June 16, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Disney+ – Review 2020 – PCMag Asia

11 min read

Aside from its classic in-house films, Disney probably owns at least a few other entertainment properties you care about, among them Pixar and Marvel. Disney+, the company’s dedicated video streaming service, delivers the vast majority of the content it owns in attractive interfaces with competitive features such as 4K streaming, offline downloads, and personalized recommendations. Although Disney+ suffered some launch day connectivity problems, it now performs without issue in our tests. Disney+ is already competitive with top services and will only grow stronger as its content offerings expand and it reclaims titles from competitors.

What Can You Watch on Disney+?

Disney has been a major media player for a long time, and lately, its rate of growth has really shot up. The company’s most recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox adds a substantial number of shows and movies to Disney’s arsenal, though not all of Fox’s titles are available to stream on Disney+ yet. Still, the service featured around 7,500 TV episodes and over 500 movies at launch, which is impressive.

On the TV side, Disney+’s library comprises a combination of existing shows and upcoming originals. Some classic Disney shows on the platform include Even Stevens, Gravity Falls, Kim Possible, Lizzie Maguire, Phineas and Ferb, That’s So Raven, and The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. The Simpsons is also available, but other animations such as Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, Futurama, and King of the Hill are currently not, likely due to existing streaming rights. Apart from those fan favorites, Disney+ offers originals such as Encore!, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Marvel’s Hero Project, The Mandalorian, and The World According to Jeff Goldblum. Of those, The Mandalorian is the most prominent, in large part because of the Baby Yoda craze. The animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series is also back for a seventh season. Disney+ has announced other original series, such as Loki (and several other Marvel titles) and Monsters at Work, but those shows are not yet available. The musical Hamilton is set to debut on the channel, as well.

Disney+'s Web Interface

The majority of Disney+’s originals are firmly within existing franchises, which seems like a deliberate and perhaps excessively safe decision. I would like to see Disney’s creativity move further outside the bounds of its existing content stable. Amazon, Netflix, and even Apple TV+, despite its somewhat disappointing launch titles, all attempt to tell new, compelling stories. Netflix’s Stranger Things, Amazon Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Apple TV+’s For All Mankind are among the many examples of stellar, completely original show concepts. I also don’t like the staggered schedule of originals. CBS All Access and Apple TV+ employ a similar strategy; this forces consumers to maintain a subscription for the duration of a show’s release cycle.

The Disney+ movie library does not surpass those of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime in terms of volume, but if you or your kids are fans of Disney classics, Pixar animations, Star Wars films, or Marvel movies, Disney+ is the way to go. Disney’s library of movies is more consistently high-quality than most other video streaming services.

A few of the popular live-action movies on Disney+ include Avatar, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Miracle on 34th Street, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Remember the Titans, The Sandlot, and The Sound of Music. Classic Disney animations include Aladdin, Bambi, Fantasia, Frozen, Frozen II, Lilo & Stitch, Moana, Mulan, Oliver and Company, Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Tangled, The Emperor’s New Groove, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Zootopia. Among the Pixar movies on the service are Brave, Cars, Finding Nemo, Inside Out, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Toy Story, and WALL-E.

Star Wars films include Star Wars: Episodes I through VII, as well as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Marvel films Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: End Game, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Iron Man, and Thor: The Dark World are also available.

Ant Man and The Wasp, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and The Incredibles II are not yet available for streaming on the service. Expect more content to move over to Disney+ as other services’ streaming rights expire. Note that, in addition to taking content away from other services, Disney is removing content from cable channels, too.

Costs and Platforms

Disney Plus costs $6.99 per month, but you can get a discount if you opt for the annual plan, at a price of $69.99 per year. Disney+ no longer offers a free, 7-day trial.

Disney also offers a plan than bundles Hulu’s ad-supported tier, ESPN+, and Disney+ for $12.99 per month. As a whole, that package is a good value, but several other sports streaming services are better than ESPN+.

Sick of the service? Follow our instructions on how to cancel your Disney+ account.

