first one.
Live-action TV shows offer some interesting differences, too. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD can't be streamed in the US, but five seasons can be watched in the UK. In the US, users can stream three seasons of Marvel's Runaways, while only the first two are available in the UK.
Star Wars: Resistance, a kiddie-focused series that most fans will feel comfortable skipping, has two seasons to stream in the US and none in the UK. One member of our team, who has a young child, noted that Book of Pooh is not on the service in the UK, but it is available to stream in the US.
All the differences mentioned above are just the ones we've noticed, and there are no doubt more we haven't picked up on. But who's the winner, Disney Plus US or the UK?
Let's call it a tie. Disney Plus UK would definitely have the edge if it suddenly had Frozen 2 and Onward, though, simply because the US still has a bunch of movies tied up with other streaming services.
Then again, Disney Plus launched a lot earlier in the US, meaning subscribers there got to watch The Mandalorian without having it spoiled by Baby Yoda memes plastered all over Twitter. The Mandalorian is on episode 6 in the UK at the time of writing, and that gradual rollout hasn't been ideal, given how long the initial wait was.
What about other versions of Disney Plus?
We're less acquainted with other versions of Disney Plus, but even they have notable differences. The Netherlands has all five Ice Age movies, for example, as well as Agents of SHIELD and Never Been Kissed.
According to What's On Disney Plus (opens in new tab), as of early March 2020 (before Disney Plus launched in most of Western Europe), it was Australia that had the most movies with 729, 39 more than the US.
Disney Plus Australia streams the 1995 Sandra Bullock flick While You Were Sleeping, which is available in the UK but not the US. After a delay, too, it's streaming Onward from 24 April, and it already has Frozen 2. Australia also has two more X-Men movies than the UK, in First Class and Apocalypse. It's only got one season of Agents of SHIELD, though, giving the UK an advantage on a Marvel TV show most people have probably forgotten about.
We haven't used Disney Plus Canada, but it doesn't appear to differ enormously to the US, and it got Onward on the same day that America did. Canada has a few movies you won't find on Disney Plus US, though, including the X-Men films. Most surprisingly, it has a complete collection of live-action Fantastic Four movies as of January 2020, including 2015's appalling reshoot-ridden effort. None of those are on Disney Plus US or UK.
There is no real loser when it comes to Disney Plus. The US misses out the most over existing licensing restrictions, but even then, this issue doesn't affect most of its classic movies, which are already streaming. The fact the US got Frozen 2 and Onward first makes it feel like the 'primary' version of the service, though.
The UK has neither of those newer films yet, but it did just launch last month, and there are plenty of films to enjoy that aren't available in the US.
Disney Plus has pretty much the same core catalog of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars classics across all regions, and our assumption is they're eventually aiming for global parity when rights permit it.
It would be nice if Disney offered more of a timeframe as to when certain movies will arrive – we'd bet US viewers are keen to watch the 50% or so X-Men films that aren't total garbage – and at some point, we hope Disney will consider adding more 'adult'-oriented content to give each library more breadth.
In late March, a user on r/DisneyPlus (opens in new tab) mentioned that a Disney Plus survey was asking select users if they would like to see shows like Firefly, Black-ish, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Malcolm in the Middle on the service (we reached out to Disney Plus a couple of times at the time to try and verify the survey's authenticity, but got no response). That feels like the missing piece of the Disney Plus library, along with those big-budget Marvel shows, like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Otherwise, wherever you are, Disney Plus is a great family streaming service. There aren't vast enough differences between Disney Plus regions for it to be comparable to the early days of Netflix's international release, and that's a good thing.