Disney Plus stood out as a breakaway success among a wave of new streaming services, thanks in part to its large library of shows and movies and a widening pipeline of originals and exclusives. But its growth has slowed over the course of 2021, and on Friday, Disney Plus fired up a marketing campaign to renew some buzz about the service. As part of the campaign, both Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Jungle Cruise became available to stream at no added cost early Friday on Disney Plus, and the company released a load of new trailers, teasers, behind-the-scenes peeks and documentaries, as well as news of previously unannounced projects.
That includes news of multiple new Marvel series for Disney Plus, such as animated shows based on X-Men, Spider-man and Marvel Zombies, as well as a new live-action Disney Plus series based on Marvel’s Echo — the deaf martial artist who will be introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe later this month in the Disney Plus show Hawkeye. And a 14-minute Marvel “special” on Disney Plus itself (and only on Disney Plus) was essentially a teaser supercut, peppered with previously unseen clips from Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel.
This so-called Disney Plus Day is coordinating deals across Disney’s empire, and in the case of Shang-Chi, it’s the first time the movie has been available to stream at all. Marvel’s Eternals hit theaters Friday without any streaming option either, after movies like Jungle Cruise and Black Widow were made available on Disney Plus at the same time they hit theaters earlier in the pandemic — if you paid an extra fee.
Read on for all the details about Disney Plus Day and the service itself.
What is Disney Plus Day? What’s did Disney announce?
Essentially, Disney Plus Day is a marketing campaign. It’s all focused on Friday, which marks the second anniversary of Disney Plus’ launch.
The concept is new this year. Last year, during the pandemic, Disney Plus didn’t do much to mark its birthday. But this year all corners of Disney’s empire are taking part.
Highlights of the marketing blitz include:
- A special about Marvel Studios’ plans for the future streamable only on Disney Plus, which announces new Marvel original shows to come and shows off previously unseen clips for projects that are coming. Read CNET’s full wrap-up of all the Marvel news.
- A short teaser for Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Star Wars live-action series with Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen reprising their roles, dropped on Disney Plus too.
- A Boba Fett special on Disney Plus gets into the Star Wars bounty hunter’s backstory.
- Marvel documentary specials, focused on Shang-Chi and Hawkeye, premiered on Disney Plus.
- A trailer for Baymax, a Disney animated series based on the sweet-natured bubble bot from Big Hero 6, was released publicly.
- A snarky meet-the-cast clip for the Willow reboot series features original Willow star Warwick Davis trading veiled (and not-so-veiled) insults with his younger castmates.
- A new Predator movie called Prey will be arriving on Hulu next year.
- A promo offering one month of a Disney Plus subscription for $2 has been available all week.
On Disney Plus itself, Friday’s “event” has included a number of new shows, movies and specials that were available to stream on the service. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings became available to stream there for the first time, and Jungle Cruise is now “free” to stream on the service for the first time (though, of course, you still have to pay for a subscription). Disney Plus reserved some of the juiciest glimpses of footage to new programming behind its Disney Plus paywall. But off the service, Disney publicly released a bunch of trailers, sneak peeks and title art about programming that will stream on Disney Plus down the road.
Elsewhere in Disney’s universe, the company is coordinating some other perks for anyone who is a Disney Plus subscriber. These treats run the gamut, like letting Disney Plus subscribers enter Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort 30 minutes before the parks opened on Friday and offering Disney Plus members free shipping at the ShopDisney online store. SEE AT DISNEY PLUS
Is Shang-Chi available to stream on Disney Plus?
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings became available to stream early Friday as part of the standard Disney Plus catalog. It’s available to watch at no added cost for subscribers.
That’s much faster than Disney’s theatrical releases hit the streaming service before the pandemic, when it typically took five to eight months. But it’s still longer than some fans had hoped.
Disney committed to keeping Shang-Chi in theaters exclusively for at least 45 days, which elapsed in mid-October. In between the end of that theatrical exclusive window and Friday, Shang-Chi didn’t become available to even rent online through platforms like Amazon, Apple or others.
