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Disney Plus review

The House of Mouse takes on Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO Max

Disney Plus review
(Image: © Lucasfilm)

TechRadar Verdict

After almost a year of Disney Plus, we're pretty impressed with how it's growing, even if it's still in need of top-tier adult-friendly originals. The base offering of movies is strong, though, as is the choice of 4K-ready content. How Disney Plus does long-term, though, will largely be determined by how quickly more films and TV series comes to the service. But the good news is that the service is built on a very solid platform and, at its convenient subscription price, is well-worth investing in.

Pros

  • +

    4K HDR with Dolby Vision

  • +

    Downloads available immediately

  • +

    Diverse original content

Cons

  • -

    No licensed content

  • -

    Unknown update schedule

  • -

    Library could be more varied

Two-minute review

Disney Plus is a force to be reckoned with. Since its release in November 2019, Disney’s streaming service offers 4K HDR streaming with dozens of shows and movies for a scant $6.99 per month (AU$8.99 / £5.99), coming with the ability to set-up multiple profiles and download shows for offline viewing. 

There still isn’t quite as much content as we’d like, but what’s there is enough to fill a few weeks worth of movie or TV show nights, especially if you’re a fan of Marvel movies and Pixar films. It’s fair to say Disney could've been faster with the turnaround on its bigger originals – The Mandalorian is still its biggest draw, but there's a host of MCU TV shows, such as Loki, that give the Star Wars series a run for its money – but the groundwork of the platform is rock-solid. 

So what, exactly, can you expect in terms of content? Well, The Mandalorian aside, originals include Marvel shows like WandaVision and Hawkeye, the Golden Globe-nominated Only Murders in the Building, and anime project Star Wars: Visions. You'll also find dozens of classics from The Disney Vault, and newer movies like Jungle Cruise.

There’s every Star Wars film in 4K HDR, every Marvel movie (some are now available to stream in IMAX Enhanced mode) apart from Spider-Man: No Way Home, and most every Pixar film you’d want to watch. 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. When Disney said it was going to put up its catalog, it really committed to putting up the catalog, and that means there’s a lot of filler. 

What we like most is that, for a single monthly fee, you watch on four simultaneous screens and save up to seven profiles on the service, making it a great plan for families looking to stretch their entertainment budgets. Moreover, re-watchable kids movies like Frozen and Moana ensure that your little one always has something to watch in a pinch, while shows like The Mandalorian and The World According to Jeff Goldblum give mom and dad something to watch, too. 

Alternatively, parents or other adults can check out unique offerings on Disney Plus Star, the six brand title on the app, featuring films and TV series from 20th Centurt Studios, FX Productions, Disney Television Studios and more.

If you can overlook the filler and pace yourself with the great content that’s there, you’ll find the very budget-friendly Disney Plus to be a solid alternative to Amazon PrimeNetflixHulu, and now Apple TV Plus that will only improve as more content comes online.

Disney Plus release date and cost

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

Disney Plus officially released on November 12 in the US and Canada, and November 19 in Australia and New Zealand. We got Disney Plus UK on March 31, 2020, alongside versions of the service for France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

In 2021, Disney Plus has expanded into other regions, including more European nations, South Africa, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore. Disney has also announced that more than 50 nations will get the streaming service in 2022, and that it'll launch in another 160 countries by the end fo 2023.

To subscribe to Disney Plus, you'll be paying $6.99/month in the US, £7.99 per month in the UK, AU$8.99 in Australia (opens in new tab) and CA$8.99 in Canada and NZ$9.99 in New Zealand (opens in new tab). You can check out our Disney Plus price point widget, to see how much it costs in your region of the world, below:

US customers have the option of a joint Hulu / ESPN+ / Disney Plus bundle for a mere $12.99 per month (opens in new tab) – the same cost as Netflix's Standard subscription – and Disney is clearly gunning for those wanting a good deal.

If you need more Disney Plus pricing information make sure you check out our dedicated Disney Plus prices and sign up guide.

Disney Plus app: which devices support it?

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

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 TVSony TVsHisense 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.

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 five big brands can be found in a dynamic banner that directly link to movies and shows from those brands, while featured content – like The Mandalorian, The Simpsons and Avatar – 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 bit 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.

Content library

So what do you get in terms of content? Well, 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 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 include 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.  

Weirdly, Disney Plus also has 30 seasons of The Simpsons here, too, which could mean that Disney will use Fox's catalog of movies and shows to fill in any gaps in its programming schedule.

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

It's not just limited to TV shows, however, and one of the bigger draws is the monstrous 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? Well, you'll find most things that are over six months old here. More recently, though, we've seen newer productions land on the streamer, including Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Marvel Studios' Eternals also arrives on January 12, 2022, so we're getting new movies dropping on Disney Plus earlier than before.

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. Currently, there are more than 280 movies and 75 TV shows to check out, which offer a more unique (and sometimes mature) slant to Disney Plus' wide variety of content. So if you're after something that's Disney focused, Star is the option for you.

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.)

(Image credit: Disney)

As we mentioned earlier, a range of 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 Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther, Shang-Chi, Iron Man, Thor: Ragnarok and Captain America: Civil War.

One small bug we've found is that the resume function isn't as reliable on Disney Plus as it is on, say, Netflix, which perfectly saves your spot in a show or film down to the second. On more than one occasion we briefly stopped watching Lady and The Tramp to take a break only for the film to start from the beginning the next time we went to play it. 

We'll keep an eye on this bug as we continue to use the service but it's worth noting that Disney Plus might not quite be up to par in the technology department as leading services like Netflix, which has zero issues saving your spot.

Disney Plus supported features: Parental controls and GroupWatch

Simu Liu prepares to fight in Marvel's Shang-Chi movie

(Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney)

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.

Gemma Chan as Sersi in Marvel Studios' Eternals movie

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

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 latest 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.

Our verdict

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Calling Disney Plus an essential streaming service feels a bit pre-emptive at this point – a lot of its big originals are still awaiting release, and they'll ultimately define the prospects of the services. That said, what's available here is a good opening salvo against long-standing streaming titans like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and the low price tag makes it one of the most affordable of all the services available.

Because it's available at such a low price, we absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend trying the service for at least a few weeks. 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.

We wish there were a few newer films, more original content and a set content schedule that includes syndicated content from other places, but for fans of the House of Mouse and cord cutters looking for their next big binge, Disney Plus provides a rock-solid foundation for a service that could one day rival Netflix.

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 Fanboys: 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.

(Image credit: Disney)

Who's it not for?

Big Time Bingers: If you know that you're a BIG binge-watcher capable of chewing through Netflix series in a few days, Disney Plus probably won't keep you entertained for very long. The catalog, while certainly vast, only has a few dozen really great shows and movies for each age group. With no way of telling how soon more content will be added, you could very easily find yourself without something to watch in the next two weeks.

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.

Jarno Stinissen, Bram Lodewijks and Henry St. Leger all contributed to this review.

Tom Power
Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.


An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot (opens in new tab).


Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.