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Streaming Service: Disney+ UK

Reviewer: Mark Clegg

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

This quote attributed to Walt Disney has become increasingly amusing and ironic since his death in 1966. In the years immediately after his passing the company struggled under the WWWD regime (‘What Would Walt Do?’) but starting with the ‘Disney Renaissance’ in the late 1980s, the House of Mouse has gone from strength to strength, now covering as it does all areas of the entertainment and leisure industry from movies to theme parks, from sports (ESPN) to education (National Geographic). The Walt Disney Company has many detractors who criticize its apparent wish to monopolise its market (an opinion that was strengthened by Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox) but no one can say that they don’t produce some quality product.

And the money-making machine continues with the UK launch of their streaming service – Disney+. But is it worth the cost? Who is it aimed at? And just what is it all about? The Reviews Hub hopes to answer your Disney+ related questions.

Content

When most people think ‘Disney’ they maybe imagine Mickey Mouse, or perhaps Tinkerbell flitting around an ornate castle. However over the past decade or so the company has acquired a diverse set of additional intellectual properties (IPs) that now makes their offering a veritable smorgasbord of content.

As well as the majority of their back catalogue of Disney-branded animated films such as Frozen, The Jungle Book and Bambi, this streaming service gives you access to a wide range of their live-action content like Mary Poppins, Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Tron, and franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean and High School Musical. There are also a lot of recent Disney movies here to watch as often as you like including the live-action remakes of The Lion King, Aladdin and Dumbo (alongside their superior original animated version) and a big collection of classic Disney theatrical short cartoons featuring Mickey, Donald Duck and the gang.

Disney TV shows range from those for the little ones (Doc McStuffins, Vampirina, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse etc.), things for the Millennials to reminisce over (Hannah Montana, Phineas and Ferb, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody etc.) and loads of stuff for Gen-Xers to relive their youth through and introduce their kids to (DuckTales, Gargoyles, Gummi Bears etc.).

Then we have Pixar, with Disney+ giving its subscribers access to their complete library of movies up to and including Toy Story 4 as well as their wonderful shorts. Disney also owns Star Wars (all of the films but the newest, Rise of Skywalker are here from launch as well as TV shows like Clone Wars), Marvel (a large selection of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and TV shows including Iron Man, Avengers and Agents of SHIELD), and The Muppets (a handful of the movies and shows although sadly the original TV show is not here… yet).

We are also treated a bumper selection of educational content thanks to Disney owning National Geographic, and their purchase of 20th Century Fox last year allows them to offer films like the Ice Age series, Avatar and Home Alone as well as boosting the Marvel content with Fox movies including the X-Men franchise, Wolverine and Fantastic Four. The biggest coup from the Fox deal is that Disney+ gives you immediate access to the first 30 seasons of The Simpsons (that’s over 600 episodes!)

Of course a large draw for Disney+ is the original content. As of launch there isn’t a lot but most of it is very strong. The Star Wars show The Mandalorian is a superb western-style tale of a bounty hunter (and it’s here you will find the internet-breaking Baby Yoda, although only the first two episodes are available at launch, the rest rolling out weekly), The World According to Jeff Goldblum (the eccentric actor observes life in his own quirky way) and the fascinating and hugely recommended The Imagineering Story which gives unprecedented access behind the scenes at the making of the Disney theme parks. There are also original films available exclusively to this streaming platform including a live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, and Togo, the epic true story of a sled dog that will melt the hardest of hearts. Upcoming original content include several live-action spin-off shows from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki etc.) and more Mandalorian.

As you can see, Disney+ has a lot to offer and although much of it could be seen as ‘kid’s stuff’, there is still a wide enough range of content to satisfy every member of the family.  That most of the current content was made for cinema and wide-spread television release means that the overall quality is extremely high. As well as this, Disney do not seem to be skimping on the budgets of the exclusive shows and films, and as momentum builds on this new content, it looks as though subscribers are in for some real treats.

