Disney's new streaming service, Disney Plus (or Disney+), launched to a rousing fanfare in the US, Canada and the Netherlands in November, and now it is available in several markets, including the UK.
A natural-born Netflix rival, Disney Plus offers both 4K and HD films and TV shows from Disney and its subsidiaries Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and National Geographic. In the UK, the service has launched with 500 films, 350 TV series and 26 Disney+ Originals. Oh, and it has secured over 600 episodes of The Simpsons too.
Given the service's competitive pricing (£5.99/$8.99 per month), you might be wondering if Disney Plus is better than Amazon Video and Netflix.
Read on as we dig into everything Disney Plus has to offer...
- Disney Plus review
- 11 of the best Disney Plus shows and movies to watch right now
- Best Disney Plus prices: deals, bundles and free subscriptions
What is Disney Plus?
It's Disney's new streaming service – originally announced back in 2017 and now available in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, the UK, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Its France launch has been delayed.
Disney says it wants to launch "in most major markets within the first two years" and
have 90 million subscribers by the end of 2020. Given the volume and quality of content it has to offer, would you bet against it?
The Hollywood giant has seen what Netflix is doing and thought it could do with a piece of the action. To that end, Disney is taking its ball back and pulling its Star Wars and Marvel franchises from its now arch-rival.
It's a wise move. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the forthcoming Apple TV Plus are building their streaming businesses on offering original content that you can't see anywhere else. Disney's nearly-century-old back catalogue – plus its lucrative subsidiaries – means there's plenty to tempt viewers following the launch, whereas its upstart rivals have had to start from scratch. In the streaming business, that's a huge advantage.
How much does Disney Plus cost?
The big news is it's cheaper than Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
The Disney streaming service costs $6.99 per month in the US, where Netflix starts at $9 a month and Amazon's monthly price is $8.99.
If you'd rather pay annually, it will cost you $70 a year. That's a saving of around $14 on the monthly price. If you're happy to sign up to three years of Disney+ now, you could save a pretty penny. The House of Mouse recently launched discounted pre-orders for the service, offering a three-year-deal for $23 off the regular price – that works out at just $3.92 per month.
UK & Europe
Disney costs £5.99/€6.99 per month, or £59.99/€69.99 for an annual subscription – which works out as just under £5/€6 per month, undercutting Netflix's cheapest offering (£5.99/€7.99 per month) on a yearly basis.
Disney+ streaming annual subscription £59.99
Get access to Disney's Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar, and Star Wars content, with classic and new shows coming online every day - including The Simpsons!View Deal
Disney Plus is priced at $8.99CAD per month (or $89.99 per year) in Canada, and €6.99 per month (or €69.99 per year) in the Netherlands. In Australia it will be priced at $8.99AUD per month (or $89.99 per year) and in New Zealand it's $9.99NZD per month (or $99.99 per year), respectively.
There's also a special Disney bundle in the US that costs $12.99 per month and gives you access to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu.
The $6.99 price gets you four simultaneous streams, as well as 4K – that's something Netflix can only offer on its Premium tier, which costs $15.99 a month. Disney Plus customers can create and manage up to seven profiles on a single account, too.
Disney hasn't announced any other tiers of subscriptions. At the moment, it seems it's going all in on the basic package, which should give it a real advantage over Netflix.
What can you watch on Disney Plus?
Lots. At launch, it offers "over 500 films, 350 series and 26 Disney+ Originals". These include Toy Story 4, the live-action version of The Lion King and the highly anticipated sequel to Frozen. TV series based on Monsters Inc. and High School Musical have also joined the party.
Disney classics including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, Bambi, The Lion King, Lady and The Tramp, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, and Cinderella are all there too, as well as three of the four most profitable films ever made: Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
This – especially that latter statement – is quite the proposition, as it means Disney Plus is the only place to see this December's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Captain Marvel and all future releases from both Lucasfilm and Marvel.
Disney Plus serves up 30 films and 50 series from the Marvel universe, including the Oscar-nominated Black Panther, Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Disney also owns Pixar, so you'll find 20 Pixar movies including Toy Story 4 and Finding Dory. They are available to stream along with new shorts Lamp Life and Pixar in Real Life, a live-action series that transports Pixar characters into the real world.
