Disney+ is the new subscription streaming service for Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, NatGeo, the Simpsons, vault movies, and a library that pits Disney Plus v. Netflix. We’ll review whether Disney+ is worth the money, pros & cons, and everything you need to know about the platform’s confirmed original programming. (Updated December 13, 2019.)
Disney’s streaming service debuted exactly one month ago in the United States, and we think enough original programming and content have been released to answer the question of whether you should subscribe to Disney Plus. Even though this is a Disney fan site, as subscribers to Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime, CBS All Access, and Apple TV+ we offer a balanced perspective, along with rankings of all the services.
While we’ll share our opinion below, it’s worth noting that you can sign up for a free 7-day trial of Disney+ to decide for yourself. After that, monthly and annual subscriptions are available for $6.99 and $69.99 via Disneyplus.com. There’s also a $12.99 per month bundle that includes Disney+ plus ESPN+ and Hulu. Finally, a large segment of U.S. households may actually qualify for a free year of the Disney+ streaming service…
If you’re a Verizon customer, you can get a year subscription to Disney+ for free. To take advantage of Verizon’s free Disney+ offer, you must be a new or existing subscriber to either a Verizon wireless unlimited plan, or if you’re a new subscriber to a Verizon home internet service.
Eligible subscribers can activate this subscription on their accounts via Verizon’s Disney+ page. This grants you one year of Disney+ per account, which needs to be claimed by June 1, 2020. Verizon is the exclusive wireless carrier offering this deal, meaning those who use AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or other carriers won’t be eligible.
However, T-Mobile offers free Netflix and Sprint provides free Hulu. Additionally, Apple is offering a year of Apple TV+ to anyone who purchases a new iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV, or Mac. The goal of all these streaming services is to boost subscriber counts and claim more market share, and that’s especially important given that Disney+ is arguably The Walt Disney Company’s biggest “project” in decades.
This streaming service is the reason Disney spent $71.3 billion to acquire the film and television assets held by 21st Century Fox, as well as several billions more on tech companies to power its backend infrastructure of the new service. In addition, untold investments have been made in Disney+ original programming and marketing.
The success or failure of Disney+ will have far-reaching implications for the future of the Walt Disney World, beyond television and films. Just as the poor performance of ESPN resulted in cost-cutting for other business units, the same could be true here–or Disney+ could be a runaway success that becomes an incubator for new IPs that find their way into Disney’s theme parks. All of that remains to be seen, but suffice to say, a lot is riding on Disney+.
For starters, some basics about Disney Plus. This is essentially Disney’s version of Netflix; even though it has “Disney” in the name, the brand has become so huge and all-encompassing that Disney+ is far more than a family service or something just for kids.
There’s pretty much something for everyone here: Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, 21st Century Fox, National Geographic, and of course, Disney. This includes original movies and documentaries, a ton of films from the vault, new series, Disney Channel originals, plus the 21st Century Fox back catalog.
Disney+ costs $6.99 per month in the United States, $8.99 in Australia and Canada, $9.99 in New Zealand, and €6.99 in the Netherlands (and presumably, the rest of Europe). As noted above, there’s also a Disney+, Hulu (with ads), and ESPN+ bundle in the United States that costs $12.99 per month. Disney Plus is available on iOS, Android, Apple TV, PS4, Xbox One, browsers, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
The Disney+ app experience will allow concurrent viewing on up to 4 registered devices, and will feature unlimited downloads that subscribers can watch offline later on up to 10 mobile or tablet devices, with no constraints on the number of titles downloaded, or how many times a title can be downloaded per year.
Disney+ offers commercial-free viewing, ultra-high-definition viewing experience with up to 4K Ultra HD video playback in Dolby Vision ultra-vivid imaging, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos immersive audio on supported devices for available programming.
At launch, Disney+ will offer support for English, Spanish, French and Dutch languages, including both user interface as well as audio support and/or subtitles for library content, with additional languages available for original programming. The Disney+ app also offers support for closed captioning, descriptive audio, and navigation assistance to help subscribers with disabilities.
The Walt Disney Company has stated that its goal is to compete with Netflix right away at launch, and that’s borne out both by the regular pricing of $6.99 per month, which is considerably less than Netflix’s lowest priced option. If you commit to a year, you save even more money, with a subscription only costing around $5.83 per month with the one year option.
Of course, that long-term commitment is a double-edged sword. Just as it locks you into keeping Disney+ a year, it safeguards you against future Disney+ price increases. Disney’s strategy of putting user acquisition ahead of profits is pretty transparent, and the company clearly wants to gain market share in a hurry.
