Home » Disney Plus: Everything to know for Disney’s streaming app

Disney Plus: Everything to know for Disney’s streaming app

Disney Plus: Everything to know for Disney's streaming app

WandaVision, Disney Plus’ first Marvel Cinematic Universe series, is the first new programming from the MCU in more than a year. 


Disney

Disney Plus is the Hollywood giant’s hub for watching almost everything Disney produces. It streams shows and movies from Disney franchises, including Star WarsMarvel and Pixar, and all the family-friendly movies and animation from Disney itself. It also includes programming Disney acquired by taking over Fox, such as The Simpsons and the X-Men movies. And now Disney Plus hosts the first new material from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in more than a year: The series WandaVision has its season finale early Friday, and series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres March 19, followed by Loki on June 11. (WandaVision is released Friday at midnight PT/3 a.m. ET.)

Also Friday, Disney Plus will have big-screen movie Raya and the Last Dragon available to stream the same day it hits theaters — for an extra fee. 

WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki are Disney’s first TV series knitted closely into the storytelling of the blockbuster Marvel movie franchise. The coronavirus not only delayed all the Marvel series on Disney Plus but also pushed back the entire pipeline of MCU big-screen movies. 

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Marvel’s Black Widow will be released in theaters May 7, but Disney hasn’t specified how long it’ll take for the film to hit Disney Plus after that. 


Marvel

Coming up soon, Disney Plus will premiere animated series Star Wars: The Bad Batch on May 4. But Disney has been quiet about how and when its biggest-budget movies, like Black Widow and other MCU films, will show up on Disney Plus, even as public health measures continue to curtail cinema attendance. 

Also coming soon: price hikes. 

Beginning March 26, Disney Plus’ monthly subscription will cost $8, a price increase of $1 a month; its annual plan is going up $10 to $80 a year. And Disney’s three-service bundle — combining streaming access to HuluDisney Plus and ESPN Plus — is going up $1 a month to match. (Other countries with Disney Plus will see their rates go up a comparable amount in their local currencies.) The monthly rate of Disney Plus is still roughly half the price of HBO Max and a discount compared with Netflix’s cheapest tier, which is $9 a month.

The pricing flex comes as Disney Plus has proved to be the standout success of the so-called streaming wars, a period over the last year and a half when seemingly every major media company (and some tech ones) rolled out a streaming service to take on the likes of Netflix. Disney Plus has signed up 86.8 million subscribers, far outstripping all the new competitors from Apple, HBO, NBCUniversal, Discovery and others. One media analyst called Disney Plus “one of the greatest product launches of all time.” 

Disney Plus’ solid footing also spurred the company to remove its seven-day free trials for new members, as of last June. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic hamstringing cinemas and forcing film fans and families to entertain themselves more at home, Disney has changed Disney Plus‘ role, making the service an outlet for premiering big-budget films that skip theaters. On the bright side for movie fans starved of their normal diet of new films, that’s meant a string of surprise home releases. But the pandemic also has shuttered much of Disney’s filming of new shows and movies, delaying some of Disney Plus‘ high-profile originals. 

At first, Disney Plus simply started streaming already-released movies months earlier than planned, a move it made for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Frozen 2 and Pixar’s Onward. Then Disney started ratcheting up the streaming releases of new movies, such as its film version of the award-winning musical Hamilton with most of the original Broadway cast. The Hamilton film arrived on Disney Plus more than a year before its originally planned theatrical date. Pixar’s latest animated film, Soul, also went straight to Disney Plus on Christmas Day.

But the biggest change in the pandemic has been a so-called Premiere Access method of streaming big, new movies on Disney Plus the same day they hit theaters, or even skipping theaters entirely — but only by charging an extra price. Disney first tested this out for its live-action remake of Mulan, which it released on Disney Plus in September as a $30 add-on to the service’s regular subscription price. Mulan was supposed to hit theaters in March 2020 but was delayed three times because of the pandemic, so Disney skipped most theaters to stream it instead. 

