Disney’s presentation Thursday to its investors wasn’t just a rundown of how great things are for the company, now that its acquisition of Fox has been completed. It was the most illuminating glimpse yet into what it will mean to watch television in the not-too-distant future — a future ruled over by dedicated brand platforms, as opposed to that antiquated notion of “channels.”
Enter Disney+, which will be available in the US November 12 for $6.99/mo ($69.99 a year). Confirmed to be an ad-free subscription model, the streaming service is poised to be the first major dedicated studio platform, bringing together the major Disney brands, including Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel, under one family-friendly umbrella. As Disney exec Kevin Mayer said, the plan is to draw upon the “deep emotional connection” that fans have with these properties.
A family-friendly approach is rumored to be the case for Apple+ original series as well. But unlike Apple’s recent preview of its upcoming original content, Disney had a fair amount to share, including investor-exclusive looks at upcoming Disney films, as well as some specifics about what will be available the day of launch.
Among the details: When Disney+ launches, it will do so with the exclusive SVOD debut of “Captain Marvel,” nearly every Pixar feature film (as well as its theatrical shorts), and the first two “Star Wars” trilogies, as well as “The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One.” Drawing upon the Fox library, the first 30 seasons of “The Simpsons” will be available on day one as well, and the Disney vault is also opening up to deliver at least 10 classic animated films, including “101 Dalmatians,” “Aladdin,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Eventually, every major film ever made under the Disney umbrella will be found on the service — in the words of “Frozen II” director Jennifer Lee, the “permanent home” for these films.
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Disney exec Agnes Chu revealed that over the platform’s first year of launch, Disney+ will feature more than 25 original series and more than 10 original films across all its related properties. “Eventually, Disney+ will become the exclusive home for all family-friendly content from our brands,” she said.
In terms of original programming, every brand revealed plans for new scripted series, nearly all of which had been previously announced — but it’s worth a quick rundown of the most notable series:
- PIXAR: An animated series featuring Forky from “Toy Story 4,” as well as a film explaining what happened to Bo Peep after “Toy Story 2,” and “Monsters at Work,” an animated series reviving the characters of “Monsters Inc.”
- MARVEL: Featuring established MCU characters, there’s “WandaVision” (starring Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as the Scarlet Witch and Vision), “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan), and the untitled Loki series featuring Tom HIddleston. In addition, an animated series titled “What If?” (riffing on the comics series) will provide alternate universe looks at key MCU moments. Marvel’s Kevin Feige teased that the first episode will show what would happen if it had been Peggy Carter who was transformed into a super-solider instead of Steve Rogers (who instead gets a super-suit created by Howard Stark).
- STAR WARS: Showrunner Jon Favreau revealed that production on the Pedro Pascal-starring “The Mandalorian” has been completed, and they’re deep into the post-production process. In addition, the Cassian Andor prequel, featuring Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk reprising their “Rogue One” roles, will be showrun by “The Americans” writer Stephen Schiff.
- NAT GEO: “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” (which had been previously announced, but not as a Disney+ exclusive) lets the “Jurassic Park” star explore the world from his unique perspective.
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The single-minded passion of dedicated Disney fans for behind-the-scenes content cannot be underestimated, and much of the unscripted programming mentioned emphasized making-of looks for many of these brands, including a documentary series following the making of “Frozen II” called “Into the Unknown” (which is also the title of one of the upcoming film’s songs). Lee teased that the series is “real and raw and showcases our collaborative environment like never before.”
All of this will be available on the Disney+ app which, per a demo, is a grid-based navigation layout similar to Netflix, with the five key brands — Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Nat Geo — presented front and center, with dedicated landing pages devoted to both archival and original content created for the platform. User profiles will allow individual users of the same subscription to select Disney-themed avatars (much like Netflix does), with parental controls available for younger children.
While Disney+ is aiming for family-friendly content, Disney also now has an ownership stake in not-explicitly-family-friendly Hulu (which seems like the only streaming service these days not attaching a “plus” to its name, for been-there-done-that reasons). Early in the presentation, Hulu CEO Randy Freer spoke about the ways in which the streaming service has evolved over the last 10 years from a free ad-supported platform for watching last night’s TV to a comprehensive SVOD and live TV service.
And it’s one that gives users access to much of the premium TV we crave today. One statistic that Freer presented was that 80 percent of Emmy-nominated shows were available on Hulu — which may technically be true after subscribers add on HBO and Showtime subscriptions to their accounts. Regardless of the accuracy of that statement, what’s become established is the increased decoupling of content from cable companies, as the streaming services rise like leviathans from the deep, swallowing up the quality content with exclusive deals.
For sports fans, ESPN+ was also touted as a success with two million subscribers in just 10 months. Disney is also considering launching a Latin American service, and it has had a lot of success adding UFC events to its coverage. Turns out a lot of people like to watch sports.
Disney+ is a huge bet, but one built upon the brands that have become cornerstones of Disney content today. As president of content and marketing Ricky Strauss said, “There truly is no bigger priority for the Walt Disney Company going forward.”