The streaming release of Shang-Chi is set to coincide with what Disney is calling Disney Plus Day, a marketing campaign that will also include the release of some standalone specials on the service plus other promotional trailers, clips and gimmicks. At the same time as Shang-Chi, Jungle Cruise will be unlocked for all Disney Plus subscribers to watch at no added cost. That movie became available on Disney Plus on the same day it was released in theaters, but to stream it, subscribers needed to pay an extra $30. That changes on Friday, when any Disney Plus subscriber can watch it without paying anything additional.
What’s the next Marvel show on Disney Plus?
The next live-action Marvel series — that is, one similar to Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision — will be Hawkeye. Disney Plus has confirmed that Hawkeye will debut on Nov. 24. The Hawkeye series stars Jeremy Renner, reprising his role from the movies. The show will add the character Kate Bishop, who in the comics becomes a second Hawkeye; Hailee Steinfeld is playing the role.
Ms. Marvel, another of these live-action Marvel series, was originally slated to come out this year too. But Disney has pushed back Ms. Marvel until, at the earliest, July 2022. Ms. Marvel introduces a new character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comic books, the Ms. Marvel character was first incarnated by Carol Danvers, who later took up the identity of Captain Marvel. Then the name was most recently passed on to Kamala Khan, a teen protege of Danvers who was Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book.
During the Disney Plus Day event, Marvel also noted that She-Hulk and Moon Knight would be released in 2022. Shows that were described as “coming soon” (which really means you’ll probably be waiting a while for most of theses) included Secret Invasion, Echo, Ironheart, Agatha: House of Harkness, Armor Wars, Marvel Zombies, Spider-Man: Freshman Year, X-Men ’97, I Am Groot, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Loki season 2 and Marvel What If season 2.
When will Marvel’s Eternals stream on Disney Plus?
Eternals — the star-packed Marvel movie next up in the superhero franchise — hit theaters exclusively last week. It isn’t available to stream.
Eternals also doesn’t have a confirmed streaming release date yet.
But here’s what we know, and some educated guesses about what to expect:
- Disney is planning for Eternals to be in theaters exclusively for at least 45 days after debuting Friday.
- Disney Plus will be the only service that will (eventually) stream Eternals when it does become available for streaming.
- Disney’s CEO has said that Eternals will come to Disney Plus after the 45-day theatrical exclusive — but he didn’t specify whether it would be available to stream immediately once that 45-day window elapses.
- If Eternals does land on Disney Plus immediately after the 45 days in theaters, that would time its streaming release to be on or around Dec. 20.
- But it may be much later than that. Shang-Chi, for example, was in theaters for about 70 days before its Disney Plus release.
- However, Shang-Chi’s streaming strategy may not be a reliable precedent for how Disney approaches Eternals’ release. Because Shang-Chi’s Disney Plus release is linked to the Disney Plus Day marketing campaign, Disney may approach Eternals’ timing differently.
- If (a big “if”) Eternals follows the playbook of Shang-Chi, then it would arrive on Disney Plus about 70 days after its theatrical release, which would time the Eternals’ Disney Plus availability around Jan. 11.
Then again, it could take many months for Eternals to start streaming. Before the pandemic, new Disney movies would make their way to Disney Plus about five to eight months after they premiered in theaters. If Disney returns to that norm, it’s possible Disney Plus subscribers could be waiting until summer 2022 to start streaming Eternals.
It’s likely that Eternals will become available to stream on Disney Plus much earlier than the pre-pandemic norm. Unfortunately, we won’t know for certain until Disney confirms its streaming plan for Eternals, and Disney isn’t likely to do that for a while. SEE IT AT DISNEY PLUS
Will Disney keep releasing its new movies in theaters and on Disney Plus at the same time?
We don’t know, but for the time being, no future theatrical movies are planned to get same-day releases on Disney Plus.
During the pandemic, Disney Plus introduced this Premier Access model to sell streaming access to new, big-screen movies. It was a way to get the movie out to wider audiences while cinemas were shuttered or open at a fraction of their normal capacity. So far, Disney has released several movies this way: the live-action remake of Mulan, animated fantasy Raya and the Last Dragon, live-action prequel Cruella, Marvel’s Black Widow and live-action adventure Jungle Cruise.
