Two minute Disney Plus review
Welcome to our Disney Plus review. Disney's subscription streaming service has become a powerhouse over the last couple of years. Offering 4K HDR streaming with hundreds of shows and movies, Disney's streaming service is brilliant value, even since the launch of the ad-based version in the US, which pushed the price up for the standard subscription. Now, you'll pay $7.99 (with ads) or $10.99 (without ads) per month (AU$13.99 / £7.99). Disney allows you to set up multiple profiles and download shows for offline viewing – and there's a discount if you pay annually, too.
After a fairly slow start, Disney+ has become a very big deal thanks to its inclusion of Marvel movies and Marvel shows (including new She-Hulk and Ms Marvel), Star Wars spin-offs such as Andor and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Pixar films, and both Star and National Geographic TV shows.
So what type of content can you expect? Well, there's something for everyone, to be honest. Fantasy shows such as Willow, gritty spy dramas like The Old Man, Golden Globe-nominated murder mystery comedy series Only Murders in the Building, and loads of old(er) favourites such as Die Hard and The Simpsons.
You'll have access to every Star Wars film in 4K HDR (here's how to watch the Star Wars movies in order, by the way). Plus, of course all the Disney Classics and newer content, and Pixar new and old. But for every Up, Monsters Inc. and The Lion King, there’s a Lion King One and a Half, Davy Crockett and The River Pirates and Twitches 2. Not every film Disney has released is an automatic win, so there is a lot of filler.
What we like most is the ability to watch on four simultaneous devices (something Netflix only offers on its most expensive plan), and you can save up to seven profiles, too, each with its own parental lock. This means it's tailored for families with different needs, something backed up by the wealth of diverse content in the vault (you don't want your kids accessing Pam and Tommy, for example).
Other adult-focused content is delivered on Disney Plus Star, which includes films and TV series from 20th Century Studios, FX Productions, Disney Television Studios and more. This means endless US TV shows old and new, and perfect for binge-watching.
Thanks to the standout new content, and additions of old favourites, Disney Plus has grown into a solid alternative to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV Plus that only looks to improve. Find out more on our Disney Plus hub (for US viewers), and our Disney Plus UK hub.
Disney Plus: cost
Disney Plus launched in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in late 2019, with the UK launch following shortly afterwards: Disney Plus UK launched in March 2020, alongside versions of the service for France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.
Since then the service has expanded dramatically to cover most of the key markets in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, in the Middle East, in South America, in the West Indies and in Central America too.
To subscribe to Disney Plus, you'll be paying $7.99 (with ads) and $10.99 (without ads) per month in the US, or $109.99 (without ads) annually if you pay up front. Disney+ is £7.99 per month/£79.90 in the UK, AU$13.99 per month/AU$139.99 per year in Australia and CA$11.99 per month/CA$119.99 per year in Canada and NZ$12.99 per month/NZ$129.99 per year in New Zealand. You can check out the price point widget below to see how much it costs in your region of the world:
US customers have the option of a joint Hulu / ESPN+ / Disney Plus bundle for a mere $12.99 per month (with ads) – $2 less than Netflix's Standard plan – so Disney is clearly gunning for those wanting a good deal. If you don't want ads, you'll pay $19.99 a month (the same as Netflix's most expensive tier).
If you need more Disney Plus pricing information make sure you check out our dedicated Disney Plus price and sign up guide.
Disney Plus: Apps and compatible devices
Disney Plus is available on multiple devices and operating systems.
Chrome, Firefox and even Microsoft Edge have no problem running the service, while you can get the smartphone app from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Console folks aren't missing out either, with PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 and Xbox One supporting the app. However, the app is not on Nintendo Switch, despite murmurs of support coming eventually.
And what about TVs? The webOS platform for LG TVs has the Disney app already, while Android TVs (Nvidia Shield TV, Sony TVs, Hisense TVs) will be able to run Disney Plus, too. Google Chromecast, Roku streaming devices, and Apple TV also support the app. In the UK, you can also get Disney Plus on Sky Q.
As we mentioned earlier, one subscription gives you access to four simultaneous streams with seven profiles on a maximum of ten devices. During our tests we managed to use one account on multiple platforms to watch a different movie on each account at the same time, which worked exactly as you'd expect.
Disney Plus: Design and user interface
If you've used Netflix or Amazon Prime Video before, you'll know what to expect from Disney Plus in terms of design and user interface. It's basically row after row of content, sorted by origin, streaming quality and other miscellaneous categories.