Animated fantasy Raya and the Last Dragon will be the next movie released this way, hitting Disney Plus for an extra $30 the same day it hits theaters Friday. It will come out from behind the paywall on June 4, making it available to all subscribers at no extra cost. But we still don’t know if Black Widow, or other Disney big-budget pictures planned for later this year, will get an early streaming release. 

So is Disney Plus worth it? All the details about Disney Plus are below, but basically: If you love Star Wars or Marvel movies, or if you have kids, you may find yourself with yet another subscription.

How much does Disney Plus cost?

In the US, the Disney Plus service costs $7 a month, or $70 a year. Starting March 26, it’ll increase to $8 a month, or $80 a year. 

Outside the US, Disney Plus prices are going up a comparable amount in local currencies. The easiest way to find out the current and upcoming prices in your local market is to visit the Disney Plus support page, where you can get the details specific to your market. 

Disney Plus’ US price, whether $7 a month now or $8 a month soon, deeply undercuts the $14 monthly fee for Netflix’s most popular plan in the US, which lets you stream to two different devices simultaneously in high definition. But Disney Plus allows all subscribers to stream to four devices and access 4K content at no extra cost — features Netflix reserves for its $18 premium tier. 

The company also bundles Disney Plus with  Hulu (with ads) and ESPN Plus, offering a discount if you subscribe to all three of its streaming options. Currently priced at $13 a month, it’ll rise to $14 a month on March 26. Put another way, you can subscribe to all three of Disney’s main streaming services for the same price as a standard Netflix subscription. 

In January, the company introduced a higher tier of that bundle, one that removes the ads from Hulu. The package with ad-free Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus will cost $6 more than the basic bundle — equivalent to the cost increase to step up from ad-supported Hulu to ad-free Hulu as stand-alone services. Currently, the ad-free-Hulu bundle is $19 a month; that price will rise to $20 when March’s price increase takes effect. 

Way back in 2017, Disney’s then-CEO, Bob Iger, noted that the price would reflect the “fact that it will have substantially less volume” than prime competitor Netflix. As the months and years pass, Disney will accumulate a bigger catalog of exclusives and originals on Disney Plus. As that happens, it’s a good bet the company will continue pushing its price higher. 

There are also deals to get Disney Plus free (or at no added cost). 

Disney and Verizon have a deal that gives a free year of Disney Plus starting on launch day to all the carrier’s customers with a 4G LTE or 5G unlimited account, as well as new customers of Verizon’s Fios and 5G home internet services. Those who prepurchased a Disney Plus plan such as the now-expired three-year discounted subscription deal can stack their one free year on top of it, according to a Verizon FAQ.  

How do I watch Raya and the Last Dragon?

Disney’s latest animated feature film, Raya and the Last Dragon, is being released on Disney Plus as part of what it calls its Premier Access model. 

In addition to the price you pay for a Disney Plus subscription, Raya and the Last Dragon costs an additional $30 to unlock. Raya is expected to be available to stream under this system at midnight PT/3 a.m. ET Friday, but you have the option of preordering it and paying in advance so that Raya is available to stream as soon as it comes online. You can purchase access to the film on disneyplus.com and on the service’s app for Apple (including iPhones), Google (including Android phones), Amazon, Roku and other platforms.

Purchasers are able to watch Raya for as long as they remain active Disney Plus subscribers, but the ability to unlock Raya on Disney Plus will expire on May 4. 

Raya’s price varies internationally in local currencies, but the value of the international prices is generally on par with $30. Taxes vary by country. In some countries, purchasers will need to pay taxes on top of the Mulan purchase in addition to its advertised price. But in other countries, like those in the euro zone, the price of Mulan already includes taxes.

Raya and the Last Dragon will be available to all Disney Plus subscribers at no additional cost on June 4. 

What shows and movies does it have? 

Disney Plus is designed to be the exclusive home to stream theatrical films, shows and shorts from Star WarsMarvel, Pixar, Disney’s own studio and National Geographic. It also has exclusive series and films, some of which are based on those blockbuster franchises, and others that are original. 

