Disney+ review: An affordable, must-have streaming service for families and Disney nerds

The Disney+ streaming service arrived like Beauty and the Beast’s ballroom dance, with “oohs” and “ahs” and glistening eyes. Packed with high-quality content from the Disney vault, a few original productions—including what promises to be a fabulous Star Wars spin-off, The Mandalorian—and a very reasonable subscription price of $6.99 per month—Disney+ will attract families and anyone else attracted to Disney content. Competitors such as Netflix should be worried.

Disney fans will be enchanted with the vast number of old-time movies, including the likes The Shaggy Dog, Freaky Friday, The Love Bug, and The Apple Dumpling Gang, as well as 1980s and 90s Touchstone features, such as Adventures in Babysitting, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and 10 Things I Hate About You. There are classic 1930s full-color Mickey Mouse cartoons, such as the masterpiece The Band Concert, and a slew of brilliant TV shows like Gravity Falls, Phineas & Ferb, Kim Possible, and—thanks to Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox—all past 30 seasons of The Simpsons.

The homepage looks not unlike Apple+ or Netflix, with large, sliding banners showcasing the highlights. Below that are five boxes with Disney’s five main brands: Disney (of course), Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. These lead to the expected places, though some of the more recent entries in these categories are not included just yet, including this year’s Aladdin and The Lion King remakes, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Coco, Toy Story 4, and Ant-Man and the Wasp. (Weirdly, Avengers: Endgame is available, but not its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War. The 2008 The Incredible Hulk, with Edward Norton, is not here either.) For some reason The Muppets are not considered among of the top five, but the service offers all the Muppet movies, and some Muppet-based shows, although not the original The Muppet Show as yet.

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The home screen for Marvel content on Disney+.

The Marvel channel includes tons of cartoons, going all the way back to that silly 1960s Spider-Man series as well as the 1981 Saturday morning cartoon show Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. The less-flashy National Geographic channel shouldn’t be ignored; it comes with the Oscar-winner Free Solo; the documentary Jane, on gorilla specialist Jane Goodall; the series Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted; as well as many documentaries on animals and space exploration. There’s even one on the Titanic.

The service is buggy at launch, both on the website and on streaming apps, and crashed repeatedly on its first day. I encountered a few short hiccups while watching a show. It also offers no manual controls to adjust streaming resolution, although it’s said to be available in 4K to the less-than-50-percent of viewers with a 4K set, as well as in 1080p HD. But hopefully Disney techs will quickly solve these problems and get things rolling. Meanwhile, I have reviewed five of the service’s original programs.

The Mandalorian


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Pedro Pascal plays a bounty hunter in a lawless universe in the Disney+ series The Mandalorian.

Created by Jon Favreau, this Star Wars-based show is every bit as cool as it looked in its trailers. As with the original movies, it seems mostly inspired by Westerns, with a tough, loner outlaw trying to get by as best as he can in a lawless land. (The story takes place a few years after Return of the Jedi.) It’s less happy-go-lucky than Solo: A Star Wars Story, but also less grim and washed-out than Rogue One; it’s a strong middle ground, great-looking, and with a measured pace and just a little humor.

The story has the title character—unnamed as of now, completely masked, and played by Pedro Pascal (of Game of Thrones)—looking for a higher-paying gig in a post-Empire economy, and finding one that’s so dangerous it’s off the books. He rides off on a “blurrg” and has a shootout alongside an IG bounty hunter droid. There’s a sleazy cantina scene, a jaw-dropper ending, and it’s all a great deal of fun. Werner Herzog and Carl Weathers co-star in the first episode, adding to the cool factor. Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther) provides the superb music score, drawing just a bit on the classic themes, but making them startlingly new. As of now, the series will run eight episodes.

Lady and the Tramp


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Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux provide the voices for the romantic dogs in Lady and the Tramp.

Disney+’s first big original movie joins this year’s parade of theatrically-released remakes of animated classics (Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King), as being pretty good, but not as good as the original. At least it figured out a fun way to solve the problem of the culturally insensitive “Siamese Cat Song.” Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux provide the voices for Lady and the Tramp, presented as a combination of real dogs and some CG effects. Lady has a happy home with her humans Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) and Darling (Kiersey Clemons)—an interracial couple, shown matter-of-factly—until a baby comes along. Then, through a series of misunderstandings, she winds up out in the big world without her collar, and Tramp shows her the ropes, including the famous stop at the back alley of an Italian restaurant.

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