The logos of Disney's big brands can be found in a dynamic banner that directly link to movies and shows from those brands, while featured content – like Prey, The Simpsons and Pinocchio – takes up the top row.
Under the brand banners you'll find the Originals section that highlights content exclusive to the service and, underneath that, a familiar-looking recommended row that you've probably seen on a streaming service like Netflix.
As you scroll down the homepage, you'll find more categories and groupings that appear to have been editorially curated by Disney – a nice touch compared to the largely programmatic catalog on Netflix. It's here you'll find shows and movies you wouldn't normally opt for, and has been compared by one of our editors to opening a present on Christmas not knowing which surprise you're going to get.
Should you want a tad more predictability, there are entire sections just for movies and shows, plus a search function to find exactly what you're looking for.
It's pretty buried, but in the movies or TV show section there's a drop-down menu to select content by genre with options for Action/Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Kids, Shorts and 4K Ultra HD.
All-in-all, while nothing here is ground-breaking, the design is easily navigable and allows you to find surprises that you wouldn't have found otherwise in the smart, editorially curated rows.
What's in the Disney Plus content library?
The big tent poles of the service are classic Disney films, classic animated films, throwback shows from the Disney Channel, original content (which we'll talk about next) plus new and existing shows and movies from Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and National Geographic.
The most interesting bit, obviously, is the original content as that's part of Disney's strategy to eventually overtake Netflix.
At launch, there wasn't too much of the way of original content with the real standout title being The Mandalorian that's directed from former Marvel pioneer in director Jon Favreau. Other originals included the live action Lady and the Tramp re-make, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Encore, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, Noelle and a bunch of documentaries. There's the Pixar Spark Shorts, basically a collection of mini movies that typically air before the latest Pixar film, but only four of which weren't available elsewhere.
In recent years there have been stacks of excellent shows and movies added to the roster including Disenchanted, Hocus Pocus 2, The Bear, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Andor, The Old Man, Prey, Logan, Turning Red, Lightyear, Free Guy and more. We're really starting to see Disney bring its many divisions under the same Disney+ roof, and that means you'll rarely find yourself short of something for you and/or your family to watch.
One of the bigger draws is the massive movie catalog that goes as far back as the 1930s, with classics like Robin Hood or Cinderella as well as some of the modern remakes Disney's produced over the last two decades.
So where's the cutoff point in terms of new shows and movies? Initially there was a six-month gap between cinematic release and arrival on Disney+, but of late that's become more of a 90-day gap.
Additionally, in February 2021, Disney Plus Star was launched on the streamer. The six brand title to be added to Disney Plus, Star is home to the streaming services' offerings from subsidiary companies including 20th Century Studios. There are hundreds of titles here, which offer a more unique (and sometimes mature) slant to Disney Plus' wide variety of content. This adds a raft of US TV shows to the rosta, such as 24, Lost and Desperate Housewives.
How is the Disney Plus quality and viewing experience?
For most folks, Disney Plus will stream in HD/SDR that looks great on both big-screen TVs and smartphones alike. While that's par for the course for other streaming services, it's actually rather impressive that Disney Plus was able to pull it off considering how old some of these films and shows are, and proves that Disney has given a lot of thought to the overall picture quality of the content.
Even better, a small slice of the content pie is available in 4K/HDR and Dolby Vision and is included at no extra cost. That currently includes the entire Skywalker Saga (Episodes 1, 2 and 3, included), modern animated films like Frozen and Moana, plus remastered classics like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. Don't go in expecting over 100 titles like you'd find on Netflix, but it's a good start and shows that Disney is giving some serious thought to expanding its 4K HDR collection.
The obvious caveat to the above statements are that you have a stable internet connection of around 10Mbps or more and, in the case of watching 4K content, a 4K TV that has HDR support.
Unfortunately there's no way to intentionally throttle yourself if you want to save on bandwidth usage, but Disney Plus does offer offline viewing right out of the gate. That means, if you're on public Wi-Fi or at a friend's with unlimited data, you can very easily stock up on shows and movies to watch when you're back home or on a flight.
The Disney Plus app lets you indicate whether you're using mobile data to stream or not. If you do, you'll have the option to stream in lower quality so your precious data doesn't instantly disappear. You'll also get the option to download movies so you can watch them on the go without wasting data. (In this case you do get different download resolutions to choose from: Standard, Average and High. A precise resolution isn't shown here either.)
