First Look: Disney+

Posted on November 12, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Disney+ with 60 Comments

The long-awaited Disney+ streaming video service is now available. Here’s a quick first peek at the user experience and content.

To cut to the chase: Both are pretty damn strong, which is impressive in an age in which Apple TV+ launched with fewer than 8 new shows and Google’s Stadia, a game streaming service, will launch next week with just 12 games. By comparison, Disney owns Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and its own incredible catalog, plus National Geographic, ABC, ESPN, and many other entertainment properties.

So far, I’ve only tried out Disney+ on iPad, but I’ll load it up on the Roku (where we typically watch TV) and Apple TV this evening. I’m not expecting many differences.

Since I’m a Star Wars fan, I was particularly interested in that content. My first reaction was surprise that some key content is missing: The movies “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” are conspicuously not available, nor is the laughable “Star Wars Holiday Special” from the late 1970s.

But the content that is available is well served by a great presentation, tremendous video quality, and tons of extras, as we see on the Blu-Ray and digital releases. As someone who has literally purchased every Star Wars release in virtually every format in which it was made available, I pretty much know what is out there. So, this is pretty good, but not complete.

Of course, Disney+ is about more than just Star Wars, and much of the content on the service is, as expected, geared towards children. And for this middle-aged guy, the wellspring of content that makes up the middle 85 percent of the service—from “High School Musical” to “Frozen” to “Lizzie McGuire” is not all that applicable.

But there’s good stuff in there, even for me. The entire 600+ episode run of the “The Simpsons.” AAA movies like “Avatar,” “Remember the Titans,” and many more. There are lots of documentaries, especially from National Geographic, and nature shows too.

At just $7.99 per month—I signed up for a full year at $70—it’s kind of hard to argue with the quality and depth of the collection, and it will, of course, only get better over time.

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Comments (60)

60 responses to “First Look: Disney+”

  1. Bob Mahle

    I believe Disney is adding the missing Star Wars movies once the Netflix deal expires which is very soon.

  2. dmaddogg

    Paul I believe that Solo and Last Jedi are missing because they are still on Netflix. Some kind of streaming rights to them for a while. Then they should make their way to Disney Plus.

  3. Chris_Kez

    Of course no Windows 10 app, so no download capability. There are millions of people on planes or in places with limited or metered internet who would like to use their computer to watch this stuff. But Disney has joined the ranks of HBO and Amazon in not bothering to serve this market. ?

    • Vladimir Carli

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      I hope you didn’t have any expectations about it. The lack of any of similar apps is the main reason why windows 10 is unusable on a tablet and I have to carry around an iPad when I travel

    • bsd107

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      I agree - Netflix on Win10 supports downloading, there is Hulu app on Win10. Was hoping for the same here....

      • jgraebner

        In reply to bsd107:

        The Hulu app is just the PWA packaged for the store. I don't think it supports downloading, although there isn't really any technical reason why it couldn't.

        I think the Disney+ site is a PWA as well, so maybe it will also make it to the store.

  4. glenn8878

    Solo and Last Jedi are both on Netflix as well as a ton other other Disney content. That said, it is probably wise to delay signing up for the service since many new productions won't air until another year or two. I can't say I'm interested in watching their live action remakes or going down memory lane to watch their old classics. My kid isn't into Disney. Disney botched Star Wars so I have no interest in Mandalorian. Marvel is on it's way to being botched with Phase 4 Woke version.

    Disney should include more Fox content from it's acquisition, but I hear most Fox films are going into a vault. Disappeared. So Disney mainly bought Fox for X-Men? Their priorities are not for the customer.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to glenn8878:

      There is some Fox content on Disney+, including Avatar, The Simpsons, The Sound of Music, and the Home Alone movies, among others. You probably will see a lot more Fox content going to Hulu since that is aimed to be Disney's less family-friendly streaming service.

      The story about them putting the films into a "vault" basically referred to them largely withdrawing the availability of older Fox films for revival showings in for-profit movie theaters. That's unfortunate, but also basically the same policy that Disney has had for the rest of their library for many years. That definitely doesn't mean that Disney won't be using the library in lots of different ways.

  5. mmcpher

    I assume it's just the launch day crush, but neither the Android app or the Roku channel are working right now. And the Android app has a download button.

  6. Skolvikings

    Many launch issues with the app on all devices. I'm going to just chalk that up to being new. I assume Disney scale the backend and fix some bugs.

  7. Stooks

    Zero interest. My youngest is 16 and even he does not care about the content. Any Star Wars movie past the originals basically suck unless you are 10. Rouge One is the exception as it was really good.

    I used to watch movies more than once, but now with so much content no one in our house does that anymore. I used to have a Synology NAS with all of our DVD's ripped to it. It never got used so I shut it down and nuked the content.

    It will be a hit with those that have younger kids. That said people started complaining about too many subs already so maybe we have reached the point where none of them are going to be the next Netflix in terms of growth and user base.