Once Disney is satisfied with the subscriber count and market share numbers, it’s a pretty safe bet that prices will increase pretty rapidly. Three years from now, if Disney+ is still under $10 per month, we’d be absolutely shocked. Trust us as Disney fans, we know how this company loves its price increases! 😉
Now that we’ve introduced Disney+, let’s take a look at the content that’s slated to appear on the streaming service…
Disney+ Original Content
In its first year, Disney+ will release more than 25 original series and 10 original films, documentaries, and specials. In years two and three, more original content will roll out (don’t expect binge-worthy drops all at once). Here’s some of the original programming to expect, along with anticipated release dates:
- Chip ’n’ Dale – A short-form, 7-minute long series consisting of 39 non-verbal episodes following the ups and downs of two little critters living life in the big city. (It is not a Rescue Rangers reboot.) Release TBD.
- Short Circuit – An animation incubator where anyone at Walt Disney Animation Studios can pitch an idea to make an original short film. The animation series launches in Spring 2020.
- Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 – For the first time in forever, Walt Disney Animation Studios invited a filmmaking crew to capture the making of their animated film, Frozen 2. Let’s hope this has a happier ending than the Sweatbox! Release TBD, likely year one.
Disney Live Action
- Diary of a Female President – Series following a Cuban-American 12-year-old through the highs and lows of middle school…on her journey to becoming the future president of the United States. This series drops sometime in 2020.
- Flora & Ulysses – An animated adaptation of the award-winning children’s book of the same name, which tells the story of a 10-year-old cynic and comic book fan who saves a squirrel named Ulysses and ends up with unexpected superpowers. Release date TBD.
- Home Alone Reboot – No details or release date provided.
- Lady & the Tramp – Another Disney+ day-one live-action movie; this is a retelling of the 1955 animated classic, voiced by Tessa Thompson as Lady and Justin Theroux as Tramp, and featuring real dogs!
- Lizzie McGuire Reboot – Hilary Duff is reprising her iconic 2000s role as Lizzie McGuire, now in her 30s and living in NYC as an interior decorator’s apprentice in present day. Release date TBD.
- Love, Simon Series – The series based upon the teen rom-com hit film of the same name follows a new character on his journey of self-discovery. Release date TBD.
- Muppets Now – The Muppets are back!!! This short-form unscripted series, which will showcase the beloved characters alongside celebrity guests in each episode in what sounds like a throwback to the original series. Release date TBD, likely 2020.
- Noelle – A Disney+ day-one Christmas comedy film featuring Bill Hader as Nick Kringle, heir to Santa’s sleigh and Anna Kendrick, as his younger sister Noelle. Shirley MacLaine and Billy Eichner round out the cast of the holiday film, which looks hilarious, heartfelt, and kitschy.
- Secret Society of Second Born Royals – A new contemporary princess movie stars Peyton Elizabeth Lee as a rebellious princess who is bored with royal life, discovers she has superpowers, and belongs to a secret society dedicated to keeping peace in the kingdom. Release date TBD.
- Stargirl – Based on the best-selling YA novel of the same name, Stargirl is a coming-of-age-story about an average teen who finds his world turned upside down when an unconventional student named Stargirl rolls into town. This film is expected to debut in early 2020.
- Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made – Oscar-winning Spotlight director Tom McCarthy’s film following Timmy, a deadpan 11-year-old who operates a detective agency with his imaginary partner, a 1500 pound polar bear. It might sound weird, but the trailer shown at the D23 Expo was hilarious. This film is expected to debut in early 2020.
- Togo – Willem Dafoe stars in this true story as a man who must work with his lead sled dog, Togo, to navigate the treacherous terrain with a storm on the horizon. This film is set to launch in December 2019.
- Forky Asks a Question – Tony Hale returns as Toy Story 4’s Forky for a 10-installment short series. The series finds Forky asking life’s big (and not so big) questions. I love Forky, but this fell flat for me and the character quickly overstayed his welcome.
- Lamp Life – Bo Peep stars in a new Pixar short called Lamp Life, and shows what happened to Bo Peep between Toy Story 2 and 4. Release TBD.
- Monsters at Work – Billy Crystal and John Goodman return as Mike and Sulley, with the series picking up six months after the original film, when the Monsters Inc. power plant now harvests laughs. The series follows a recent graduate as he makes the tough transition from generating scares to laughs. Monsters at Work debuts on Disney+ in 2020.