But as restrictions have eased, Disney reintroduced theatrical-only windows starting in August. Free Guy, a sci-fi comedy from Disney’s 20th Century Studios, was released in theaters exclusively for 45 days in mid-August. Then Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released Sept. 3 in theaters exclusively for at least 45 days as well. Though Free Guy isn’t expected to stream anytime soon on Disney Plus, Shang-Chi is coming to Disney Plus on Friday — that’s about 70 days after its theatrical release, even though Disney reserved only 45 days as a theatrical exclusive.
Typically, before the pandemic, new Disney movies would make their way to Disney Plus about five to eight months after they premiered in theaters.
But for some of its upcoming smaller movies, Disney plans to simply switch films originally planned for theaters to be Disney Plus originals instead, skipping theaters entirely. This strategy mostly applies to midbudget movies, including Pinocchio, a live-action remake starring Tom Hanks; its Peter Pan reboot; Disenchanted, a sequel to Enchanted that’ll have Amy Adams reprise her princess role; and Sister Act 3, reviving the comedy franchise about nuns.
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Does Disney Plus have a free trial? Or other free offers?
Disney Plus no longer offers a standard free trial. It eliminated its one-week free trial program in June 2020, shortly before the premiere of Hamilton.
Right now until Sunday, Disney Plus is offering one month of the service for $2, essentially a $6 value.
But other deals may unlock Disney Plus free (or at no added cost).
For example, Disney and Verizon have a deal that gives a free year of Disney Plus starting on launch day to all the carrier’s customers with a 4G LTE or 5G unlimited account, as well as new customers of Verizon’s Fios and 5G home internet services. Those who prepurchased a Disney Plus plan such as the now-expired three-year discounted subscription deal can stack their one free year on top of it, according to a Verizon FAQ.
Amazon Music Unlimited is also offering a deal for new subscribers to its streaming music service to unlock up to six months of Disney Plus free.
How much does Disney Plus cost?
In the US, the Disney Plus service costs $8 a month, or $80 a year. The standalone Disney Plus service costs comparable amounts in other countries in their local currencies.
Disney Plus’ US price deeply undercuts the $14 monthly fee for Netflix’s most popular plan in the US, which lets you stream to two different devices simultaneously in high definition. But Disney Plus allows all subscribers to stream to four devices and access 4K content at no extra cost — features Netflix charges $18 a month to unlock its premium tier. SIGN UP FOR DISNEY PLUS
Way back in 2017, Disney’s then-CEO Bob Iger noted that Disney Plus pricing at launch would reflect the “fact that it will have substantially less volume” than prime competitor Netflix. As the months and years pass, Disney Plus is accumulating a bigger catalog of exclusives and originals. As that happens, it’s widely expected the company will continue pushing its price higher.
How much is the bundle with Hulu and ESPN Plus?
The company also offers a bundle that combines Disney Plus with Hulu (with ads) and ESPN Plus, offering a discount if you subscribe to all three of those streaming services for $14 a month. Put another way, you can subscribe to all three of Disney’s main streaming services for the same price as a standard Netflix subscription.
A higher tier of the bundle removes the ads from Hulu. The package with ad-free Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus will cost $6 more than the basic bundle — equivalent to the same cost increase you’d pay to step up from ad-supported Hulu to ad-free Hulu as stand-alone services. The three-way bundle with ad-free-Hulu bundle is $20 a month.
Hulu’s prices for its standalone on-demand streaming tiers went up $1 on Oct. 8, but the price of the Disney Plus/Hulu/ESPN Plus bundle didn’t change. CNET CULTURE
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What other shows and movies are coming to Disney Plus?
Disney plans to flood Disney Plus and its other streaming services with shows and movies in the coming years, promising more than 100 new titles every year on Disney Plus and committing to spend $14 billion to $16 billion annually on streaming content across its services within the next four years. (That’s about the same size as Netflix’s budget now.) Disney Plus itself is going to get $8 billion to $9 billion of Disney’s overall streaming budget.
That eye-popping budget meant Disney has announced a wave of new Star Wars originals, tons of Marvel projects and an exhausting lineup of new shows and movies. Disney laid out plans for as many as 20 new Marvel and Star Wars series. For details on them, CNET has deep dives into the announced Star Wars slate and Marvel slate, as well as coverage that generalizes the Disney Plus pipeline.