Disney+ is one of the cheaper streaming services, but Apple TV+ ($4.99 per month), Acorn TV ($5.99 per month), and Hulu’s ad-supported tier ($5.99 per month) undercut it. CBS All Access’s plan with ads is also $5.99 per month. BritBox matches Disney+’s monthly price. Netflix and Prime Video are more expensive at $8.99 per month, while HBO Max runs $14.99 per month. Every dollar counts in terms of cutting down on your monthly subscriptions, especially if you also subscribe to one of the more expensive live TV services.

Disney+ is available on iOS and Android mobile phones; media streaming devices such as the Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku; as well as gaming consoles such as Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4. You can also watch Disney+ via a desktop web browser.

Web Interface

Disney+’s web interface uses dark background colors, light text, and consistent elements, which gives it a clean, organized look. You navigate the app via a series of menu items at the top of the screen: Home, Search, Watchlist, Originals, Movies, and Series. Profile details and account settings are accessible via an icon in the upper right-hand corner. Here, you can set autoplay preferences, change your profile photo (options include Disney characters and animal photos from National Geographic), and update your subscription details. Notably, you can opt for the Disney+ bundle with ESPN+ and Hulu’s ad-supported tier in this area, too. Despite issues at launch with infinite loading screens and navigate lag, Disney+’s web interface now works reliably.

The Home tab highlights featured content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. Horizontally scrolling lists of other content populate the rest of the page including Recommended for You, Trending, Out of the Vault, Ultra HD and HDR, and Shorts. The Search section features several more collections including Disney Through The Decades, Disney Channel Original Movie, Marvel Animation, and Princesses. The search feature is notable in that you can use titles, genres, and characters in your queries. The Originals, Movies, and Series sections show all the entries in those respective categories. You can sort the latter two sections by name, genre, and by those that support the UHD and HDR standards.

Disney+ Search

When you see something you want to watch, just click on a title to view its details. Here, you can find a description, run-time, and MPAA rating. Disney+ also shows suggestions for related content, any video extras (such as trailers or deleted scenes), and an expanded details section with a longer description and cast information. You click the plus button next to a title to add it to your watchlist (which syncs across platforms). Disney+ is missing any sort of feedback system, such as user-written reviews (Shudder offers this) or star-based ratings. Given Disney+’s stated focus on recommendations, this exclusion is odd.

Disney+’s playback screen is standard with 10-second rewind and fast-forward buttons and built-in caption settings. On some shows, Disney+ does offer a Skip Intro button, which I appreciate. It also pops up the next episode in a season after the current one ends, instead of making you go back to the episode list to start the next one. I tried streaming The Incredibles via Disney+’s website over my home Ethernet connection (200MBPS download) and did not encounter any stutters or lags.

Disney+ On Mobile

I signed up for the Disney+ service on a Google Pixel 3 running Android 10 without issue. Note that you need to verify your account in the app’s settings by entering a one-time password Disney sends to your email. The mobile app looks sleek with a dark theme and colorful content previews; it is very consistent with the web interface.

You navigate the app via icons at the bottom of the screen: Home, Search, Downloads, and Profile. The Originals, Movies, Series tabs from the web live in the Search section. The Downloads section shows an unsortable list of all the titles you downloaded for offline viewing. Downloading content is easy; just tap the down arrow icon on an entry’s detail page (it’s right next to the plus icon for adding it to your watchlist). Oddly, you need to go to the profile tab in the app to access your watchlist; it should be its own icon.

The Profile area has a few settings specific to the mobile app too, such as the option to restrict streaming to Wi-Fi connections and to set the quality of downloads. I wish Disney specified the resolution of these downloads, instead of using the vague High, Medium, and Low descriptors. You can also view a graphic that shows your available device storage and opt to download content to any external storage device here.

I tried watching the first episode of The Mandalorian via the Disney+ app over my home Wi-Fi connection and had no problems with the video or audio streaming quality. Downloading movies and TV shows worked as advertised, too.

