Just like seemingly everything else Disney does, fromto to , its streaming service is a phenomenon. launched in November 2019, and as of this March had amassed more than 100 million subscribers — no small feat for a new streaming service. Its marquee , , gave fans , and . And its first Marvel Cinematic Universe-set series quickly became one of the most popular shows in America after its January premiere. All this success has Netflix and other big names in streaming . Not bad for $7 a month, even though the price will rise to .
- Wide catalog of popular TV and movies from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and National Geographic
- Low monthly price without ads
- New theatrical releases available during pandemic
- Easy-to-navigate interface, with 4K HDR available for some titles
- No big original hits beyond The Mandalorian and WandaVision
- Little customization of kids’ profiles
- Unlike HBO Max, the biggest theatrical movies cost extra at first
The big question: Is it worth the money to you? If you’re a, especially one with children, then . With only a few notable exceptions, Netflix is losing a host of Disney content to the new service, meaning if you or the little ones want to watch , for example, you’ll need a Disney Plus subscription.
Whether it allows you to ditch, or depends on your budget and priorities. But one thing is clear: Disney Plus already belongs in the top tier of streaming services, with a massive catalog of popular TV shows and movies you can’t find anywhere else, a well-designed app and an affordable price without making you watch any ads. For those reasons it deserves CNET’s Editors’ Choice award.
|Disney Plus||Netflix||Hulu||HBO Max|
|Monthly price||$7 (going up to $8)||Starts at $9||Basic $6 with ads, Ad-free for $12, Live TV for $55||$15|
|Ads||No||No||Yes, with basic tier||No|
|Top titles||The Mandalorian, WandaVision, Avengers Endgame, Toy Story, The Simpsons||Stranger Things, The Crown, Breaking Bad, The Queen’s Gambit||Handmaid’s Tale, Catch-22, Lost, Bob’s Burgers||Entire HBO catalog, Studio Ghibli films, DC films|
|Mobile downloads||Yes||Yes||Yes (on Ad-free plan only)||Yes|
|4K available||Yes||Yes (on Premium plan)||Yes||No|
|HDR available||Yes||Yes (on Premium plan)||No||No|
|Number of streams||4||1 (2 for Standard, 4 on Premium)||2 (Unlimited with Live TV and a $10 add-on)||3|
A catalog of major hits and forgotten favorites
In contrast to the meager selection ofwhen it launched around the same time in November 2019, Disney hit the ground running with on its first day. There’s a ton of , a shipton of , a boatload of Pixar and a healthy sprinkle of National Geographic (which is owned by Disney). You’ll also find 30 seasons of The Simpsons, and other programming from Disney’s takeover of Fox. Depending on the content and device there is support for both and surround sound.
With so many movies and TV shows available, it’s likely that if you can think of a Disney movie or TV show, it’s there. Even before you try searching, the interface serves up plenty of suggestions, including a great mix of nostalgia (Turner and Hooch) and princess movies (Frozen 2). And more besides.
Disney’s ’70s period may be denigrated these days, but the service helpedthat appeared during that period, including the Herbie series and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The interface will reacquaint you with movies that you may have forgotten were Disney, such as Flight of the Navigator. And if your formative years took place in the late ’90s and early aughts, you’ll find all of the Disney Channel Original Movies from that era on the platform too, like Halloweentown and Smart House.
The content isn’t all perfect. At launch,, with no 4:3 option for older seasons that were not HD native — cutting out some great visual gags. However, the platform has since back to its original form. And the Han-shot-first scene in the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, has apparently been edited yet again.
For a while, The Mandalorian was the only must-watch original series. But now WandaVision’s success gives us hope for more of the upcoming Marvel shows as well, like(coming March 19) and (June 11).
New theatrical releases early (some with a $30 catch)
Thoughare being distributed nationwide, in most areas access to movie theaters is still restricted. During the pandemic, Disney Plus has become a platform not only for old favorites and new originals but for big-screen releases too. At first, it started streaming already-released movies months earlier than planned, including , Frozen 2 and Pixar’s Onward. Then it began speeding up releases of smaller films.
The film adaptation of young adult novelwas scheduled to hit theaters in May 2020, but instead premiered on Disney Plus instead in June. And the company’s live-action went straight to Disney Plus on July 3, coinciding with the Independence Day holiday weekend in the US — more than a year earlier than its planned theatrical debut. also premiered on Disney Plus in December. All were included as part of the subscription cost.