- SparkShorts – A Disney+ launch-day new label of Pixar shorts designed to discover storytellers, explore new techniques, and experiment with production workflows.
- Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles as the titular heroes in this series debuting in Fall 2020.
- Hawkeye – Jeremy Renner is back as Hawkeye in this Disney+ ‘event series’ that will find the Avenger training Kate Bishop as a new take on the eponymous archer. The series will drop in Fall 2021.
- Loki – Tom Hiddleston returns as an alt-universe version of Loki, who skipped off with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame. The Disney+ series will follow an angry Loki in that new timeline and will premiere in Spring 2021.
- Marvel 616 – An anthological documentary series exploring the intersection between Marvel’s rich legacy of stories, characters and creators and the world outside your window. Release TBD.
- Marvel’s Hero Project – A docu-series of real-life heroes that reveals the remarkable, positive change several young heroes are making in their own communities. Release TBD.
- Marvel’s What If… – An animated series that will feature originals from the enormous cast of MCU stars returning to voice their characters in alt-universe versions of their iconic stories, changing one plot-point to see how that impacts their entire story. One of the few series with footage shown at the D23 Expo; this actually looks intriguing. Marvel’s What If… debuts in Summer 2021.
- Moon Knight – Not much is known of this newly-announced series, aside from its future existence; the comics character in Moon Knight is an ex-criminal who becomes the avatar of an Egyptian god and struggles with the multiple personalities. Release TBD.
- Ms. Marvel – Another D23 Expo announcement about which little is known; expected to be a live-action series about Kamala Khan, the stretchy, shrinky, growy heroine of Jersey City. Release TBD.
- She-Hulk – A series in which Bruce Banner is no longer the only Hulk in the MCU. She-Hulk traditionally follows Bruce Banner’s cousin, a power-lawyer who receives some of his powers via an emergency blood transfusion.
- WandaVision – Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany return as Scarlet Witch and Vision in a weird and bizarre sitcom heavily inspired by The Dick Van Dyke Show. Based on the footage shown and statements from cast, this will either be a train wreck or brilliant and inventive. (I’m leaning towards the latter.) WandaVision premieres on Disney+ in Spring 2021.
- The Mandalorian – The crown jewel of the Disney+ original programming launch day library, the Mandalorian is worth the cost of Disney+ on its own. Set after the events of Return of the Jedi, the eight-episode season stars Pedro Pascal and features Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Waititi, and other big names. (Plus BABY YODA. Need we say more?!)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Season 7) – In addition to all existing seasons of Clone Wars, Disney+ will be the exclusive home for the new final season, featuring the 12-episode farewell, which will drop on Disney+ in February 2020.
- Untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi Series – Star Wars prequel trilogy fan favorite (words you don’t hear together often) Ewan McGregor returns as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a new series, taking place between Episode III and Episode IV. Release TBD.
- Untitled Rogue One Prequel Series – Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk reprise their roles from Rogue One for an untitled prequel series that follows the Rebel spy and his sharp-tongued droid. Nothing was shown of this at the D23 Expo, but Luna and Tudyk displayed great chemistry on stage, and were incredibly enthusiastic about the series. Release TBD.
- Be Our Chef – A year-one cooking competition show that invites families into the test kitchen at Walt Disney World, with the winner ending up with a dish on a Walt Disney World menu.
- Cinema Relics: Iconic Art of the Movies – A behind-the-scenes look at Disney’s cinematic history, this year-one documentary series focuses on the props and costumes from iconic Disney films, such as Mary Poppins and Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Dolphin Reef – Narrated by Natalie Portman, this new Disneynature film dives into the sea with a young bottlenose dolphin, offering an up-close look at his stunning habitat and the life of his fascinating species. Release date TBD.
- Encore! – Produced by Kristen Bell, Encore! is a launch-day series that reunites former castmates of a high school musical who have long left theater behind and brings them back together for a new performance of the same play.
- Earthkeepers – A docu-series about the scientists and conservationists trying to save the world’s animals. Release date TBD.
- Ink & Paint – A documentary series that detailing the history of Walt Disney Animation and how an unsung workforce of trailblazing women helped to create some of the greatest animated films of all time. Release date TBD.
- Magic of the Animal Kingdom – This NatGeo documentary series is a year one release that will focus on the conservationist work at Walt Disney World, including Animal Kingdom and Epcot’s Living Seas.