    I have Apple TV+ for one year for free since I recently bought a new iPhone. I think a few of the shows are really good, but after a year will I add it to my Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS (on and off for Star Trek) collection of subs?

  8. aretzios

    Another service that is really not needed. I understand that these companies want to get the maximum dollar for their programs, but nobody is really well served with this profusion of services. For the time being -and probably in the future-, I will stick with Netflix and Amazon. I would expect that eventually there is going to be some consolidation either with mergers and/or acquisitions to give us certain choices of more rounded offerings.

  9. bashmohandes

    For me Disney+ is a great Success, given how much they included in a V1 service is fantastic, as for the content it will grow and the initial one is way worth the initial price tag, I am already signed up and will see my usage for a couple of months, if I find myself using it more than Netflix, I will cancel Netflix.

  10. charms55

    So here is an observation as someone who lives outside the contiguous United States. Disney and Netflix have obviously removed some content that will now only be available I would imagine on Disney+ ?

    I have not checked as to whether I am losing content on Netflix at this point, but as the Disney+ is not available to me in Japan, I imagine there will be content that will drop from my streaming service. As more and more studios are snatched up by the mouse, is there a risk that content may be squeezed out of other services?

  11. ray2048

    I will wait for a while before I make decision on signing up for this. At most, I will pay monthly and see if I actually like it. I am already a Netflix customer and very satisfied and will not be cancelling my service.

  12. ray2048

    Honestly, I am really only interested in the Marvel shows. I will wait for those shows to drop and read reviews before I take out my credit card.

  13. jcalamita

    Glad they decided to bundle the services together. Disney, Espn+ and Hulu for $12.99 is a great package. I do miss the days that everything was on Netflix and Hulu. Way too many services out there..

  14. skylog

    As a fellow Star Wars fan (as well as someone who enjoys the "standard" Disney fare), I am excited. All of Star Wars in 4k?!? (mostly) Finally! I am sure they will make to countless box sets in 4K blu ray in the not too distant future, but great to see them now.

  15. marshalltm

    Paul, you mentioned how Disney owns ABC, I just want to add that they own Fox also. So Hulu has two of the four major networks content over time

    • jgraebner

      In reply to marshalltm:

      Disney owns 20th Century Fox (both film and television divisions) now, but they don't own the Fox Network. That stayed with the Fox Corporation, which now basically is Fox News, the Fox Network, and the various Fox Sports networks.

      As a result of this split, Disney does now own much of the programming that airs on the Fox Network, but they don't own the network itself.

  16. doon

    A couple of speed bumps for the Disney+ app on Roku but I eventually got to see The Mandalorian, and it was worth the effort. Settles nicely in the Star Wars universe, great production values, and good story-telling by J. Favreau. Great cast (Werner Herzog!) and a nice twist. Looking forward to seeing more. I took the $69 route so they have a year to show me what's what.

  17. Rob_Wade

    I used to be a Star Wars fan. The last two films and stupid woke agenda utterly destroyed that. I used to be a Marvel fan. The last two films and woke agenda destroyed that, too. I was never a fan of their animated stuff. I have zero interest in anything Disney related anymore. They can lump it.

  18. Jeremy Turnley

    They are using Vudu's services with a skin on it, so expect there to be some teething pains. I only figured that out because in the middle of watching something last night on my Shield, it paused and in the background installed a new version of Vudu, and for the rest of the episode I had Vudu controls on the screen instead of Disney+. :)

    For those who are SW fans who have lost faith because of the new movies, you can go watch Star Wars Rebels on D+ to re-confirm your faith that there are people who know how to tell a good Star Wars story working at Disney. Don't let the fact that it's animated let you think this is a kids show, it most certainly is made with adults in mind, they just didn't have a network to put it on other than their kids one.

    Those same people are the ones making The Mandalorian, with a massive budget and Jon Favreau writing it, so it's worth giving it a shot.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to illrigger:

      I suspect that was a quirk of your TV or streaming device. Disney+ is based on the streaming technology that was developed by Major League Baseball and then spun-off into a separate company called BAMTech, which was then purchased by Diseny in 2017.

  19. kshsystems

    Does anybody know what kind of quality the app supports? 4K? Dolby Vision? TrueHD audio?

    • Skolvikings

      In reply to kshsystems:

      They have a "Ultra HD and HDR" section on the home screen in the app, so while I haven't tried it yet, I assume some of the titles do support 4K.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to kshsystems:

      4K and Dolby Vision are supported and available on a surprisingly large number of titles. For example, all the Star Wars and Marvel titles appear to have it as well as most of the more recent animated features. I was surprised to see that even "The Black Cauldron" was available in 4K/Dolby Vision.

      I'm not sure which specific sound formats it used.

