4 things to know about the new streaming service Disney Plus

The launch of Disney Plus, which includes successful franchises such as Star Wars and classics such as The Lion King, is expected to be a disrupting force in the streaming industry.

Major franchises such as Star Wars, Avengers are on offer; old Disney films deemed racist will be censored

The menu looks like this, with offerings from Disney's vast catalogue as well as Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. (Zulekha Nathoo/CBC)

The launch of Disney Plus, which boasts successful franchises such as Star Wars and animated classics such as The Lion King among the items on its menu starting Tuesday, is expected to be a disrupting force in the streaming industry.

It's also yet another channel Canadians will have to shell out for, to access Disney's vast roster of films and upcoming TV series. Here's what you need to know to decide if it's worth your subscription dollars.

Disney Plus basics

Disney Plus, which launches today, costs $8.99/month or $89.99/year in Canada. That includes access to offerings from Fox, Pixar, Marvel and National Geographic and allows subscribers to stream on multiple devices.

In comparison, Netflix's basic plan costs $9.99/month in Canada, while its standard tier — which also allows users to watch on two devices at once — costs $13.99/month. Apple TV Plus, which launched earlier this month, is charging $5.99/month and offering a year free if you buy an Apple device.

The growing number of streaming options is giving traditional television a run for its money.

"2019 will see a larger drop in Canadian TV subscribers than 2018, and we expect the same for 2020 and beyond," said Brahm Eiley, head of the media and technology consulting firm Convergence Research.

Disney Plus will be available to stream on computers, phones (iPhones and Androids), tablets, TVs and media boxes. You can also download an unlimited number of programs for offline mobile viewing.

The Disney Plus app is expected to support closed captioning, descriptive audio and navigation assistance for those who need it.

Disney Plus is expected to be a disrupting force for the streaming industry with its Nov. 12 launch in North America. (Disney)

What to expect

At launch, the service's catalogue will include family-friendly hits such as Finding Nemo and Moana as well as a handful of recent Marvel films, with Avengers: Endgame, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man among them. Others from the Marvel Cinematic Universe are expected to be added later.

The service is also touting new, original series based on the MCU such as The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki, and Wanda Vision. While the former is set to be released in 2020, both Loki and Wanda Vision have a 2021 release date.

One highly anticipated series that will be available immediately is Star Wars: The Mandalorian, set after the fall of the Empire. Just don't expect to binge-watch the full season of a new show right away. Unlike Netflix, Disney Plus will offer week-to-week episodes.

The service will also be the only place to catch Disney films after they're released in theatres such as the upcoming Frozen 2 and Pixar's Soul.

In the past, Disney had a deal to stream its movies on Netflix after a theatrical release. But Disney opted out of the deal as it prepared to launch its own service, so most Disney titles will disappear from Netflix by the end of the year.

Censoring the past?

Several media outlets speculated that Disney Plus was reconsidering or removing altogether certain films deemed offensive nowadays.

Both Variety and CNBC report that the Siamese Cat Song from the 1955 version of Lady and the Tramp will be re-invented or replaced for the 2019 reboot with the help of actress-musician Janelle Monae. The original track, which features the opening lines "We are Siamese if you please/We are Siamese if you don't please" is widely viewed as derogatory toward Asian culture. 

In addition, CNBC and the Disney fan site Boardwalk Times report that Disney's 1946 animated-live action film Song of the South will not be available on the streaming site at all. Criticized for being racist in its depiction of African-Americans and black vernacular, the story about Uncle Remus spawned the Oscar-winning song-turned-catchphrase, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah and the popular Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland.

The film was never released on home video in the U.S. either. Disney CEO Bob Iger said in 2011 the film "wouldn't necessarily sit right or feel right to a number of people today."

A controversial "Jim Crow" scene from the 1941 classic Dumbo was expected to be scrubbed from the version that appears on the streaming service. The scene, which features a crow named after the infamous American segregation laws, has been heavily criticized for decades, not just because of the name, but also for perpetuating African-American stereotypes.

However, upon launch, the original Dumbo was available in its entirety — though prefaced with a cautionary message that noted the film "may contain outdated cultural depictions."


The 1946 Disney film Song of the South, which inspired the Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland, reportedly won't be included on Disney Plus because of widespread criticism over its depiction of African-Americans. (Rotten Tomatoes/Disney)

The larger streaming landscape

Disney Plus joins a growing list of media giants trying to get into the streaming industry. Apple TV Plus has a much smaller catalogue but boasts A-list stars and all-original content. At the same time, Bell Media's Crave announced it will have exclusive Canadian rights to original programs from HBO Max, which is set to launch in the U.S. next year.

NBC Universal will also launch its streaming service, Peacock, next year in the U.S. with a possible international rollout later on. And all of that is in addition to already established streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, CBC Gem and CBS All Access. 

While some might see an increasingly saturated and costly market, Eiley says it's also offering Canadians more choices.

"Disney Plus brings iconic programming franchises, and thus we fully anticipate that Disney Plus will do very well in Canada, the U.S. and internationally, in terms of subscriber additions."