ANAHEIM – Sitting through the D23 Expo’s 90-minute session previewing Disney Plus, the Walt Disney Company’s new streaming service, it was hard not to be stuck with just how much content it was launching with. It’s one thing to hear a report of Disney CEO Bob Iger discussing it on a conference call with investors or to see news reports on new projects over time, but in person is something else. Massive might be an understatement.
When Disney Plus launches on Nov. 12 it will have every film in the Pixar library. It will include over 5,000 episodes of Disney Channel and Disney Jr. series and 100+ Disney Channel movies (known as DComs). It will have every animated film in Walt Disney Animation history and an untold number of classic Disney Studios live-action titles. It will have every Marvel Studios movie. It will have every episode of “The Simpsons.” It will have “Aladdin.” It will have “The Lion King.” It will have a live-action “The Lady and the Tramp” movie. It will have a new Anna Kendrik and Bill Hader holiday movie, “Noelle.” A month after launch it will have “Avengers: Endgame.” It will have two new reality shows coming or your Emmys, “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” and the Kristen Bell hosted musical reunion show “Encore!” which seems likely to take a ton of buzz away from Netflix’s similarly targeted “Queer Eye.” It will have original Pixar created shorts starring Forky from “Toy Story 4,” “Forky Asks A Question” featuring other characters from the Oscar-winning franchise. It will have a new “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” ready to go.
And did we mention the highly anticipated “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian”? A program with production values that scream, expensive cinematic quality?
And that doesn’t even count all the National Geographic content that will be just a click away and was barely mentioned. All available to consumers at launch. And what’s in the works should really have Netflix, Amazon (to some extent) and upcoming streaming services from Apple, NBCUni and Warner Media (HBO Max) concerned. Over two hours following the end of the presentation it wasn’t the new Obi-Wan Kenobi “Star Wars” series with Ewan McGregor (earning a standing ovation, no less) or the unexpected Marvel Studios announcement of “Ms. Marvel,” “Moon Knight” or “She-Hulk” series that was dominating social media. No, at 8 PM PT Hillary Duff’s return in a new “Lizzie McGuire” series was still no. 1 on twitter. Disney Plus is already a four-quadrant monster and it’s still 80 days away from launch.
No one should diminish Netflix’s success (151 million+ subscribers worldwide). They have recruited almost every major talent in Hollywood to create or star in new content. But growing franchises takes time and landing high-quality IP isn’t easy either. On the series side alone they have “Stranger Things,” “The Crown,” “Queer Eye,” “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “Nailed It” and a number of international hits that are still ongoing. HBO Max will have an archive of Warner Bros. content, DC Comics heroes, “Seinfeld” and “Friends,” for starters. NBCUni will have NBC and Universal’s vast libraries, Illumination, DreamWorks Animation, “Fast and Furious” and “The Office,” reported to be the most popular non-original program on Netflix. But when it comes down to the consumer’s dollar they all may have trouble competing with Disney Plus.
Today out of the blue Marvel Studios new series announcement made you almost forget the footage from “What If…?” (voiced by Jordan Peele), “WandaVision,” the already hyped “Loki” and “Hawkeye.” Oh, and Marvel Studios hasn’t even pushed the narrative yet that all the series will line up intricately with the MCU movies on the horizon. Sure, we’re wondering where on earth Marvel Television is in all this but does it really matter?
— Gregory Ellwood – The Playlist ???? (@TheGregoryE) August 23, 2019
Excitement over the new Obi-Wan series and “The Mandelorian” somehow diminished the fact a “Rogue One” prequel series with Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk is greenlit or that new episodes of “Cone Wars” are coming in February.
Pixar is already hard at, um, work with the “Monsters Inc,” spin-off, “Monsters at Work.” Disney Studios has the original films “Togo” with Willem Dafoe, the teenage coming of age flick “Stargirl” and the delightful looking Tom McCarthy directed “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.” Oh, and Gina Rodriguez is co-producing, co-directing and starring in the new series “Diary of a Female President” in January.
So much content for a machine that is just getting going. Can you imagine what Disney Plus will be like when they figure out how to work in 20th Century Fox franchises like “Avatar,” “Night at the Museum,” “Home Alone,” “Ice Age” and “Cheaper by the Dozeon”? (Hint: they are already at work on a bunch of them). And how many years till the inevitable link is added to Hulu for non-kid logins? And how many years until Hulu contains the entire 20th and Searchlight libraries and adult-themed programs off that library? Shoot, Lucasfilm still has the “Indiana Jones” universe to exploit.
Iger wasn’t on stage today, but he was in the building, no doubt watching his vision come to fruition while his old media rivals are scrambling to catch up. He saw the hardcore Disney fans from around the world eat it up and a hoarde of not-so easy to impress media walk away, frankly, quite impressed. The sea change is in process and they Disney is just getting started. We’re just witnesses as a new decade and new paradigm for media content awaits.
Disney Plus launches Nov. 12. It’s $6.99 a month in the United States.