And Disney Plus also integrates programming from Fox. All 30 seasons of The Simpsons are on Disney Plus, it’s begun adding X-Men franchise films, and titles like The Sound of MusicThe Princess Bride and Malcolm in the Middle live there too. (Disney has also said it’ll mine the Fox catalog for reboots too, “reimagining” past Fox franchises “for a new generation” — a reboot of Home Alone is in the works, for example.)

With the elimination of Disney Plus’ free trial last year, potential subscribers can’t sign up to check it out free anymore. But an easy way to see what’s available on Disney Plus without signing up is a third-party catalog search service like Reelgood

Generally, Disney Plus houses the entire film libraries of Pixar, Star Wars and its Signature Series and Disney Vault lines of classic hand-drawn animated movies. It has all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies available to stream, with the exception of ones that were made by Universal or Sony. (So, that’s why you won’t find the Tom Holland Spider-Man films on Disney Plus, even though you can stream Holland portraying Spider-Man in Disney-made MCU movies like Avengers: Endgame.) 

Because of previous licensing deals, it’ll be a long time before Disney Plus is an exhaustive library of all Disney movies. CNET has a comprehensive list of the major shows and movies still coming to Disney Plus. But starting with 2019’s releases, all of Disney’s new theatrical films stream exclusively on Disney Plus. 

Then there’s the big slate of original, exclusive shows and movies for the service. 

It’s first major original was Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian, a big-budget series starring Pedro Pascal that takes place five years after the events in The Return of the Jedi and focuses on a bounty-hunting gunfighter. It’s the service’s marquee original series and home to viral sensation Baby Yoda, who became a pop culture phenom. Disney is investing heavily in The Mandalorian. The show’s budget reportedly approached $15 million per episode in the first season. By comparison, Game of Thrones didn’t hit that kind of spending until its final season. 

But Disney Plus originals run the gamut. The Mandalorian is a textbook example of a Disney Plus original that feeds off the company’s existing franchises. But, for example, a Taylor Swift film that goes behind the scenes of the recording of her Folklore album is one of the Disney Plus originals without any existing ties to Disney as a company. Disney has many shows, movies and specials like this. 

Disney Plus has original documentaries, reality shows, competition series, behind-the-scenes features, nature and adventure titles, animated programming — the list goes on. It’s a place for Disney to show off short films from within the company, like via its Launchpad incubator program designed to elevate opportunities for filmmakers from underrepresented groups.

Disney Plus is even starting to stream two-dimensional versions of Disney’s virtual-reality shorts. 

What big shows and movies are still coming to Disney Plus?

Disney plans to flood Disney Plus and its other streaming services with shows and movies in the coming years, promising more than 100 new titles every year on Disney Plus and committing to spend $14 billion to $16 billion annually on streaming content across its services within the next four years. (That’s about the same size as Netflix’s budget now.) Disney Plus itself is going to get $8 billion to $9 billion of Disney’s overall streaming budget. 

That eye-popping budget meant Disney announced a wave of new Star Wars originals, tons of Marvel projects and an exhausting lineup of new shows and movies. Disney laid out plans for as many as 20 new Marvel and Star Wars series. For details on them, CNET has deep dives into the announced Star Wars slate and Marvel slate, as well as coverage that generalizes the Disney Plus pipeline that was announced in December. 

But in terms of theatrical movies hitting Disney Plus, we’re still a little in the dark about how things will play out. 

We do know that Disney is simply switching some of its midbudget theatrical films to be Disney Plus originals instead, skipping theaters entirely. They include Cruella, which was supposed to hit cinemas in May; Pinocchio, a live-action remake starring Tom Hanks; its Peter Pan reboot; Disenchanted, a sequel to Enchanted that’ll have Amy Adams reprise her princess role; and Sister Act 3, reviving the comedy franchise about nuns. 

And we know some big-screen movies will be released on Disney Plus at the same time as theaters under the Premiere Access model — meaning viewers will need to pay an extra fee (typically $30) to unlock that title. The live-action remake of Mulan was the first movie released this way; Raya and the Last Dragon will be the next, on Friday. Raya will become available to all Disney Plus subscribers at no added cost on June 4. 

