To call Disney a media titan is more of an understatement with each passing day, and the amount of content under its umbrella is mind-boggling, but it's easy to forget just how much Disney has when it's split up under so many apps and services. Disney Plus (Disney+) aims to bring all of that content to one easy portal, a streaming service with a catalog that is quite simply unmatched. But as good as it is today, Disney+ isn't there quite yet.
Don't get me wrong: 400 films and 7,500 TV episodes is still a huge amount of content to browse, especially when it's all from Disney, Pixar, Fox, National Geographic, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, but it's only the beginning of Disney+'s winning streaming catalog.
And let me tell you, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
At a glance
Bottom line: Disney's late to the streaming party, and it shows in the number of missing features, but what is here works really well when the servers aren't overloaded. Why are the servers overloaded? Because few can resist the siren song of the ultimate Disney/Marvel/Star Wars streaming library, especially all the older Disney Channel shows that have been difficult to find online.
- Stream your childhood anywhere
- High-quality original content
- More concurrent streams than Netflix or Hulu
- Super easy to navigate apps
- Easily earns its price tag, especially with Hulu bundle
- More 4K/UHD content than I expected
- Too much demand overloads servers at times
- Missing small but vital features like Keep Watching section
- Still a lot of holes in the library
- Platform compatibility light right now
Embrace your inner child
Disney+ Bringing the nostalgia and the new hotness
I've waited most of my adult life for a service like Disney+ because even with services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video around, Disney kept its content too spread out, especially with some films stuck on cable services like STARZ. While most theatrical Disney films from the last 40 years have come out of the Disney Vault and onto Movies Anywhere, telefilms and Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) have been harder to come by, and Disney+ is the first real place to stream most of them legally.
This was even harder with TV content, as many old shows were never really available on digital retailers like Google Play or iTunes — and those that were tended to be ridiculously overpriced — which is why most of the buzz of rediscovering old classics has been centered more on the shows of our youth, shows like X-Men Evolution and Recess. I actually haven't streamed that many movies on my watchlist yet because I've been so engrossed in my favorite shows.
There are still plenty of holes in the oversized umbrella that is Disney-owned content, though, including a lot of the earlier DCOMs and telefilms like the 1997 Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella — the one with Brandi, Whitney Houston, and Whoopi Goldberg — as well as a number of classic shows like The Proud Family, Fillmore, and American Dragon: Jake Long. There's also metric ton of Fox content that will take time to migrate to Disney+, but there's definitely enough here for most adults to relive and reintroduce their family to over the next few months.
And of course, it's hard to forget Disney+'s original content. There's a variety available at launch, but the one most people will care about is The Mandalorian. Disney+ is staggering the release of each episode, which is probably a good idea seeing as one episode a week is more than enough Star Wars awesomeness for me. This show is fun and unlike the more recent Episode movies that feel almost ridiculously rushed at times, The Mandalorian goes at its own pace, which is refreshing, if a bit slow at times.
The other D+ Originals like Encore! and Marvel Hero Project are releasing a week at a time, too, which helps build the hype and also gives Disney+ time to keep tweaking the app experience as they handle the feedback from users — and recover from the strain of having as many subscribers on day one as Disney expected to have in the first year.
Disney+ A mostly magical app
This service has been a long time coming and some of us were so ready that we signed up for three years of service without even using the app ourselves. I don't know why Disney was surprised by the overwhelming demand that almost immediately crashed its servers, but I know I wasn't.
Once the initial tsunami wave of sign-ups and logins passed, the Disney+ app has been mostly smooth sailing. The service has apps for most platforms except the Nintendo Switch, Linux computers, and Vizio TVs, and even on lesser used platforms like Android TV, it is stable and easy to navigate. In fact, the app is easier to navigate and use on Smart TVs than it is on mobile, where the Watchlist is hiding under the Profile tab.
Playback is pretty seamless on most platforms, though when stopping and picking back up after a break, some users have reported issues where the stream will revert to the beginning. This is especially problematic on Chromecast, for some reason. While more focus has been on 4K content, the video quality on all Disney+ content has been impressively high, especially on smaller screens like the Pixel 4, Note 10+, an iPhone 11.
Downloading content for offline playback is easy to do, but it can get overloaded if you try to grab too many shows at once, so pace yourself. It's easy for Disney+ downloads to chew through your local storage once you switch the download quality to medium or high, but being able to download every movie or series on the platform is a nice change of pace from Netflix's bizarre "some can, some can't" download policy.
It's easy to fast forward through scenes or tap back ten seconds at a time because someone started spacing out during the villain's ridiculous monologuing, even on smart TVs. I will say that when using Disney+ on my NVIDIA Shield TV, using a controller has been a life-changing experience since the rear triggers are the fastest and easiest method for fast forwarding and rewinding, so if you're on Xbox or PS4, try the triggers!
Disney+ The villain is in the details
Like most new services, Disney+ is missing out on some of the finer nuanced features we've come to expect from more established streaming services, but the most notable absence right now is the total lack of a "Keep Watching" section.
While the Play Next carousel on the Apple TV app and Android TV home screen can be used in a pinch, that's not an option on most platforms. Disney+ doesn't even have a viewing history where you can find what you were watching last night and pick up on the next episode. You have the Watchlist, but you have to remember to add shows and movies to it when you're watching them.
Other missing features include picture-in-picture support, more granular parental controls — currently parental controls are an all-or-nothing deal per profile — and a UWP app for Windows since they basically built it already, and for someone to go in and gets all of these cartoon episodes in order. About 60% of shows on Disney+ either have missing episodes — like Darkwing Duck and the new DuckTales — or have episodes out of order.
Disney+ It's time to try it
Despite the speed bumps and bugs with the launch, Disney+ is everything I thought it'd be: a place to relive my childhood favorites, host the ultimate Star Wars marathon before Episode IX, and get my superhero fix from Spider-Man and the Avengers. It's a little rough around the edges, like any new service, but it's ready to play with the big boys and it's more than worth the price of admission.
With a pricing structure — and even better bundle option with Hulu and ESPN+ — that puts Netflix and Amazon Prime to shame, Disney+ is a deal that you shouldn't skip on, especially when there's so much more original content coming in 2020. Even if you're not a classic Disney animation fanatic, Disney+ offers way more than just the Mouse, and it's only going to get even more magical from here on in.
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