Words || Gabrielle Edwards
As of November 19th 2019, Disney+ has officially launched in Australia. In the current media environment where streaming services are absolutely dominating, this only makes sense, especially considering Disney is one of the largest entertainment conglomerates worldwide. And low and behold, the launch was a success. Reports from November 13th (just one day after Disney+ launched in America) announced there were already $10 million subscribers. The platform boasts a large variety of backlisted content including over 500 movies and more than 130 TV shows from various studios including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Upon launch, reactions were generally positive to the large amounts of content present, though one flaw is clearly present – the lack of original content.
Over the years, the importance of original content on a streaming service has become a major factor in drawing in new customers and bringing in high ratings for these shows. Disney+ seems to directly contrast this through its extremely limited catalogue of originals as of its launch date. While the choice to release episodes for their original shows weekly certainly attempts to drag out the content they do have, this can only run for so long. What’s left is only a couple of movies and TV shows, all aimed at significantly different audiences. While confusing, not all the original content is terrible, so let’s start with a general discussion on what IS currently available.
Two words: Baby Yoda. This show really begs the question of does a show really need to be good or can it get by with the sheer appeal of baby yoda alone? The Mandalorian has definitely been marketed as the platform’s biggest selling point in regard to original content throughout initial advertisements. Over the first two weeks since its launch, the show nearly tripled its demand each week across the world, also making it America’s most in-demand digital exclusive series. Aside from baby yoda, the show has some quite nice cinematography, touching character moments and Pedro Pascal’s surprisingly soothing voice to carry it along and make the watch worthwhile. Though, the show can be a little tedious at times, with long montages and limited plot progression, particularly within the first few episodes. While this isn’t a terrible show by any means, I definitely suspect the fact that it’s pretty much the only original scripted show targeted to an adult audience on the platform had something to do with its incredibly high ratings…
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
I’ll confess, I never got into the High School Musical movies as a kid and as soon as I heard about this series and its premise, I was sceptical and confused. But after watching it, I can safely say I have become this show’s number one defender. Sure, it has its problems. The dialogue can be truly unbearable at times as clearly out-of-touch adults have tried to guess how exactly the youths these days speak. Not to mention, the show’s supposed mockumentary style is utilised rarely, and never successfully. But aside from all this, the cast of characters make this show virtually impossible to hate the longer you stick with it. The music, both old and new, is sweet and catchy and a lot of the season’s drama is extremely entertaining. As I said, this diverse and adorable cast really makes the show what it is and I’m eagerly awaiting to see where the show takes them next. This series has so much potential and I’m just hoping that Disney decides to hire some better and younger writers to really give this show the fighting chance it deserves.
Diary of a Future President
This show is currently in its early stages, having only started airing mid-January, recounting a Cuban-American girl’s diary from her time in middle school, as she looks back at her childhood as the current president of the United States. It feels very much in lieu of classic Disney channel shows and is definitely aimed at a younger audience. Though, the focus on a Cuban-American family is really refreshing and there seems to be plenty of potential for this show to make its way into everyone’s hearts.
Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader co-star in this Christmas comedy that tries to deliver a feminist message amongst CGI baby reindeer and never-ending festive wardrobe pieces. Almost everyone I’ve tried to pitch this movie to has fired back saying that it sounds exactly like Tim Allen’s Santa Clause movie, and are they wrong? If you’re a fan of wholesome Christmas movies, you’ll probably enjoy this one, but Christmas has passed along with my last incentive to recommend this movie.
Lady and the Tramp (Live Action)
This is one of the few originals that I have yet to watch and have very little interest in doing so. Literally nobody asked for this movie and the mediocre reviews really reflect this. Let’s be real if I were to watch it, it would be for Tessa Thompson and Tessa Thompson alone.
This show is practically the unscripted and chaotic older sibling of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and is a whole lot of fun. This reality show produced by Kirsten Bell features the cast of high school musical productions back in the day reuniting many years later in order to recreate their original performances with only a week to rehearse. What ensues is a bunch of middle-aged ex-theatre kids being dressed up as children or teenagers to perform some of your favourite musicals with voices ranging from bearable to “oh my god how were you even cast in this role to start with.” Because it is a reality show, there’s a lot of ramped up emotional situations including discussions on sexuality, the impact of serious illnesses on them as teens or now and of course some more light-hearted drama such as cast members who used to date having to reunite. I can’t tell if this show is objectively entertaining or just something that targets all my niche interests perfectly, but either way it’s still worth the watch if you’re looking for a good laugh or cry (no judgement here).
This is simply a selection of animated Disney shorts, similar to the ones you were probably forced to sit through before watching any Pixar movie at the cinemas. Some highlights include Kitball which was nominated for an Academy Award this year and follows the friendship between a cat and pitbull. And of course, Loop, which features Pixar’s first non-verbal autistic character in a super sweet slice-of-life short. Each of these are less than 10 minutes, so if you’re looking for something quick but with a strong emotional punch and great animation this is the place to go.
The platform also hosts a few other originals including One Day at Disney, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, Pick of the Litter and Marvel Hero Project. Though, I personally have little interest in watching these, and the limited hype or discussions I’ve experienced about them doesn’t convince me that they’re particularly worth giving a shot.
So, the question remains, is Disney+ really worth it? And I’d have to say, at this stage, honestly not. If you are a great fan of re-watching content, then maybe this streaming service would be for you. Alternatively, I can see why kids and families would find this really exciting as an opportunity to have a bunch of entertainment ready at their fingertips. Though, for myself personally, I can’t really see myself coming home and switching on a new Disney classic each day, especially as I’ve collected the DVDs for most of the movies I actually care about over the years.
Frankly, the lack of original content Disney+ offers is astonishing, particularly for its launch. With the sites two biggest shows (The Mandalorian & High School Musical: The Musical: The Series) already having wrapped their first seasons, there’s not a lot for the platform to boast about.
Disney have announced they’ll only announce updated subscription numbers in the next financial quarter, so stay tuned to see if those numbers are rising or if they will potentially drop with little new content coming in the first half of 2020. Though, they proposed that within a year the platform will contain more than 45 originals, with plans for there to be 65 annual exclusives by 2024. So potentially, giving it a few years before signing up could be the way to go. If anything, maybe just use the free week trial because let’s be real, we all need to save up for the endless amounts of Baby Yoda merch, set to launch any day now!