Disney Plus is also licensing some outside programming, like the popular kids animation franchise Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. Disney Plus struck a deal for the streaming rights to Miraculous‘ existing three seasons, as well as two more seasons that are forthcoming.
As for big-screen movies, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed how Disney releases its new movies on Disney Plus — and the new normal isn’t exactly clear yet. At first, Disney Plus simply started streaming already-released movies months earlier than planned, such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Frozen 2 and Pixar’s Onward. Then Disney started ratcheting up the streaming releases of new movies, such as its film version of the award-winning musical Hamilton with most of the original Broadway cast. The Hamilton film arrived on Disney Plus more than a year before its originally planned theatrical date. Pixar’s latest animated film, Soul, also went straight to Disney Plus on Christmas Day.
Then Disney introduced its Premier Access model, which sells streaming access to new, big-screen movies for an additional $30 on Disney Plus at the same time they’re also available in theaters.
What shows and movies can I stream already?
Disney Plus is designed to be the exclusive home to stream theatrical films, shows and shorts from Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, Disney’s own studio and National Geographic. It also has exclusive series and films, some of which are based on those blockbuster franchises, and others that are original.
With the elimination of Disney Plus’ free trial last year, potential subscribers can’t sign up to check out the catalog without having to pay first. But an easy way to see what’s available on Disney Plus without forking over any money is using a third-party catalog search service like Reelgood.
Disney Plus also integrates programming from Fox. All 30 seasons of The Simpsons are on Disney Plus, it’s begun adding X-Men franchise films, and titles like The Sound of Music, The Princess Bride and Malcolm in the Middle live there too. (Disney has also said it’ll mine the Fox catalog for reboots too, “reimagining” past Fox franchises “for a new generation” — a reboot of Home Alone is in the works, for example.)
Generally, Disney Plus houses the entire film libraries of Pixar, Star Wars and its Signature Series and Disney Vault lines of classic hand-drawn animated movies. It has all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies available to stream, with the exception of ones that were made by Universal or Sony. (So, that’s why you won’t find the Tom Holland Spider-Man films on Disney Plus, even though you can stream Holland portraying Spider-Man in Disney-made MCU movies like Avengers: Endgame.)
Because of previous licensing deals, it’ll be a long time before Disney Plus is an exhaustive library of all Disney movies. CNET has a comprehensive list of the major shows and movies still coming to Disney Plus. But starting with 2019’s releases, all of Disney’s new theatrical films stream exclusively on Disney Plus.
Then there’s the big slate of original, exclusive shows and movies for the service.
Its first major original was Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian, a big-budget series starring Pedro Pascal that takes place five years after the events in The Return of the Jedi and focuses on a bounty-hunting gunfighter. It’s the service’s marquee original series and home to viral sensation Baby Yoda, who became a pop culture phenom. Disney is investing heavily in The Mandalorian. The show’s budget reportedly approached $15 million per episode in the first season. By comparison, Game of Thrones didn’t hit that kind of spending until its final season.
But Disney Plus originals run the gamut. The Mandalorian is a textbook example of a Disney Plus original that feeds off the company’s existing franchises. But, for example, a Taylor Swift film that went behind the scenes of the recording of her Folklore album is one of the Disney Plus originals without any existing ties to Disney as a company. Disney has many shows, movies and specials like this.
Disney Plus has original documentaries, reality shows, competition series, behind-the-scenes features, nature and adventure titles, animated programming — the list goes on. It’s a place for Disney to show off short films from within the company, like via its Launchpad incubator program designed to elevate opportunities for filmmakers from underrepresented groups.
Disney Plus is even starting to stream two-dimensional versions of Disney’s virtual-reality shorts.
What devices support Disney Plus?
Disney has wide device support, streaming to phones, tablets, computers, connected TVs and streaming media boxes. The company has global distribution agreements in place with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku, Sony, Amazon, Samsungand LG. That encompasses the makers of:
- Roku’s boxes, sticks and TVs.
- Apple TV, iPhone and iPad.
- Phones and TVs running on Android operating systems, as well as Chromecast streamers.
- Xbox One.
- PlayStation 4.
- Amazon Fire TV devices.