But the company has been silent about its plan for streaming Marvel’s Black Widow and other megabudget movies set to come out this year, like Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals. We know Black Widow is going to be in theaters exclusively for a period of time, with its release date in cinemas currently set for May 7. But we don’t know how long it’ll take for movies like Black Widow to leave theaters and reach Disney Plus.

Typically, before the pandemic, Disney movies would make their way to Disney Plus about five to eight months after they premiered in theaters. But studios across Hollywood have been collapsing the so-called windows that films have in different formats, with many making films available to stream or rent online as soon as they show up in theaters. Disney hasn’t specified its streaming plan for the likes of Black Widow and other MCU movies. 


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What devices stream Disney Plus? 

Disney has wide device support, streaming to phones, tablets, computers, connected TVs and streaming media boxes. The company has global distribution agreements in place with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku, SonyAmazon, Samsung and LG. That encompasses the makers of:

  • Roku’s boxes, sticks and TVs.
  • Apple TV, iPhone and iPad.
  • Phones and TVs running on Android operating systems, as well as Chromecast streamers.
  • Xbox One.
  • PlayStation 4.
  • Amazon Fire TV devices.
  • Samsung smart TVs.
  • LG smart TVs.
  • Comcast X1 set-top boxes and Flex platforms.

What product features does the service include? 

Disney Plus can stream 4K Ultra HD content in Dolby Vision, HDR10 and Dolby Atmos immersive audio. You can see a title’s available formats in any of the Disney Plus apps by clicking to that show or movie’s main page and then clicking on the “details” tab. The app for streaming boxes, like Roku and Apple TV, is also designed to briefly flash a symbol telling you the format that you’re watching; it appears in the upper right corner of the screen for a few seconds when a video begins to play.

Every Disney Plus account can stream to four devices simultaneously and can create seven user profiles for different members of the household. Each account can pick an avatar of a Disney, Pixar, Marvel or Star Wars character, with more than 200 avatars available.

Disney Plus also offers unlimited mobile downloads for offline viewing. Subscribers can download to up to 10 mobile or tablet devices, with no constraints on the number of times a title can be downloaded. The number of titles stored at one time on a device depends on how much storage space is available on the device.

The service is supposed to support English, Spanish, French and Dutch at launch, including user interface as well as audio support and subtitles for library content, with additional languages available for Disney Plus originals.

The app also supports closed captioning, descriptive audio and navigation assistance to help subscribers with disabilities. (In July, the American Council of the Blind gave Disney Plus an achievement award for its descriptive audio, specialized tracks that describe the settings and the action taking place alongside a program’s dialogue.) 

Disney Plus offers parental controls in the form of kids profiles. You can designate any profile to be in a kids mode, which has a simplified interface designed for younger viewers. These kids profiles limit the library to programming that’s rated TV-7FV and G in the US, or the equivalent ratings in other geographic markets.

And Disney has a group-watching feature, which lets you synchronize your stream of any title on Disney Plus with other accounts through the app, so you can watch a program at the same time as friends or family even if you’re apart. 

Read more: Disney Plus review

Where is Disney Plus available, and when will it launch in new countries? 

Disney Plus has launched in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, France, Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, India (branded as Disney Plus Hotstar), Indonesia and Japan. It has also launched across Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Elsewhere, Disney Plus is continuing its global rollout, now under the umbrella of a new international streaming service from Disney, called Star. That expansion begins in Singapore on Feb. 23, followed by Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea later in 2021.

The service first launched Nov. 12, 2019, in the US, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial launch of Disney Plus came less than two weeks after Apple TV Plus rolled out. Demand to sign up and start using the service caused widespread crashes the first day. 

I was watching Disney Plus free through Verizon — what happens when that expires? How do I cancel?

For customers who signed up for Disney Plus through a Verizon promotion to unlock a free year (or another duration of time free), those subscriptions will automatically convert to the $7 monthly plan once the free period has expired. With Disney clearing the one-year mark earlier this month, that means many Verizon customers will be facing the decision to keep Disney Plus or cancel it. 