Over 600 episodes of The Simpsons will also be available on the streaming service in the US and UK. That translates to all 30 seasons. Season 31, which has already premiered on Fox TV in the States, will be available to stream from November.
Someone asked us to formally introduce ourselves so of course we made a video. pic.twitter.com/VZLrJ6ff7kAugust 19, 2019
But Disney isn't just relying on its back catalogue. It's also investing heavily in original, new content. Said content will vary from region to region, but there are a total of 26 original films and TV series slates to appear on Disney Plus.
According to Disney's chief financial officer, Christine McCarthy, the firm is investing at least $1 billion into original content within the first year. Its first project? The Mandalorian, the first ever live-action Star Wars series. Directed by Elf director Jon Favreau, the eight-part series takes place five years after Return of the Jedi and follows a lone Mandalorian in the outer reaches of the galaxy far beyond the authority of the New Republic. The show has been a huge success, and Disney has already confirmed that the The Mandalorian 2 will premiere on Disney Plus in October 2020.
Disney Plus also revived Star Wars: The Clone Wars for a seventh and final season, which premiered on 21st February in the States and is available to stream in the UK too.
And there's plenty of other Star Wars projects on the horizon. The second live-action series set in the universe will follow the adventures of Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion and prior to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It goes into production this year.
Ewan McGregor has also confirmed that he will will reprise his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi for a new series based on the Jedi master.
Other Disney+ Orginals include The World According to Jeff Goldblum, a documentary series in which Goldblum 'pulls back the curtain on a seemingly familiar object to reveal a world of astonishing connections.
Then there's Short Circuit, a series of experimental shorts that will showcase the talents of Disney's top animators, and The Imagineering Story, which takes a look at the history and creation of Walt Disney's theme parks.
Marvel Studios is also working on a new live-action series for Disney Plus. Loki will star Tom Hiddleston as the titular superhero, who is the adopted brother of Thor and often his enemy. Though given his sometime anti-hero status, we're sure the series will give the character plenty of moral ambiguity. It due out in 2021.
Other Marvel highlights include spin-offs for The Falcon, The Winter Soldier, WandaVision and She-Hulk. Disney owns 20th Century Fox (the home of The Simpsons), ABC, FX, ESPN and National Geographic too.
How can you watch Disney Plus?
Unsurprisingly, Disney Plus has launched with exhaustive hardware support.
The service works across web browsers; iOS (iOS 11.0 and later) and Android (OS 5.0 Lollipop and later) phones and tablets; Google Chromecast, including devices with Chromecast built-in, such as select Vizio Smart TVs; Apple TV (4th gen or later) and Apple TV 4K (running tvOS 11.0 and later) streamers; Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles; Samsung (2016 and later), LG (2016 and later) and Android-based Sony and Sharp TVs; a wide range of Roku streaming players; Android TV set-top boxes such as Nvidia Shield TV and Mi Box; and all of Amazon's Fire TV streamers, Fire TV Edition smart TVs, and Fire Tablets (Fire OS 5.0 and later). Got a Fire TV device? You'll be able to perform voice commands such as, "Alexa, Open Disney+" or "Alexa, play The Mandalorian".
Disney Plus’s catalogue can be streamed from an iOS device over AirPlay to Apple TV (including the 3rd- and 4th-generation boxes) as well as any TV compatible with AirPlay 2.
Disney also has struck a multi-year deal to bring the Disney Plus streaming service to Sky customers in the UK and Ireland. However, while you might reasonably expect Sky Q to support 4K streaming on Disney Plus, as it does on Netflix, sadly the service’s 4K titles appear only playable in HD and 5.1 audio.
What does Disney Plus look like?
The short answer: pretty similar to Netflix. As you can see in the interface above, it is familiarly image-led, with one big banner at the top promoting the latest film or show.
You can also filter by which brand's content you want to see. So click Disney, and you'll only see Disney shows and films. The same goes for Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.
You can get a good feel for the Disney interface, catalogue, usability and performance in our Disney Plus review.