Review was updated on 17th December, 2020
For Disney fans of all ages across Australia, the announcement of the movie and TV giant’s own streaming service was the news they’d been waiting for – a dedicated portal to the vast catalogue of movies and TV shows made or owned by the world’s biggest entertainment company. But even more exciting was the news that Australia would be one of just a handful of countries outside the US to get the service first.
The idea with Disney+ is to collect together most (not quite all) of Disney’s movies and TV shows, add a bunch of more family-friendly fare from 20th Century Fox and National Geographic, toss in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, add some new original shows and movies and voila! Instant streaming service – at a surprisingly low price. Let’s dive deeper into what Disney+ has to offer, and see if it’s worth adding another streaming service to your life.
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Disney Plus Review
When Disney+ went live in the US and Canada a week before the Aussie launch, to say it was popular is understating things. More than 10 million people signed up in the first few days. The launch there had more than a few technical issues, but a week later on Aussie launch day, everything seemed to be running smoothly. And that’s just as well; Australians have been incredibly hungry for streaming, and we’re one of the few countries in the world where there’s healthy direct competition between Netflix and another provider – in our case, Stan. Disney spent a year flirting with Stan and licensing some of its stuff to them, but clearly they did the numbers as well, and put Australia at the top of the global rollout list.
That means almost all the Disney content on Stan and Foxtel vanished, vacuumed up by Disney+ and putting the Australian version of the service in a unique position – it has more content than the US Disney+ does, and it’s cheaper. So far, so good. The content is one thing, but what about the apps – how easy to use are they? And is Disney+ worth handing over your money for when you’re already paying for one or more streaming services every month?
In this Review
We’ve spent a lot of time with Disney Plus to give you a close-up look at what it has to offer, taking a deeper dive into the service’s content, value and usability to help you decide if Disney Plus is the best fit for your family. Read on to find out what we discovered.
What is Disney Plus?
Taking back control of the content they made or own is a big thing with giant media corporations right now. But Disney arguably made the move towards it first. It was a couple of years ago that they started pulling their content from US Netflix, saying up front that their plan was to take it all back and start their own streaming service. And that’s what Disney+ literally is – almost all of Disney laid out ready to watch on demand. Classic and modern movies, cartoons, family films, teen dramas, and even a whole bunch of stuff you forgot Disney made – it’s all there.
But that’s only the start of it – because Disney, of course, owns Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, National Geographic and just bought 20th Century Fox. That means all the content from those mega-franchises is now exclusive to Disney+ as well. The icing on the very entertaining cake is the price, which is designed specifically to be cheaper than Netflix while delivering a staggering range of content.
Everything Disney, With Premium Quality
Anyone who’s subscribed to streaming services will be used to the various “tiers” of monthly subscription. Sure, there’ll be a cheap entry-level price, but do you want HD? That’s going to cost extra. Do you want 4K, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support? That’s going to cost a lot extra. Do you want to let multiple members of your household stream their favourites at the same time? Yep, you guessed it – that’s extra too.
Disney+ turns this idea completely on its head, by pricing the service’s base monthly price lower than the competition, with a further discount for those willing to pay for a full year in advance. But that’s where the pricing ends – there are no tiers at all. Every subscriber gets access to the highest available quality streaming, as long as you’ve got the device to stream it. HD, Ultra HD 4K, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, it’s all available on the base subscription. Up to four people can stream at the same time on an account, with up to ten devices able to download movies and shows to watch on the go. For this level of quality and flexibility, Netflix charges $19.99 per month. Disney+ costs only $8.99/month – or, if you pay annually, it’s the equivalent of $7.50/month.
(That launch pricing is changing in February 2021 to $11.99/month, but there’ll be a ton of extra content for the extra money – more on that shortly.)
A handy tip for those using iPhones, iPads or Apple TV for Disney+ streaming: if you subscribe via iTunes billing on any of those devices, and keep an eye out for the regular discount offers on iTunes Gift Cards at supermarkets and elsewhere, you can end up effectively paying only $6 per month for all the Disney you can handle. Bargain!
