When Disney announced Disney+ back in 2018, I was immediately excited. I loved Marvel, I loved Star Wars and I loved Disney’s original animations, whether that was from Walt Disney Animation Studio or Pixar. The horizons of these properties became so much bigger in my mind overnight. The Star Wars universe is vast, and what better way to explore that universe than in a streaming series? The Marvel comics have decades of history, and episodic storytelling could’ve brought more depth than ever to these characters. The potential was all there, but in practice, the Disney+ project has too many problems of its own making. What follows is entirely based on personal opinions, and yours are welcome below!
Let’s start by addressing the obvious. Yes, Disney+ is already very successful, and I don’t want to downplay that. As of January, Disney+ had 161.8 million users. This gigantic figure is a decrease, the first in the service’s history, but still staggeringly huge. Some of this success is entirely deserved too. Disney+ opens the Disney vaults to the masses, and gets rid of the timed physical media releases of the past.
In the age of streaming Disney modernized, and it deserves its flowers for that at least. I have young family members who love Disney+, and have experienced the decades of animated classics we all love. From Snow White to The Aristocats, right through to Frozen and Zootopia, the back catalogue of quality movies and TV shows is an impressive one. I’m not unsubscribing from Disney+ for a long time. Especially with the Star service available here in the UK, giving us access to more mature entertainment like Family Guy and the award-nominated Only Murders in the Building all in the same app. That being said, Disney+ has problems, and they’re only stacking up.
A streaming service is only as good as its content. Disney+, as we’ve established, has a great selection of legacy content. Its original content is where the issues lie for me. We’ll start with Marvel, and take a look at other properties too, working our way through the Disney universe.
Marvel hit the ground running on Disney+. After the epic conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, it chartered a new course for the MCU with WandaVision. WandaVision was a character-centric deep dive into who Wanda Maximoff is as a person, on her struggles, her grief and her moral complexity. The transition from blockbuster superhero epic with Endgame to a calmer, interesting and complicated WandaVision was seamless. The pandemic had us all isolated at home, and WandaVision gave many of us something to look forward to each week.
WandaVision was followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, keeping some of that character focus but taking it a little broader, reintroducing some of the action and espionage that the Captain America corner of the MCU always delivered. Some of the episodes were a little lacking at times, but overall it was a solid opening to where the Captain America series would go without Steve Rogers.
The third and final entry of the Disney+ trinity comes with Loki. It was an enjoyable mix of adventure, some strange Loki-filled action and a good introduction to Kang. Most importantly, Loki was seemingly introducing the concept of the multiverse to Marvel. The show aired before Spider-Man: No Way Home, and had us all excited over the potential the multiverse has to offer. Loki seems to end with more questions than answers, but they were questions I looked forward to seeing resolved.
And they never did. To this day, the multiverse has been introduced into the MCU three separate times, again in Spider-Man: No Way Home and once again in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. We saw more Kang recently in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but we still don’t know where things are going with the multiverse, or why it’s relevant in the broader MCU.
The MCU shows gradually decreased in quality and substance as time went on. Hawkeye was a fun ride with a questionable interpretation of Kingpin, Moon Knight was a mess of good ideas and poor executions, Ms. Marvel was entirely fine and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was a comedy without the humor.
The potential of the MCU on Disney+ is enormous, but the execution is so sloppy. Moon Knight did work on some levels at focusing on and introducing a character, but the story he was in was just so average. The Disney+ shows are hyped up as a big part of the MCU, but they’re created by design to ask more questions and drive viewers to the MCU movies, rather than shift the universe to streaming. This could have explained why the MCU’s popularity is slipping, but the movies have played a role in that too. You can read my opinion piece over here for a broader exploration of the MCU’s current state.
Then there’s the Star Wars problem. Unlike Marvel, which has been incredibly successful with its movies both commercially and critically, Star Wars hasn’t had the same luxury under Disney. Of course, the initial sequel trilogy broke records and made lots of money, but the reception from fans dropped with each entry. Rogue One did well too, but Solo disappointed, explicitly called “underwhelming” by director Ron Howard. Disney hasn’t dared return Star Wars to cinemas until it finds its footing. And they had a good start.
The Mandalorian is widely considered to be the breakout hit of Disney+. It was a refreshing, old Western take on Star Wars, and it did away with the Skywalker saga. The titular Mandalorian had a unique duality to his hardened, bounty-hunting ways, and the caring, parental bond he developed with Grogu. The second season of the show took this concept and explored The Mandalorian’s role in the broader Star Wars universe. Sure, the Skywalkers creeped their way back in, but it was a natural and logical move. Let’s be real, it was pretty exciting too.
After Boba Fett’s epic return in The Mandalorian, he received his own series with The Book of Boba Fett. The Boba Fett series was extremely mixed, with exciting drama and a continuation of The Mandalorian, as well as some embarrassing new characters and a strange evolution of the titular Boba Fett. This peculiar interpretation of iconic Star Wars history figures continued with Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Kenobi-focused series had 90 minutes of interesting Star Wars story in a four hour slog. What could’ve been great was dumbed down for Disney+, with some really nonsensical padding.
Ultimately, Marvel and Star Wars both had potential that wasn’t delivered on with Disney+. These failures aren’t entirely on the franchises, but also on the Disney+ service. Episodes of Disney+ shows are incredibly inconsistent, with both Marvel and Star Wars series ranging anywhere from 30-minute episodes to 90-minute episodes. This awkward, inconsistent timing results in some tiring slog episodes, as well as some rushed key moments. Prestige shows from other companies such as HBO or Netflix can also have episode length variety, but there’s always a baseline to expect. Disney+ feels like a random draw, never knowing what length an episode will be, or whether you’ll be asking for more or less.
Disney+ shows also drop at an awkward time, being 3AM ET, 12AM PT, 8AM in the UK and 9AM in Western Europe. These four times cover some of the biggest entertainment markets in the world, and not a single one is convenient. In North America, the shows air absurdly late for both young people with school or older people with jobs. In Europe, it’s far too early, with young people heading for school or older people in work. HBO drops its big releases at 9PM ET, which gives those in North America prime evening viewing. Sure, it’s late in Europe then, but at least the time makes sense for someone. Unless Disney+’s prime market is Australia and Asia (it isn’t), then it’s severely hampering its own shows as appointment television by dropping them at a time when none of their core audience is awake or free.
It’s worth noting that Netflix does this too, but Netflix drops entire seasons at once. The conversation around the shows will naturally be extended due to audience variations in watching speed, and the ‘appointment television’ concept applies instead in this instance to a broader range of time. Sure, dropping half a season of Stranger Things in the middle of the night is weird, but it will be spoken about all week as people around the world work their way through it at their own pace.
Disney+ is a service with a lot of quality legacy content, but it repeatedly shoots itself in the foot. From the way it releases episodes, to their quality, to their length, it’s all very messy. Disney+ holds the potential to be a distributor of prestige television, and instead clumsily drops half-baked series from some of the world’s most popular franchises in history, landing with a splat before being swiftly forgotten.
That’s all just my opinion though. What do you think of Disney+? Do you agree or disagree with my criticisms? Let us know in the comments below, and keep your eyes on FlickLuster for more movie and TV news, as well as some more spicy opinions.