As we mentioned earlier, many MCU movies are also available to stream in IMAX Enhanced Mode. This mode increases the aspect ratio of supported films to 1:90:1, which allows you to see up to 26% more of these Marvel flicks. If nothing else, it removes the black border around the screen, so you'll definitely see more of what's on screen for certain films. Supported movies include Eternals, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Widow, Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther, Shang-Chi, Iron Man, Thor: Ragnarok and Captain America: Civil War.
Disney Plus supported features: Parental controls and GroupWatch
Since launch, Disney has added further features to Disney Plus that provide greater parental control and the option to watch a movie or TV show simultaneously with your friends and family.
Let's start with the parental controls. Parents and guardians have the option to restrict what their kids can watch on Disney Plus, which means you can hide any content that's R-rated or too adult for young eyes to see. After you subscribe to Disney Plus and open the app for the first time, you'll be asked if you'd like to change the content rating on a user's profile, provided that they're aged between 14 and 18 years old. Choosing the 14+ option means that mature content will be hidden from teenagers, and you can even choose to add a PIN number to that profile to stop any teens from trying to access R-rated material, too.
For those under the age of 14, you can also set-up a 'kids' specific profile, which only shows content to that user with a U rating. That means they won't see any teenage or adult-oriented content. Meanwhile, Disney Plus' 'Kid Proof Exit' feature makes it more difficult for children to leave their kid-specific profile without answering a question of your choosing first. So there's no chance that they'll accidentally click away from their profile and access yours by accident.
Finally, you can choose any number of age rating options for each Disney Plus profile. So say you have three kids who are 15, 10 and eight years old. You can set up individual profiles for each, but restrict what they watch by selecting any of the following age range options for their profiles: 6+, 9+, 12+, 14+, 16+ and 18+. That way, you can tailor content to each of your children, which means older kids won't be restricted to watching Frozen 2 over and again if your eight year old is hogging the remote.
As for the other feature we mentioned, Disney Plus has now incorporated a GroupWatch option. GroupWatch is a co-watching feature that allows up to seven people to watch a synced-up TV program or movie across web, mobile, conntected TV devices and smart TVs.
So, for example, maybe you and six other friends want to watch the same instalment in The Book of Boba Fett. First, you'd search for the movie or TV show – in this case, The Book of Boba Fett – using the search tool. Click on its profile icon, and you'll open up that series' specific page. Navigate to the button with three people icons in a circle, and click on that. From there, you can invite up to six other subscribers to watch the show or film alongside you.
Viewers can share emoji reactions in real time when GroupWatch is activated, too, while everyone has the option to play, pause, rewind or fast-forward for the group. So if one of you misses a key part of a show or movie for whatever reason, you can rewind it. Just make sure that you tell everyone else what you're doing, so nobody gets mad.
When we first reviewed Disney+ we felt that a lot of its potential hadn't been realised; we could see what Disney+ could be, but it wasn't quite there yet. But in three short years it's become one of the essential streaming services, and a particularly good option for families. The high quality catalogue, exclusive shows from the likes of Star Wars and the MCU integration, alongside a comparatively low price tag, makes this a really compelling service.
Because it's available at such a low price, we absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend trying the service for at least a month. Between the Marvel films, Skywalker Saga in 4K and dozens of Disney classics that will personally appeal to your age group, there's enough here to keep you busy.
When it first launched, we said that Disney Plus "could one day rival Netflix". That day has arrived. It may be focused primarily on Disney, but Disney owns a lot of TV and movie studios and there's a fantastic collection of content for all ages here.
Who's it for?
Disney Diehards: Look, if you've loved Disney your entire life, you'll probably want to subscribe to Disney Plus. It is the definitive repository for the company's work over the last 80(!) years. Going forward it will likely be the only place for Disney exclusives and originals that you won't anywhere else.
Sci-Fi Fans: Surprising audiences with the Skywalker Saga in 4K on launch day shows that Disney is taking its Sci-Fi brands seriously. If you consider yourself a Star Wars or Marvel fan, this service will basically be the well-spring of all those franchises moving forward and is well worth your subscription dollars.
Who's it not for?
Talk Show, Sitcom and Sports Lovers: The Disney Vault is wide and deep, but it doesn't contain many talk shows, sitcoms or sports documentaries. It's good, then, that Disney can be bundled with Hulu and ESPN+ in the US to fill that gap, but for other countries, this lack of specialized content could be a real deal-breaker.
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Jarno Stinissen, Bram Lodewijks and Henry St. Leger all contributed to this review.