Disney’s streaming service hits iOS around the world
Price: $6/£6 monthly or $60/£60 yearly
Size: 226.5 MB
Platform: iPhone / iPad
At the time of writing, with so many of us confined to our homes, we may like to think we’re utilizing our time creatively, but in reality we’re just watching Netflix. Maybe a bit of Hulu or Apple TV+. And you know what, if we are spending that time creatively, it’s only because we’re already watched everything on Netflix. But fear not! Put down the paintbrush! Return to your sofa! Disney + has arrived!
(True, it arrived some months ago for the US, but many other regions have just recently gotten access.)
So, a bit of background. Netflix had the benefit of a few years’ headstart over most other streaming platforms. It was able to laugh off its early poor choice of recycled movies and TV series with an eventual array of quality originals, leaving it as the defacto choice for streaming subscriptions. It stayed that way for a while, but now people are increasingly finding room in their lives for another service. That’s the second tier of subscriptions that the likes of Apple and Disney want to fill.
Thankfully, Apple and Disney’s offering are both pretty siloed and specific so they may both find a decent audience. But because Apple is eschewing non-Apple content, it’ll take a good while for them to build enough content for it to be an essential service. But as for Disney, well… it’s quite the opposite. On first impressions, even though you know they owned pretty much everything, you may have forgotten just how much “pretty much everything” entails.
While on one hand their heavy hitters may appeal to a certain subset of movie-watchers, that subset is quite big. We’re talking all the Marvel movies, we’re talking all the Star Wars movies, and we’re talking every season of the Simpsons.
What else? Well, the big-budget Star Wars exclusive series The Mandalorian for starters, origin of all those Baby Yoda memes.
Okay, okay, enough Star Wars, what else? Well, we forgot how many classic movies had some kind of Disney connection here, from Cool Runnings, to Mrs Doubtfire, all the way back to the early animated classics like Snow White and Fantasia to the early Mickey Mouse shorts… practically every decade of moving pictures is represented.
And it’s digging into these archives which is where Disney + really shines. And we’re not just talking the old stuff. You know all those animated shorts that play before Pixar movies at the movies? They’re all here. Oh, and all the actual Pixar movies… because of course Disney owns Pixar, because Disney owns everything.
Because that’s basically the crux of it. While it doesn’t have the depth and breadth of Netflix – or much adult-oriented content – the sheer quality of what’s on offer is undeniable. Disney’s family focus over multiple decades really pays off. As cable packages fail and everyone moves to online streaming subscriptions, you can easily see Disney+ becoming an essential.
But what about the app itself? Is it a massive pain? Is that where it falls down? Well, no, sorry. It turns out Disney put some of those millions it’s been using to buy everything into some decent software development. It’s simple, it works a treat. The home page is just an endless stream of swipeable movie posters categorized by familiarly non-specific categories like ‘originals’, ‘trending’ and ‘hit movies’, which put the big hitters like Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean and Toy Story up front. You’ll also find more specific/sensible categories like ‘Animated movies’ and ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’. It does a better job of segmenting movies than a lot of other services, where it seems you’re shown the same seven picks again and again.
Its player is also simple and can be easily streamed via AirPlay – or played natively on Apple TV using the tvOS app – so you’re not just tied to your device. It saves your place so you can easily jump back in, and it allows you to download, unlike Netflix, everything for offline viewing. That’s the commute sorted.
We think Disney is on to a winner here. Their vast vault, which they’ve historically been reticent to fully open, has been well and truly blasted wide. And we’d say they’ve picked the perfect time to do it.