The question “Are you going to get it?” dominated social conversations this week, with “it” referring to the new Disney Plus streaming service. The $6.99-a-month alternative to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and others puts Disney’s massive video library—which includes offerings from Fox, Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar, Star Wars, and more—at users’ fingertips. The entertainment giant claims 10 million people signed up for the service on Tuesday, the first day it was available. While that number is a far cry from Netflix’s 158 million subscribers, having Mickey Mouse and friends join the streaming fray gives all the other platforms reason to worry.
For families in search of safe entertainment for children, Disney Plus is a gold mine. Not only does it feature recent movies like Frozen and Moana, but it also includes scores of shows made in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, when family values were at the center of the Disney brand (think Pollyanna, Mary Poppins, and Old Yeller).
Nostalgic parents immediately started singing Disney Plus’ praises on Twitter. “Thanks @disneyplus for bringing back classics from my childhood for my kids to watch. We are loving Rescue Rangers tonight!” tweeted Scott Smith of Pasadena, Md., referring to a Chip and Dale cartoon from the 1980s.
But before turning children loose with the remote, parents should know not everything on the platform is safe for all youngsters. It includes some PG-13 movies and seasons of Fox’s The Simpsons, and it does not have password-protected parental controls.
“By its own admission, Disney Plus was not designed exclusively for children,” said Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, which has called for the addition of content filtering to the new service.
Beyond inappropriate or violent scenes, some of the older Disney movies also contain offensive content. The movies Dumbo (1941) and The Jungle Book (1967), for instance, used negative stereotypes of African Americans to characterize animated crows and orangutans. Disney added a disclaimer about “outdated cultural depictions” to some of the shows. But the warning is applied somewhat arbitrarily: Aladdin, which refers to Arabian lands as “barbaric” and tells people to “hop a carpet and fly” over for a visit, doesn’t have it.
Despite those criticisms, Disney is poised to win big in the TV market with its new service. Disney Plus has something just about every other streaming service doesn’t—a vast library of content it already owns. All the other streaming services have to pay big bucks either to license or create their programming. Season 1 of The Crown, Netflix’s historical drama about the life of Queen Elizabeth II, cost $130 million to make. Some entertainment and business experts have argued the streaming market has space for all comers, but they aren’t factoring in the increasing cost of staying in the market. That cost will keep rising for the other platforms while Disney cashes in on old favorites and upcoming theatrical releases like Frozen II, which have their box office revenue stream to cover costs. Not to mention it can also draw in users with its bundle offer that includes Hulu and ESPN Plus (both Disney-owned) for $12.99 a month.
In response to the question, “Are you going to get it?” most TV viewers can probably answer, “Eventually.” Like the comic villain Thanos from the Avengers franchise (also available on Disney Plus), it is inevitable.