What Movies and Shows are on Disney Plus?
Like we mentioned above, Disney+ in Australia actually has some notable movies and shows present that aren’t available on the US service – a nice change from what we’re used to! Across the Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and National Geographic shows and movies available, there’s currently about 750 movies (of which over 100 are in 4K Ultra HD) and about 275 TV series (that’s shows, not episodes). While it’s a much smaller number of total titles than you’ll find on, say, Netflix or Stan, it’s much more likely to be filled with stuff you want to watch if you’re a Disney fan. There’s also a lot more movies here than are available on the US service – Australia got a whopping 72 movies at launch that the Americans don’t get until much later.
The range of titles on offer is just too full of highlights to name them all, but let’s start with the big guns. The entire Star Wars catalogue is here, all of it in 4K, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. This is the first time most of these movies were made available in 4K, and fans are going to be thrilled with the picture quality. The entire Marvel Cinematic Universe is here as well, letting you finally line up that Marvel marathon and watch all the films in the correct order – also all in 4K, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
There are all the Pixar movies and all of Disney’s animations, new and old – from Sleeping Beauty to the live-action Lady and the Tramp. Yes, you’ll find the movies with human stars too – Mary Poppins and its modern sequel, Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland and the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Avatar is here with an (optional) family-friendly version available. Needless to say, Frozen is very much there (along with its sequel) so your kids can watch it for the 340th time – and if you want to get nostalgic about your own childhood, lots of old Disney TV movies are there including the beloved animated classic film The Lion King.
And that’s really just scratching the surface. Alongside all this are a bunch of Disney+ Originals, including the much-acclaimed first spin-off series set in the Star Wars universe, The Mandalorian (and yes, it’s very good indeed!) Jeff Goldblum has his own show too, as does Kristen Bell who reunites high school classmates and makes them perform musicals in Encore. More is coming in 2021, including several new Marvel TV shows that promise to be must-watch material.
Even More Disney+ Content with Star
From February 23rd 2021, Disney+ is launching a new section of the service that’s aimed specifically at older viewers looking for more mature entertainment. Branded as Star, the new section will feature shows and movies from Disney’s vast libraries that they haven’t been able to put on Disney+ so far.
That includes a ton of movies from the 20th Century Fox catalogue (such as the Alien series) as well as Disney’s own studio Touchstone, alongside TV shows from the likes of ABC US, FX, Fox and others. Disney also promises multiple original shows and movies, and a launch line-up of over 1000 hours of extra content. We’ll know more about the scope of the new content at launch – Australia is one of the first countries in the world to get Star added to Disney+ so there’s no overseas example to compare with just yet.
The Star section of Disney+ will be able to be PIN-protected, so that kids don’t accidentally stumble upon movies and shows that parents don’t want them to be watching (and of course, Star content won’t appear at all in user profiles set up for kids).
The addition of Star comes alongside a modest price rise for Disney+ overall – see the pricing section below for the full details, and find out how you can lock in the existing lower price for up to a year!
Compatible Devices and Apps
While initially it was reported that Disney+ was only going to be available on a limited number of devices, Disney greatly expanded the list of supported devices just before launch, including all major smart TV platforms.