- One Day at Disney – Disney’s “mystery project” is a celebration of Cast Members who bring the magic to life, and will deliver 52 short episodes each profiling one person and their fascinating job. Honoring Cast Members is an interesting premise…but we really wonder how this relates to recent controversies about Cast wages and living conditions.
- (Re)Connect – A year-one docu-series that takes technology and work away from torn families to, well, reconnect.
- Rogue Trip – ABC broadcaster Bob Woodruff and his 27-year-old son Mack share an off-the-beaten-path travel guide in this year-one docu-series.
- Shop Class – A year-one series that follows teams of students as they design, build, and test new contraptions that will be graded by a panel of experts until the winning team is crowned Shop Class Champs.
- Untitled Walt Disney Imagineering Documentary Series – Chronicles the 65+ year history of WDI with storylines of the people, the craft, and the creativity of Imagineers. Directed and produced by creator Leslie Iwerks, this year-one series will feature exclusive interviews and never-before-seen footage. This is the single-biggest reason we’re likely to sign up for Disney+.
- The World According to Jeff Goldblum – The inquisitive and always-amusing Jeff Goldblum learns about subjects like ice cream, tattoos, and sneakers while he interviews experts, attends conventions, and more. The 12-episode series debuts on launch day and looks intriguing.
Disney+ ‘Vault’ Movies & Series
At launch, the Disney+ library will contain over 7,000 episodes of television series and nearly 500 films from the vault. That’s less than 20% of Netflix’s content library, which explains both why Disney acquired 21st Century Fox and is placing an emphasis on high quality original programming. Disney+ also will offer a lower episode-count than Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Now at launch, albeit by a slimmer margin.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the vault movies and television series you can expect to find on Disney+ at launch:
- All Walt Disney Signature Collection animated films, with more titles to follow in year one.
- All Pixar movies, except Toy Story 4.
- All Star Wars movies from the first two trilogies (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi), plus the Force Awakens and Rogue One.
- 5,000 episodes of Disney Channel content and 100 Disney Channel Original Movies will stream at launch.
- All 30 seasons of The Simpsons.
- The entire Marvel Cinematic Universe will appear on Disney+, including Captain Marvel on launch day, followed by Avengers: Endgame.
- More than 250 hours of legacy content from National Geographic.
Is Disney+ Worth It?
When we first ‘cut the cord’ on cable around a decade ago, we did so to save money. We had used Blockbuster Online and Netflix in its nascent years as a DVD rental service, and transitioned to its streaming platform. At some point, the DVDs plus streaming became “good enough” for us, so we got rid of our Comcast cable, saving nearly $100 per month.
Fast forward to the present, and we’re spending almost (but not quite) as much money on streaming services. Granted, we have way more content that we actually enjoy, but it’s still more money than anticipated due a larger number of content silos as compared to the singular nature of cable. Nonetheless, we’re happy with what we have.
However, we don’t need another streaming service. Nevertheless, we opted for a month to month Disney Plus subscription because we didn’t want to miss out on the Mandalorian, Imagineering Story, plus a few original films (namely, Noelle and Togo).
With that said, we need one or two fewer streaming services than what we have currently. The questions for us are thus, “how do we rank the streaming services?” and “what do we get rid of in favor of Disney+?”
In answering the first question, here are my personal rankings after one month of Disney Plus:
- HBO Now
- Amazon Prime Video
- CBS All Access
- Apple TV+
I don’t expect anyone else to put HBO at the top of their list, but this is the only one we would never cancel. HBO offers far and away the best signal to noise ratio, so even though it offers less programming, it offers better programming. In addition to critical and commercial darlings like the Sopranos, the Wire, and Game of Thrones, HBO has great documentaries, sports, and weekly programming. (We never miss Last Week Tonight.)
Netflix is #2 for the exact opposite reason. The signal to noise ratio is terrible, but they have approximately 37 new shows per day (slight exaggeration…maybe?) including enough good content that it would be hard to give up Netflix. Nevertheless, I could see canceling Netflix for a few months at a time and letting new content build up if we decided to start rotating services.
Amazon Prime Video is solid, but not as deep as Netflix. There are enough shows we love on Amazon Prime Video, like Bosch, Catastrophe, and the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, to keep us coming back. However, in reality we are Amazon Prime addicts, and the peace of mind of knowing we could have paper towels delivered to us at a moment’s notice will prevent us from canceling Amazon Prime.