Accessibility and Extra Features

Disney+ offers a good range of accessibility options. For instance, the service supports closed captions and audio descriptions on most titles. Prime Video and Netflix also support audio descriptions for some original titles. Apple owns all the content on Apple TV+, so it can ensure that all the content on the service supports this feature as well.

Disney+ Mobile Apps

Disney says that its interface works with text-to-speech tools (excluding on the PlayStation 4), is high-contrast for readability, and supports alternative navigation methods, including using a keyboard. You can set audio and subtitle preferences directly from the playback screen on the mobile app and the web. Acorn TV offers similar closed captioning settings. Additional subtitle style settings are available on the web.

Each Disney+ account supports up to seven customizable user profiles, four simultaneous streams, and 10 total connected devices. That’s a best-in-class offering and great for large households and families. For comparison, Apple TV+ offers six different user profiles and Netflix allows five. Amazon Prime Video and CBS All Access only allow two simultaneous streams. BritBox beats Disney+ with its support for five simultaneous streams.

Disney+’s parental controls are lackluster. For each profile, you can only specify whether it is a Kids Profile (limited to G, TV-Y, TV-Y7/Y7-FV, TV-G); there’s no way to set custom restrictions based on content ratings. You also can’t lock any profiles with a PIN, so a child could simply switch profiles to get around this setting. Other video streaming services, such as Apple TV+, HBO Now, Hulu, and Netflix offer better flexibility.

Disney+ supports offline downloads—a now-standard feature it shares with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Starz, Showtime, CBS All Ac
cess, and others. Hulu recently added this capability for subscribers to its premium plan, but imposes lots of other restrictions on how long you get to keep a download. Disney+, on the other hand, says that no such download limitations exist for its own content, other than needing to connect to the internet at least once every 30 days. Disney+ does not specify what limitations apply to the content it does not own completely. Downloads are large; a 22-minute episode of The Simpsons in high quality took up nearly 1GB of space. The download completed in just a few minutes though.

You can stream some shows in Ultra HD 4K (with support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision) for those platforms that support it as well as in HD HDR on supported mobile devices. Some content supports the Dolby Atmos standard, too. Check an entry’s detail page for the standards it supports. Apple TV+, Prime Video, and Netflix also support all these standards, though Apple TV+ has the best track record thus far in terms of the percentage of shows supporting them.

Disney+ and VPN

A virtual private network, or VPN is a good way to protect your internet traffic from your ISP and anyone else lurking on your network. However, since a VPN can also spoof your location, many video streaming services prevent you from using one, in order to enforce geographic restrictions on content. Disney says in its help sections that while it will distribute most content globally, there might be some limited restrictions.

I tried to stream Disney+ from my phone and my desktop, both of which were connected to a US-based Mullvad VPN server, but Disney+ blocked me from watching anything. I couldn’t even log in to the service on the web.

Even if you find a VPN that works with all of your video streaming services one day, it might not the next. Video streaming services work continuously to block VPN traffic. Instead of trying to find a VPN that works consistently, we recommend picking a VPN based on other factors, such as its security features, privacy policy, value, and performance.

Disney+ Looks to Disrupt

Disney+ is a formidable video streaming competitor (its 28 million current subscribers are a testament), since it leverages Disney’s vast catalog of entertainment content and promises new originals in popular franchises. We also appreciate its family-friendly features (four simultaneous streams and seven user profiles), sleek interfaces, ad-free experience, and offline download capabilities. However, for the service to earn a higher rating, more of Disney+’s originals need to succeed. We would also like Disney to reclaim all of its titles and integrate more properties from its 21st Century Fox acquisition. Netflix remains our Editors’ Choice for on-demand video streaming for its excellent interface, features, and originals. Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV are our picks for the best live TV services, respectively, for their value and channel lineup.

Disney+ Specs

Starting Price $6.99 per month
Concurrent Streams 4
Live TV No
On-Demand Movies and TV Shows Yes
Original Programming Yes
Anime No
Ads No
Offline Downloads on Mobile Yes

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