Something to quickly add is that in light of all cinemas currently being closed, Disney has a lot of theatrical movies whose release will have to be delayed or cut short. As they have a massive roster of films lined up for the next two or three years with set release dates, it seems entirely plausible that some of them may end up dropping on to Disney+ instead. Whether this is the new live action Mulan, the latest Marvel movie Black Widow, or upcoming potential franchise-starters like Artemis Fowl or Jungle Cruise we do not know, but Pixar’s Onward which was released to cinemas in early March is due on the US version of Disney+ next week, so keep an eye out.

Value for Money

Smart folks who subscribed to Disney+ prior to launch managed to snag a whole year for just fifty quid. That offer has now gone but the price tag hasn’t jumped up too much. Currently the annual subscription fee is £59.99 which works out at £5 per month. However if you wish to take it a month at a time (or just binge on everything you want to see within thirty days) then the price is £5.99 per month.

Even at the highest monthly price, the amount of current content, and the promised upcoming additions make this a bargain.

And if you are still not persuaded, you can take a 7 day free trial to see how you like it.

Features

Disney+ is offering a few bonus features as part of the package that other streaming services charge extra for. Here they are all included in the single price tier.

Due to the current strain that the internet is under as the UK goes into lock-down, the initial launch of Disney+ includes limited availability of 4k and HD versions of content depending on the chosen title and availability of bandwidth. Disney have actually stated that for now, the picture quality may be up to 25% less but once normality resumes expect to see this be greatly improved – and as with the US version, this is at no extra cost. There is no need to do anything to active this feature – the site simply detects your device’s capabilities and plays at the highest supported quality.

Each subscription allows four accounts for streaming, meaning that dad can be watching Return of the Jedi, while mum is enjoying Sister Act, the kids are wallowing in Jake and the Neverland Pirates and grandad is rocking it out with Jonas Brothers in Concert! Plus you also have unlimited downloads to up to ten devices meaning that grandma can also binge on The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes at the same time.

An impressive extra on Disney+ is the inclusion on many of the titles of bonus features. Just like a DVD or Blu-ray, where available Disney+ will offer supplementary material including making of featurettes, deleted scenes and even commentaries by the creative. And just like Netflix, the site will remember where you left off if you don’t quite reach the end of a movie or show.

Ease of Use

Disney+ can be viewed on a wide range of devices although at launch it isn’t as ubiquitous as one might expect. You can get it on your mobile device whether it is iOS or Android, PS4 and Xbox One (but no earlier models and not Nintendo Switch), some smart TVs, Chromecast and Amazon Fire devices. It is also now available on SkyQ and will soon be available on Now TV, or of course you can just watch it via your web browser. Check here for the full list of compatible devices.

Anyone already familiar with Netflix or Prime will have no issues navigating Disney+ which is set up in a very similar way. Even those who are new to such streaming services shouldn’t have a problem quickly picking how to navigate the menus. It’s extremely well set out and intuitive.

Finding what you want to watch is simple. As well as giving viewers to choose between the five main branches – Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic – you can split the content down between movies , originals and series, and there are also collections like Animated Movies, Reimagined Classics, Documentaries and Action & Adventure, as well as more unusual categories like Beasts & Monsters and Mickey Mouse Through the Years. And there is also the search function which filters content by title, actor, and character.

Setting up individual accounts is a piece of cake too with each of the four accounts being able to change certain features such as next episode auto play and language, as well as the facility to change the account to family friendly which filters out any items with questionable content. A nice touch here is the ability to choose from a massive range of characters to act as each accounts avatar ranging from princesses to villain, Star wars to marvel, Mickey & friends to a cute, cuddly penguin.

Overall Impression

The high quality of the new content makes the prospect of future projects extremely exciting, and as the service grows we will no doubt see the rate that this product is produced and released speed up.

With the entire world seemingly confined to their homes at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a better time to launch a new streaming service. Disney may be losing tonnes of money with their theme parks, stores and the cinemas all being closed, but Disney+ offers the perfect ticket to escape the frankly frightening times we live in and to be transported to Neverland, Wakanda, under the sea or to a galaxy far, far away.

God knows we all need a little magic and escapism right now and Disney+ is just the ticket. And something that allows you to watch Herbie Goes Bananas at any time of the day or night has got to be pretty damn great!

Disney+ is now available in the UK

All images are copyright Disney

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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