Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that the company’s upcoming streaming service will be named Disney+, during the company’s year-end earnings report on November 8. The first announcement of the platform in 2017 kicked off a lot of speculation about the future of streaming media. With its key feature-film brands and impressive library, Disney’s streaming service stood to become a major competitor to Netflix. Also, the common wisdom held that the company’s purchase of 20th Century Fox was, in part, to bolster the service’s offerings. Key details like its name, however, were scarce.
But now that the service finally has a name, let’s look at everything we have learned about Disney+ since that first announcement.
UPDATE (12/12/18): The cast, producers, and directors of Jon Favreau’s Star Wars series The Mandalorian have been officially announced. Pedro Pascal (Narcos) and Gina Carano (Deadpool) headline the series, alongside costars Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Emily Swallow (Supernatural), Carl Weathers (Predator), Omid Abtahi (American Gods), Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), and Nick Nolte (Affliction). Directors include Dave Filoni (who is also executive producing), Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates), and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok).
As previous reports indicated, the service will be home to more family-friendly aspects of the Disney empire, including its Pixar Animation Studios films. Other film content includes the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars movies, and the animated library of the Walt Disney Studio itself.
The potential here is huge, especially when one considers just how vast Disney’s film and television holdings really are. Beyond the obvious Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Disney animation content, there is the wealth of ABC family sitcoms, older Disneyana fare, and even PG material from 20th Century Fox. Well, presuming much of that material is available at launch. Like other streaming platforms, Disney will likely cycle content in and out.
Meanwhile, Disney’s less family-friendly material will likely find a home at Hulu, which Disney will control after its purchase of 20th Century Fox is complete early next year.
As streaming services will need “killer app” style content at launch from now on, Disney+’s first announced exclusive series is The Mandalorian, a stand-alone Star Wars series from Iron Man director Jon Favreau. As he previously revealed, the series will feature all-new characters making their way in the galaxy after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, but before The First Order’s deadly attack on the New Republic in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Into that milieu, audiences will discover a Mandalorian gunfighter operating on the Outer Rim, where the worries of the New Republic barely exist and violence still forms the rule of law.
UPDATE (12/12/18): The Mandalorian will star Pedro Pascal (Narcos), Gina Carano (Deadpool), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Emily Swallow (Supernatural), Carl Weathers (Predator), Omid Abtahi (American Gods), Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), and Nick Nolte (Affliction), according to StarWars.com‘s official announcement. Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels) is directing the first episode (and executive producing alongside Kathleen Kennedy and Colin Wilson), while other directors will include Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates), and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok).
The other series, which has not yet been named, will feature Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Diego Luna reprising his role as Rebel spy Cassian Andor. Considering the events of Rogue One, the series will be a prequel to that film and chart his earlier operations with the still-growing Rebel Alliance.
The service will also be the exclusive home of Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ seventh season. The animated series was something of a victim of Lucasfilm’s transition into the Disney family, but its dedicated fanbase was happy to learn it would continue on Disney+ when executive producer Dave Filoni announced its return at Comic-Con back in July.
Each show illustrates Disney’s dedication to the Star Wars brand and the understanding that programs set in that universe will get people to subscribe.
While Marvel Entertainment will continue to produce television shows for ABC, Freeform, and other aspects of Disney’s broadcast and cable empire, Marvel Studios will enter the television format for the first time on Disney+ by producing a number of limited series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige recently mentioned, the limited series format will allow MS to focus on some of the films’ supporting characters, whose stories may not fit well in a theatrical format. Feige confirmed on Thursday that the Thor film series’ Tom Hiddleston will reprise his role as Loki in one of the planned productions, while Avengers’ Elizabeth Olsen will reportedly headline another focused on Scarlet Witch. Additionally, word broke last week that a third limited series will feature Captain America supporting characters Falcon and the Winter Soldier, with actors Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan also reprising their roles.
If the planned limited series are successful, it creates new opportunities for established MCU characters like Hawkeye and Lady Sif to take the spotlight. We’re also hoping it provides a venue for characters like Kate Bishop to make their way off the page and onto the screen.
Additionally, there are those who believe the service will pick up the orphaned Marvel Entertainment comedy series, New Warriors, but this is far from confirmed. It is also unclear if the service will revive the recently cancelled Netflix series Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
Outside of Marvel and Star Wars, Disney+ will rely on some of its best-known properties to entice Disney fans into subscribing. Series based on Monsters Inc., The Muppets, and The Mighty Ducks are all in development. A new version of High School Musical is also on its way.
The service will also feature a television series based on the film and novel High Fidelity.
For fans of Disney history, the service will also feature Ink & Paint, a docu-series centered on the women who “made many of the Disney animated classics possible with little or no recognition for their work” as members of the studio’s Ink & Paint department. Another untitled docu-series is also in the works.
In August of 2017, Disney bought a controlling interest in BAMTech, LLC, a technology firm specializing in streaming service apps like HBO Now. According to Iger, the Disney+ platform will feature “elegant navigation” and ways to personalize content. Which, considering the way Netflix hides personalized watch lists these days, may be a bigger competitive feature than currently thought.
In fact, that “elegant navigation” may be more of a selling point as streaming services tend to follow the Netflix model. If Disney can reinvent navigating to content — especially for the company’s vast library — it could prove to be a compelling way to pull people away from their chief rival in the streaming sphere.
Iger likes to make announcements about the service during earnings calls to investors, and more specific details like pricing and a launch date remain a mystery. But the top Disney executive said a Disney+ event will be held in April of 2019 at which time a proper launch window and the subscription price will likely be announced. The service is expected to debut in late 2019, some time after the company’s long-term streaming deal with Netflix expires.
While Disney+ will become the service for Star Wars and Marvel fans, it will also indicate the market’s future as other corporations make moves to silo content on their own services and Netflix plans for a future in which most of its content is home-grown. But with its strong brand recognition and library, it may quickly become the leader in streaming services.