Devices supported on Disney+
– Amazon Fire TV, Fire Tablet: Yes – All Fire TV devices & Fire TV Edition Smart TVs
– Apple TV: Yes – Apple TV HD (4th gen or later) & Apple TV 4K running tvOS 11.0 and later
– Apple Airplay: Yes – Apple TV 3rd & 4th generation; TVs compatible with Airplay 2
– Chromecast: Yes – Latest generation for highest quality playback
– Chromebook: Yes – via Disney+ Android app
– Roku: Yes – Roku boxes and sticks and TVs
– Android TV: Yes – Android TV-enabled Smart TVs (Android OS version 5.0 (Lollipop) or later): Sony Bravia, Sharp AQUOS, & Android TV set-top boxes: NVIDIA SHIELD TV, Mi Box
– LG Smart TV: Yes – LG models running webOS 3.0 and above
– Samsung Smart TV: Yes – 2016 models and newer (Tizen OS)
– Vizio SmartCast TVs: Yes – Select 2016 models and newer
– PC/Mac: Yes – Web browser only (Chrome 75+, Firefox 68+, Edge, Safari 11+, Internet Explorer 11)
– Android phones/tablets: Yes – Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and newer
– iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad: Yes – iOS/iPadOS 11.0 or newer
– PlayStation: Yes – PlayStation 4, PlayStation Pro, PlayStation Slim, PlayStation 5
– Xbox: Yes – Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X
– Telstra TV: No
– Fetch TV: No
Unique Disney Plus Features
The Disney+ app is almost identical across all the TV platforms – both smart TVs and streaming devices. It’s a consistent, easy to use and appealing interface which encourages you to browse content but also lets you get right to what you’re looking for if needed. Even the mobile apps work the same way, making sure no matter what device you’re using Disney+ on, it’s easy to find your way around. As far as usability goes, it’s up there with the best. The app won the Apple TV App of the Year award for 2020, so they’re clearly doing something right!
We’ve tried the apps out on several different devices and while they’ve all performed well, the best choice if you’re looking for something that can stream Disney+ with all the picture and sound enhancements – and be great to use while it does so – is the Apple TV 4K. But you can just as easily pick up your phone and send movies and shows to your Chromecast (or even do that right from your web browser!)
What Are the Best Features of Disney+?
Disney Plus Plans and Pricing
Here’s where we get to emphasise once again what great value Disney+ actually is. There’s no complicated scheme of price tiers with different features. There’s no need to pay the 4K premium to let your family stream at the same time, and there’s no need to pay for multiple streams if you just want 4K. With Disney+ there’s only one plan, and that’s $8.99/month or $89.99 per year (equivalent to $7.50 per month).
For that price you get full access to everything in the library, streaming on up to four devices at the same time, in quality up to 4K with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and the ability to download shows and movies to up to ten devices to watch offline. If you’re a Disney fan, this is the bargain of the year!
Pricing Changes for 2021
With the addition of the Star brand to the Disney+ service – and the 1000+ hours of movies and shows for adult viewers that will come with it – Disney will be raising the monthly and annual price for Disney+ on February 23rd, 2021.
The new price will be $11.99/month, or $119.99 annually (the latter working out at an effective $10 a month).
Price rises are never popular, but with the amount of new original content Disney has announced for the service, it was inevitable that the service would cost a little more. It remains incredible value, and especially so for the vast number of subscribers who’ve been hoping for more content to suit mature audiences from Disney’s vast library of films and television.
Those on current annual subscriptions won’t see the price rise until their current year is up, and with the annual price remaining at $89.99 until the change hits on February 23rd, it’s a good idea to grab an annual membership before then! Disney has also promised that existing monthly subscribers will still pay the $8.99/month price for the first six months after the price rise hits.
Contacting Disney Plus
Of course, we don’t always have a perfect experience with streaming services – technical problems can happen, and you need to know there’s someone you can call for help. With Disney+ you’ve got the choice of either live chat via the web site, or you can speak to a customer service agent on the phone. Both options are accessed via the Help page on the Disney+ web site and apps, with the support team available from 8am until midnight, seven days a week. You can also find them on Twitter at @DisneyPlusHelp if you prefer social media.
Disney Plus Summary
The idea of a Disney-only streaming service has been around for a long while, but now that it’s actually arrived the good news is it’s even better than fans could have hoped. With stellar streaming quality, a library of content with some of the biggest titles on the planet and well-designed apps, Disney+ is a brilliant streaming service to have around – and it’s priced just low enough that you won’t need to cancel any other ones to pay for it.