Bigger films are another story, however. Last year’s live-actionremake arrived on Disney Plus for a , on top of your monthly subscription. Two months later, it became available on the streaming service . The new animated film follows the same pattern. It debuted on Friday March 5, but subscribers again need to pay an extra $30 to watch. The added .
This “$30 extra for big movies early” treatment, which Disney calls Premier Access, is a stark contrast to HBO Max, which committed to releasing numerous Warner Bros. movies — including big-budget titles such as— on the same day as they hit theaters without charging any extra fees.
Premier Access won’t necessarily apply to every new Disney film. We still haven’t heard if any of the upcoming Marvel movies, like Black Widow, will arrive on the streaming service in some form before theaters.
An easy-to-navigate interface
If you’ve used any streaming service at all, bar Disney’s own Hulu, then the interface of Disney Plus will be instantly familiar. The very top of the home screen is a web-like carousel with a selection of Disney’s biggest hits.
Underneath the brand’s most popular properties appear across the page as static icons: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Hover over each and the icon will animate, and if you click on it a short animation will appear before the branded page appears. While the interface is designed to scale to low-powered devices like USB sticks we saw little difference between any of the dozen or so devices we tried. The design is tile-heavy, unlike the newerservice, which gives your eye more of a break between titles, but it is easy to search through.
On the branded pages as well as the home page, the rows of icons are arranged according to genre and help to hone the content to your requirements. Disney told us that, like the Netflix engine, the Disney Plus interface will adapt to the types of content that you watch over time.
At the left of the screen is a Netflix-like sidebar that lets you search for content or choose from your preselected profiles.
The only real way to configure Disney Plus is through user profiles, and by default your Primary profile offers access to all of the content. It can’t be set to a kids profile, but you can turn autoplay off or on or alter the main language. You can set up a profile for your child by toggling the Kids Profile setting to On, which prevents PG and PG-13 content from appearing on the profile. But it’s not perfect for every age group — for example, you can’t enable PG content and disable PG-13 content. Plus, a child could technically just switch over to another profile to watch those shows.
Outside of somedue to demand that have since been resolved, the biggest problem we found with the interface is that some popular things might be hidden — you may not know The Muppets is there, for example. But this is an issue that larger services such as Netflix also suffer from.
Which devices can you watch Disney Plus on?
Pretty much everything. Disney Plus has one of the widest distributions of any streaming app, and is available on just about any phone, tablet, computer, connected TV or streaming media box, including those from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku, Sony, Amazon, Samsung and LG.
With a Disney Plus subscription you can watch up to four different shows on four different devices at once — whether they are on the go (with offline downloads supported) or on TV at home.
We tested Disney Plus on Roku, Apple TV ($179 at Adorama), Fire TV ($34 at Amazon), iOS, smart TV (LG and Samsung), Android TV and the web, and apart from some weirdness on launch day back in November, they all worked in the expected fashion. If your streamer supports 4K HDR then there is a healthy selection of titles like the recent Marvel movies and The Mandalorian, but others like the recent Muppets titles are only in HD.
Voice commands worked well on Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku in directing us to the show title or the Disney service in general. Apart from crashing Fire TV when the app wasn’t yet installed, voice searches worked every other time.
Should you get Disney Plus?
For Disney’s legions of Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar fans who want to enjoy those movies, and their extra features, the service is easily worth the relatively low monthly fee. The same goes for parents who want their kids to enjoy Disney’s myriad family movies and TV shows. And ditto for anybody who wants to follow the latest adventures of.
Are people going to quit other services in order to afford this one? Possibly. If it’s a choice between this or Apple TV Plus, then get this. If it’s a choice between Disney and Hulu and you have kids? Get this.has a as well, but is double the cost at $15 a month. For us, Disney Plus comes toward the top of our streaming service review rankings, below Netflix and a notch above Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Your priorities may push one of those above Disney — especially if you don’t have kids.
Original programs like The Mandalorian and WandaVision are great, and the combination of those with programming spanning almost 100 years will likely encourage users to renew their subscriptions each month. Disney Plus is fun, easy to use and relatively affordable.