Hulu is a great option for catching up on over-the-air television shows on stations that our crummy antenna cannot reach. We like Handmaid’s Tale, but it has become a bit too bleak (and has arguably overstayed its welcome), so we wouldn’t miss the original programing if we finally got around to buying a better antenna.
Showtime is one we could (and have) cancelled. We enjoy some of the original shows (primarily Billions and Ray Donovan), as well as the library of films here. It’s a prime candidate for the churn and burn model of subscribing for a month, watching everything new and then unsubscribing for the next 6 months.
Same goes for CBS All Access. The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, and the Twilight Zone reboot are all worthwhile shows, but CBS All Access is otherwise a tough sell. CBS should’ve partnered with another content producer here, or bet bigger on its service, because it’s hard to even imagine this existing in another 5 years.
Finally, there’s Apple TV+. We did not purchase this, but rather, got it for free for one year due to buying a new iPhone. While Morning Show is decent, the service otherwise has the feeling that it launched prematurely. Nevertheless, It’s hard to count out anything from Apple, especially with big names like Oprah, JJ Abrams, Steven Spielberg, M. Night Shyamalan, and others involved. Hopefully content ramps up dramatically within the next few months.
Although we don’t currently have it, we’re also planning on getting the Criterion Channel at some point. We’ve been putting off signing up until we’re ‘out’ of series that we’re watching on other platforms so we can focus on that. However, we also need to cancel at least two services before getting Criterion Channel.
This brings us to Disney+. Despite being big Disney fans, we’re more focused on the theme parks than anything else. We enjoy the animated films, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel, but are not super fans of any of that. Our fandom primarily revolves around Walt Disney World, Disneyland, etc.
Thus far, we’ve been really impressed by the Mandalorian and the Imagineering Story. We also really enjoyed Noelle (for what it is), which will be a Christmas movie staple for us going forward. Other content–Encore, the World According to Jeff Goldblum, and Forky Asks a Question–missed the mark for us.
For us, the jury is still out on a lot of other content, whether it be series that have yet to be released or shows we just haven’t had a chance to watch yet. This would include High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, the Lizzie McGuire reboot series, Monsters at Work, Forky Asks a Question, Togo, Stargirl, Phineas and Ferb: The Movie, Candace Against the Universe, Love Simon the series, Diary of a Female President, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Muppets Now, and both the untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi & Rogue One series.
Another big unknown is all of the Marvel programming to come in 2020 and beyond. We like (but not love) the Marvel Cinematic Universe and make a point of seeing most of those films opening weekend, but the Marvel shows on Netflix have been almost universally duds for us. However, it appears that Disney is investing significantly more money and effort into Marvel shows now that they’re going to be on Disney+.
My main concern with the original programming is that the list above essentially represents the first three years of Disney Plus. Of course, titles can (and will) be added, but that long list is still only a fraction of what Netflix releases in a single year. That’s why we’re doing a month to month subscription for now. We figure we’ll start out with 2-3 months and reevaluate in early 2020 after the Mandalorian is over and we’ve had a chance to make our way through some of Disney’s back catalog.
Speaking of which, that itself is a huge Disney+ selling point for plenty of families. There are a ton of movies and documentaries, including pretty much everything from the Disney Vault, 250+ hours of content from National Geographic, One Day at Disney, the Imagineering documentary series, 21st Century Fox’s films, and more.
Ultimately, it’s this tremendous back catalog plus the potential of original programming that pushes Disney+ over the top and makes it worth the $6.99 monthly cost for most people. Assuming that one-third or so of the Marvel and Star Wars programming about which it’s currently “too early to tell” is actually worth watching, Disney+ is a streaming service that’ll likely be worth keeping.
Even at the full monthly price of $6.99, Disney+ is one of the cheapest streaming services on the market. It’s fair to say Disney+ doesn’t currently rival Netflix in terms of content, but it’s also less than half the price. Is it less than half the quality? That’s debatable, but given Disney’s box office dominance this year (films that’ll all make their way to Disney+ in 2020) and the programming we’ve seen thus far, we think Disney+ is worth checking out. Start with the trial, and then go from there.
When it comes to Disney+, your mileage may vary depending upon your interest level in all things Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, NatGeo, and 21st Century Fox…but chances are, you have at least some interest in one (if not 3-4) of those brands. It’s cheap enough that Disney has got us, even if we’re not totally sold on Disney+ library.
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Will you be joining the Disney+? Think it’s worth the $5.83/month gamble to do a 1-year contract? What do you think of current slate of programming for now through 2020? What has you most excited? Expecting more titles to be added? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!