Disney’s upcoming streaming service revealed its complete movie and TV line-up and the result was an oddly depressing peek into Disney+. As the streaming wars heat up, more companies are throwing their hats into the ring in an attempt to compete with the might of Netflix, the medium’s current undisputed king. As with most things in Hollywood, it’s Disney that poses the greatest challenge to Netflix as it gears up to launch Disney+. The service is set for its North American launch next month.
Unlike Netflix, which has content from a vast array of studios and companies, Disney+ will be home to nothing but Disney films and series, which includes Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel Studios, and the various entities acquired during the merger with 21st Century Fox. That's potentially thousands of hours of viewing, all of which will be rated PG-13 or under, and that doesn’t even include the original content being created for the platform, such as The Mandalorian and the slate of Marvel series. Disney decided to show off the sheer amount of content that will be available on Disney+ through an exceedingly long stream of tweets announcing each and every title in chronological order of its release and thus dominating the social media platform for the entire day. Suffice to say that there was a lot to take in. However, on top of the expected titles and a few hidden gems, what the stream of announcements mostly proved to be was oddly depressing.
The sheer scale of what Disney+ is offering is exceptionally daunting: They are creating nothing less than a full historical lineage of The Walt Disney Company and releasing seemingly every single thing they’ve ever created (with some glaring exceptions – as many critics noted, the ever-controversial Song of the South stays in the Disney vault for the time being.) The unexpected downside of this is the opportunity to see all the middling, mediocre, and downright awful stuff Disney has made over the years. How many people were clamoring for the 1986 "classic" Fuzzbucket or The Sultan and the Rock Star or the legendary flop The Country Bears? The endless Disney Channel made-for-TV movies and deep cuts from the vault are fascinating novelties but few of them provide a major incentive for potential subscribers to the service.
Disney love to rewrite their own history. It’s one of the reasons that Song of the South will probably never receive a home or streaming release decades after its initial premiere. They have built an image of such unbeatable power over the decades, fueled by the audience’s nostalgic devotion to them, that it would be easy for one to think of them as a company that has always been on top creating nothing but artistic genius. So to see the near-complete filmography of the company laid out in such a specific manner is revealing but also a fascinating stripping away of the brand’s own lore. They’re not untouchable after all.
Disney+ has also done something that we’ve yet to see from other streaming services but will probably experience more of in the near future. Everything on their platform is the property of one company and, if nothing else, it’s demonstrative of their sheer economic might. Netflix has always thrived on its promise of quantity but Disney may be the only company that can truly compete with them on those terms, if only because of the number of major acquisitions they’ve made over the past three decades, starting with their purchase of the network ABC.
Familiarity is the name of the game here, and nobody does that better than Disney, the kings of nostalgia. For all the jokes people on Twitter made about the more bonkers Disney titles on offer, some of which feel like the movies Troy McClure starred in on The Simpsons, there are plenty of people who grew up on those shows and films and want to indulge in their fond childhood memories. Of course, even if nobody ever watches titles like The Apple Dumpling Gang or Operation Dumbo Drop, the major Disney movies and Marvel slate and Star Wars franchise are alluring enough for potential subscribers. Ultimately, that may be what makes this entire Disney+ charade so depressing: On top of showing audiences an endless array of mediocre content, the company did so with the secure knowledge that their brand is too strong to be dented by any form of mockery or criticism. People are just that devoted to Disney in a way they aren’t with any other major studio or streaming service. A whole lot of people are going to pay their monthly subscription fee for Disney+ and nobody else can compete on those terms. Is it depressing? Of course, but this is also just Disney doing what they’ve done best for decades.