If you keep the subscription, it will automatically start charging the $7-a-month rate through your Verizon bill. If you purchased an annual or multiyear subscription prior to redeeming the Verizon offer in 2019, then you go back to the original plan you had. 

If you want to keep the subscription but are open to changing your wireless service, you could also upgrade your service to one of Verizon’s so-called Play More or Get More Unlimited plans, which include Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus.

If you want to cancel, you should log into the My Verizon customer support portal and choose “Manage Disney Plus,” where you should be able to cancel your service.

How does Disney Plus compare with competitors and fit in with Disney’s other streaming services, like Hulu?

Disney Plus is a competitor to video streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Now and Apple TV Plus. It’s a paid subscription without any advertising, and it gives customers access to a vast library of Disney’s and Fox’s legacy content as well as new, exclusive TV shows, movies, documentaries and shorts. 

Disney’s other streaming services — Hulu and sports-focused ESPN Plus — run on the same tech platform. Disney plans for all three to be individual subscriptions, but it’s offering the triple-service bundle to get discounts on all three. 

Disney Plus includes all of Disney’s family-friendly content and much of its mass-audience fare — basically, anything made for audiences up to a PG-13 rating. It has content from Disney proper, Marvel, Lucasfilm (so, Star Wars), Pixar and National Geographic. And outside those traditional categories it also offers all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, a feather in its cap from the Fox takeover. 

Hulu, on the other hand, is where Disney streams more-adult-oriented material. For example, two series originally planned for Disney Plus — High Fidelity and Love, Victor — were moved over to Hulu instead because of their more mature themes. 

Hulu is now the official streaming home for FX networks. (FX became part of Disney after Disney bought Fox for $71.3 billion.) FX on Hulu will include all seasons of more than 40 FX series and will offer episodes of current and new FX series immediately after they air on the traditional network. Plus, FX will produce original series exclusively for “FX on Hulu.”

For now Hulu will continue to stream content from three of the broadcast networks, as well as its own original series, like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock

And Disney now has full control over Hulu’s direction. Hulu was jointly owned by four parent companies for years, but in 2019 Disney bought all the shares of Hulu it didn’t already own. That gave Disney the flexibility to offer its bundle discount. 

How does this affect Disney stuff on Netflix?

Disney mostly disappeared from Netflix over the course of 2020 (but some content may be coming back).

Since 2016, Netflix has been the first place to watch Disney’s movies with a subscription. That deal meant Netflix was the go-to place for the biggest US blockbusters of those years. The top two movies of 2017 and the top three movies of 2016 and 2018 were all from Disney, and Netflix was the place to binge them all. 

But Disney decided against renewing that Netflix deal as it plotted its own competitor. Starting with Disney’s 2019 slate of movies, all those films were destined for Disney Plus. That means Captain Marvel, the first movie Disney released theatrically in 2019, is the first movie on Disney Plus instead of Netflix. It also means that Mary Poppins Returns was the final new Disney theatrical release on Netflix.

But licensing is complicated, and one report indicates Disney will return those movies to Netflix — and remove them from Disney Plus — temporarily starting in 2026. It affects movies released between January 2016 and December 2018, which includes Marvel titles like Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War; Star Wars hits like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Last Jedi; and Pixar staples like Finding Dory, Coco and The Incredibles 2. It also touches family favorites like Moana and the live-action Beauty and the Beast. 

One consideration: Disney Plus won’t lose these titles until six years after the service launches. At that point, Disney Plus will have built a large permanent library of original content, and it’ll continue to funnel all its newest releases to Disney Plus and nowhere else. Presumably, that’ll take some of the sting out of losing these films for a limited time. 

And it’s always possible Disney pays through the nose to claw back the rights to those films so they can stay on Disney Plus. 

Netflix’s Marvel Defenders shows are complicated too. Netflix has put out five original series based on Defenders characters in partnership with Disney. In 2018, Netflix canceled three of them: Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Then in 2019, Netflix canceled the last two: The Punisher and Jessica Jones. A top executive (who’s since left Disney to lead TikTok) said Disney Plus could possibly revive the canceled shows. But the terms of their original deal could restrict Disney Plus from any revivals until 2020, according to a report. 

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