  20. Vladimir Carli

    Episode VIII is available on Netflix. Maybe they have some exclusivity deal with them

  21. jmeiii75

    Netflix has an existing deal for exclusive rights for Solo and The Last Jedi at the moment. I think there are a couple of Marvel films that fall into this category as well. The content will move to D+ when the deals lapse. BTW, so far, the launch appears to be a dumpster fire. Many reports of people not being able to access some content and some not being able to access the app at all. Sadly, I must count myself among these unfortunate souls. Also, they are spamming my email with "Your Disney Account has been changed" messages every time I try to open the app. All this aside, I am really excited and hope they get these issues sorted soon.

    • red.radar

      In reply to jmeiii75:

      so a typical Disney service when under load... Stitch ate the page

    • Cavorter

      In reply to jmeiii75:

      I can access the app on my devices and through the web, but can't stream _any_ content on any of them at this point. Dumpster fire is pretty apt, though the interface at least was super smooth and looks great.

    • epsjrno

      In reply to jmeiii75:

      Glad I checked to see if someone was going to mention Netflix...

    • jgraebner

      In reply to jmeiii75:

      When browsing through the library, a number of high profile titles like "Last Jedi" and "Solo" are there, but the pages just let you watch a trailer and give the date of eventual availability on the service. I did notice that "Last Jedi" is being released around the same time that "Rise of Skywalker" hits theaters.

  22. rosyna

    Sadly, The Simpsons doesn’t have autoplay.

  23. vernonlvincent

    I am interesting in how easy it is to set up on a media device - like XBOX or Apple TV. It is supposed to detect when the device is on the same network as a mobile device that has the Disney+ app already installed - presumably to make it easier to do the initial authentication (so you don't have to enter your UserId and password), however I was unable to get this to work. I had the Disney+ app installed on my Samsung and connected to wifi, and both my XBOX 1S and my Apple TV did not detect the mobile install when it came time to log in. Since I have a 50+ character non-dictionary password (using LastPass for good security hygiene), manually typing that in each time would be tedious and fraught with problems if I happen to mistype the password.

    I'm hoping that it's not just me and that it's a simple app update.

    • christianwilson

      In reply to vernonlvincent:

      That feature did not work for me, either, which is unfortunate because it would be very helpful. I ran into a few user interface problems when I tried it this morning on iOS and Fire TV. Seems to be a number of day one quirks.

    • Skolvikings

      In reply to vernonlvincent:

      I subscribed through the iOS app store and signed in on my iPhone. Then I installed and launched the app on my Fire TV. When I launched the app there, it said to click allow on my phone, and sure enough, my iPhone was asking if I wanted to allow it. Worked flawlessly.

      • vernonlvincent

        In reply to Skolvikings:

        Hmmm - I hope they didn't code for that to work only with iOS as the mobile OS. I have an Apple TV and use Android for my mobile, and that process did not work for me. Same when I installed on my XBOX 1S

        Is your FireTV connected wirelessly or is it using a wired connection? Both my media devices use a wired connection while I'm obviously using wifi for my phone - but all are on the same home network.

  24. RobCannon

    The other Star Wars movies will end up on Disney+ once their agreements end on Netflix.

  25. StevenLayton

    As someone in the UK, who isn't going to be able to get Disney+ until 31st March next year, and who is VERY excited to see The Mandalorian, I'm planning to spend the next 4 months avoiding spoilers.....

  26. lvthunder

    I don't know why you had to throw a dig in at Apple here. Disney has only been making content since the 30's whereas Apple just started a couple years ago. Of course Disney is going to have more content. What I would like to know is how much stuff on there is new content? I know The Mandalorian is, but is anything else. Also can you download shows so you can watch them offline?

    • jgraebner

      In reply to lvthunder:

      There is a fair amount of original content, although it is obviously small in comparison to the library content offered. The big ticket items are The Mandalorian, High School Musical: The Series, and a couple of original movies (a live action re-make of "Lady and the Tramp" and a Christmas-themed film "Noelle" starring Anna Kendrick). There are also several original documentaries, including "The World According to Jeff Goldblum" and behind-the-scenes documentaries about Star Wars, Marvel, and Walt Disney Imagineering. The service also offers a number of new short subjects from Pixar as well as quite a bit of supplemental material for various films.

      Of course, the big draw for the service is the huge library of very popular films and TV shows, many offered in 4K/HDR quality. I don't think it is unreasonable to acknowledge that gives Disney+ a big advantage over Apple's offering, their most recently released competitor.

    • StevenLayton

      In reply to lvthunder: Was it a dig? Or was it just highlighting what you state? That Apple (who have also just launched their streaming service), is starting from a significant disadvantage compared to Disney.

    • ebnador

      In reply to lvthunder:

      To answer your question about original content. Look at the screen shot at the top of the article. It show 4 of the ~10 new original content for the service. Also you can download shows and watch offline, and 4k is no additional charge.