- Samsung smart TVs.
- LG smart TVs.
- Comcast X1 set-top boxes and Flex platforms.
What product features does the service include?
Disney Plus can stream 4K Ultra HD content in Dolby Vision, HDR10 and Dolby Atmos immersive audio. You can see a title’s available formats in any of the Disney Plus apps by clicking to that show or movie’s main page and then clicking on the “details” tab. The app for streaming boxes, like Roku and Apple TV, is also designed to briefly flash a symbol telling you the format that you’re watching; it appears in the upper right corner of the screen for a few seconds when a video begins to play.
Every Disney Plus account can stream to four devices simultaneously and can create seven user profiles for different members of the household. Each account can pick an avatar of a Disney, Pixar, Marvel or Star Wars character, with more than 200 avatars available.
Disney Plus also offers unlimited mobile downloads for offline viewing. Subscribers can download to up to 10 mobile or tablet devices, with no constraints on the number of times a title can be downloaded. The number of titles stored at one time on a device depends on how much storage space is available on the device.
The service is supposed to support English, Spanish, French and Dutch at launch, including user interface as well as audio support and subtitles for library content, with additional languages available for Disney Plus originals.
The app also supports closed captioning, descriptive audio and navigation assistance to help subscribers with disabilities. (In July, the American Council of the Blind gave Disney Plus an achievement award for its descriptive audio, specialized tracks that describe the settings and the action taking place alongside a program’s dialogue.)
Disney Plus offers parental controls in the form of kids profiles. You can designate any profile to be in a kids mode, which has a simplified interface designed for younger viewers. These kids profiles limit the library to programming that’s rated TV-7FV and G in the US, or the equivalent ratings in other geographic markets.
And Disney has a group-watching feature, which lets you synchronize your stream of any title on Disney Plus with other accounts through the app, so you can watch a program at the same time as friends or family even if you’re apart.
I was watching Disney Plus free through Verizon. What happens when that expires? How do I cancel?
For customers who signed up for Disney Plus through a Verizon promotion to unlock a free year (or another duration of time free), those subscriptions will automatically convert to the $7 monthly plan once the free period has expired.
If you keep the subscription, it will automatically start charging the $7-a-month rate through your Verizon bill. If you purchased an annual or multiyear subscription prior to redeeming the Verizon offer in 2019, then you go back to the original plan you had.
If you want to keep the subscription but are open to changing your wireless service, you could also upgrade your service to one of Verizon’s so-called Play More or Get More Unlimited plans, which include Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus.
If you want to cancel, you should log into the My Verizon customer support portal and choose “Manage Disney Plus,” where you should be able to cancel your service. SIGN UP FOR THE DISNEY/HULU/ESPN PLUS BUNDLE
What about the Hulu bundle? How does Disney Plus fit in with Disney’s other streaming services?
Disney Plus is a competitor to video streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Now and Apple TV Plus. It’s a paid subscription without any advertising, and it gives customers access to a vast library of Disney’s and Fox’s legacy content as well as new, exclusive TV shows, movies, documentaries and shorts.
Disney’s other US streaming services — Hulu and sports-focused ESPN Plus — run on the same tech platform. Disney plans for all three to be individual subscriptions, but it’s offering the triple-service bundle to get discounts on all three.
Disney Plus includes all of Disney’s family-friendly content and much of its mass-audience fare — basically, anything made for audiences up to a PG-13 rating. It has content from Disney proper, Marvel, Lucasfilm (so, Star Wars), Pixar and National Geographic. And outside those traditional categories it also offers all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, a feather in its cap from the Fox takeover.
Hulu, on the other hand, is where Disney streams more-adult-oriented material. For example, two series originally planned for Disney Plus — High Fidelity and Love, Victor — were moved over to Hulu instead because of their more mature themes. Hulu is also the official streaming home for FX networks. (FX became part of Disney after Disney bought Fox for $71.3 billion.)
For now Hulu will continue to stream content from three of the broadcast networks, as well as its own original series.
And Disney now has full control over Hulu’s direction. Hulu was jointly owned by four parent companies for years, but in 2019 Disney bought all the shares of Hulu it didn’t already own. That gave Disney the flexibility to offer its bundle discount.