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Disney Plus review

Disney Plus review: "Exactly what we need right now"

(Image: © Disney)

Our Verdict

Disney Plus is chock-full of nostalgia and heart-warming pick-me-ups, but a lack of original content may remove its shine.

Pros

  • Crammed full of nostalgia
  • The Mandalorian is excellent
  • Great price
  • Slick UI
  • Loads more to come

Cons

  • Not enough original content at the moment
  • Family-friendly shows only

If Disneyland is "the happiest place on earth", it stands to reason that Disney Plus would be the happiest streaming service. And for the most part, it is. This is our childhood bundled up for comfort-watching. Sure, it isn't perfect. A staggered rollout across the globe leaves something to be desired, for example. It's also lacking key content due to a family-friendly image. 

But on the other hand, it couldn't have come at a better time. Disney Plus is exactly what we need right now.

Content

When Disney Plus was first announced, some scoffed at the idea. What would it offer that we couldn't already get from Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu? Quite a lot, as it turns out. The service draws from over 90 years of movies, TV shows, and documentaries. More specifically, its library stretches from Frozen 2 (if you're in the US, anyway) all the way back to Steamboat Willie, a 1928 cartoon that served as one of Mickey Mouse's first appearances. 

It also spans some of the world's most popular franchises. All things Disney are obviously present and correct, but so is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That includes everything from Avengers: Endgame to Agent Carter, not to mention more unusual entries like Runaways. Star Wars has made the leap as well, appearing on the service in its entirety. That means you can catch up on the film saga (up to and including Solo) or blaze through animated spin-offs such as The Clone Wars or Rebels. Then there are Fox properties like The Simpsons, National Geographic, and X-Men filling out the roster. In short, Disney Plus is surprisingly well-stocked. 

Because the service streams in super-sharp 4K resolution wherever possible (it would normally, at least - Disney Plus UK has reduced streaming quality due to so many of us being at home right now), many of the above will look their best here. Seeing as Netflix and other competitors charge extra for the privilege of 4K, that's a big selling point. There are no hidden fees to trip you up.

Disney Plus review

(Image credit: Disney)

The service does pretty well in terms of value as a result. There's a whole lot here to enjoy in a Disney Plus sign-up, and I'd argue it's got something for everyone - be it you, kids, fans, or casual viewers who just want something to do. At first, that is. How long your interest lasts is a different matter. 

Those wanting a trip down memory lane will find more than enough to keep them busy, and it's beyond ideal for children. Seriously; you could sit younger members of the family down in front of the cartoons section and not see them again for months. Disney fans like me are also well in. Alongside the films we love, there are fascinating documentaries that go behind the scenes of Disney parks around the world. 

For casual viewers, though? I'm not sure there's quite enough to hold your attention past the first few weeks. Not yet.

It all comes down to original content. Even though shows like The Mandalorian are flat-out excellent, must-watch hits are otherwise few and far between. 

Fortunately, that'll change in the coming months. Falcon and The Winter Soldier is due by the end of 2020, Wandavision isn't far behind, and an Obi-Wan series is in production. The list of upcoming content is impressive.

Less impressive is the lack of anything not family-friendly. Although I understand the decision (Disney Plus has always been pitched as an all-ages venture), it means we miss out on classics from now Disney-owned studios that would really round out the library. Alien. Logan. Even shows like the Netflix Marvel offerings, a la Daredevil or Punisher (which are of course still showing on Netflix). It's a noticeable gap, and not one I can ever see being filled. Sure, that's what the Disney-owned Hulu is for. But isn't the whole point of Disney Plus to have all your content under one roof? Over in the US at least you can get Hulu discounted via a Disney Plus bundle to add something for the grown-ups too.

Still, I can't really knock it too much for this. It'd be like criticizing The Lion King for not being more violent. That's not really what it's for.

User-experience

Everything else aside, I've been impressed when it comes to using Disney Plus. It's fitted with a handsome layout that's easy to browse, and the whole thing feels flashier than its competition. For instance, the brand boxes along the top - for Marvel and Star Wars, etc - are animated and eye-catching when you select them. Elsewhere, the homepage pops with color. This doesn't feel like a cheap rip off, in other words. It's every bit as premium and well-crafted as you'd expect from one of the biggest companies in the world.

Disney Plus review

(Image credit: Disney)

It does borrow features from rivals here and there, but I'm not complaining. As with Netflix, you can back out of a show and it'll remember exactly where you are when you drop back in later. Then there's the now-essential 'skip intro' option, a countdown to the next episode, and a comprehensive, easy-to-use interface. It sucks that shows like The Simpsons aren't being displayed in their original aspect ratios (thus cutting off some visual gags), but most things have transitioned to a 4K service well. And although some GamesRadar+ staffers temporarily found episodes of The Simpsons replaced with a German dub, I didn't have any issues myself. I imagine that kind of teething issue would be flagged and fixed before long, too.

Price

This is an element of Disney Plus I can't fault at all; it's aggressively affordable. In most areas, it's around half the cost of a Standard HD month of Netflix. Considering how many services there are jostling for our attention these days, that's a welcome twist. It's great value because of how much there is to watch for fans.

If you're in the US, it's an even better proposition. Indeed, you can get Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $12.99. That's incredible value.

Should you buy it?

If you're a Disney fan or a lover of all things Marvel, Star Wars, and Simpsons, you can't ask for much more. Disney Plus brings the goods both new and old, and it's the TV equivalent of a massive hug. The low price certainly doesn't hurt. Even if you only watch it for a month, you won't have lost much doing so.

For more casual viewers, though? I can see the service losing its shine after a few weeks. At the time of writing, there's not enough red-hot original content to keep you coming back day after day. That's all on the way, but we're not quite there yet.

With that in mind, I'd recommend grabbing a month-by-month subscription and playing it by ear if you're not massively pro-Disney. It's easy enough to cancel once you're done, and you can always sign back up again later when something new arrives (the seven-day Disney Plus free trial is worth bearing in mind as well).

That's not to say this will always be the case, of course. It may not be on-par with Netflix right now (particularly in the UK, which is months behind in terms of schedule), but it's worth remembering that Disney Plus is still in its infancy. From everything the House of Mouse has announced so far, there's every reason to believe it'll have flourished a year down the road.

The Verdict

3.5

3.5 out of 5

Disney Plus

Disney Plus is chock-full of nostalgia and heart-warming pick-me-ups, but a lack of original content may remove its shine.

More info

Available platformsMovie, TV
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As a staff writer for our Hardware team, Benjamin looks after many of the buying guides, board game features, deals, and tech reviews you’ll see on GamesRadar+.