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Disney+: Weekly Episode Drops, Audio Commentaries, and Other Features You May Have Missed

Here are four things from D23 you might have missed that could help you decide whether to sign up when Disney+ launches in November.

Kevin Mayer, Disney's chairman of direct-to-consumer products, at D23. Disney+

Kevin Mayer, Disney’s chairman of direct-to-consumer products, at D23

Disney

Disney directed a firehose of Disney+ content previews at the D23 audience last weekend, featuring everything “The Mandalorian” trailer to a peek at the live-action “Lady and the Tramp,”  and many, many other shows and movies in between. So much, in fact, that even the most attentive fan might fail to notice a few of the most pertinent details that Disney believes will set the streaming platform apart from its competitors.

Here’s four things you need to know that could help you decide whether to sign up when Disney+ launches in the U.S. on November 12.

Disney is bringing back bonus features

While the transition from DVDs to streaming has been enormously convenient, it’s largely meant the loss of the bonus feature — the audio commentary tracks that let viewers hear directly from the creators as their work plays on screen. Disney intends to rectify that by providing audio commentaries and deleted scenes to accompany Disney+ programming.

By contrast, Netflix recently launched its “Watching With…” podcast to feature directors’ commentaries on two Netflix original films — an oddly analog way to recreate the DVD experience.

That said, it’s unlikely the Disney+ bonus features will include anything as freewheeling as the DVD commentary track from this 1998 Disney title.

 

Episodes will be released weekly

How retro: “The Mandalorian” will be available when Disney+ launches, but only the first episode. Episodes of the Star Wars series, like other Disney+ shows, will be released weekly rather than the binge model favored by Netflix or Hulu. It’s a clear effort to bring the event-viewing experience Disney mastered with Marvel theatrical releases onto the small screen.

HBO has done very well with the weekly-release model, which created a sense of shared experience in the  final-season follies of “Game of Thrones,” or reaction to the twisted rich-people game envisioned in Sunday’s episode of “Succession.”

By emulating the model — releasing incredibly expensive, cinematic series one episode at a time — Disney further demonstrates that quality anchors its sales pitch.

Not everything will be available at launch

While execs bill the service as the eventual “exclusive home” for all family-friendly Disney movies and TV shows, the company is opting for a slow rollout designed to spike subscriptions and renew chatter.

At launch, it will offer 5,000 Disney Channel and Disney Junior TV episodes, 100 Disney Channel Original Movies, plus series like “The Mandalorian” and unscripted show “Encore!”

Some, but not all, Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars movies will be available the first day. “Avengers: Endgame” will be online Dec. 11; within a year, the entire Disney classics and Pixar libraries will be available.

A/V quality doesn’t cost extra

This one is a clear jab at Netflix. There’s no Disney+ tiers — for $6.99/mo, one subscription can support four simultaneous streams (by family members — no password sharing, please), all of whom will get 4K video, Dolby Vision high dynamic range, and Dolby Atmos sound. It’s a price point designed to entice — even if you hate Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and “The Simpsons.”

By contrast, Netflix’s basic plan costs $8.99 more, only one person can watch at a time, and it doesn’t even include basic HD quality. To get the kind of features Disney+’s basic plan has, you’d have to upgrade to the $15.99/mo plan.

But Disney’s best chance at a Netflix killer remains its trio bundle at $12.99/mo. Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ has enough to please the broadest swaths of audiences — and it’s still $3 cheaper than Netflix.

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