Welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. Today, I’ll be looking at something that involves the future of watching movies, which is in fact, a new streaming service. No, I’m not talking about Netflix. I’m talking about a streaming service that was just released a while ago, and no, it's not Apple TV+. I’m looking at a streaming service that I’ve been anticipating for quite a while, and that is Disney+. Disney+ is the latest addition to the “streaming service” collection that consists of everything Disney-related. If you’re wondering why I want to talk about Disney’s new service, well…it’s because I wanted to do something different for this section, and I happen to like Disney a lot, so…here you go. So far, I have been relying on Netflix and Amazon Prime to watch or review new films at the comfort of my own home without being bothered by people on their cell phones, and based on the information I read about Disney+, it looks like I’ll be adding at least one more service to that collection. For this episode of Movie Talk, I’ll be talking about my first impressions on Disney+ as well as its two original films that were released as launch titles and see if it’s worth the money. With that said, let’s put on our Mickey Mouse ears and get our magic on.
The first time I tried out Disney+ was obviously on its launch date, which was Tuesday November 12, and boy, was it something. What happened was that I got up in the morning, had some breakfast as usual, and downloaded the app on my phone, my Smart TV, and my family’s Smart TV. Yes, we have two Smart TVs. It makes watching movies very easy for us. Anyway, after I got the app downloaded, I attempted to create a couple of profiles for me and my family. One for me, one for my mother, and one for my sister. I didn’t make one for my father because he didn’t watch that many Disney films like the rest of us. Now, what’s nice about Disney+’s profile menu is that you can select a healthy amount of profile pictures that feature characters from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and even National Geographic. If you have a favorite Disney Princess or a favorite Marvel superhero, there’s a good chance that they’re on there. However, from what I saw, the profile picture selection menu doesn’t have every character, so if you don’t see one that you really want, my advice is to go with your second favorite character and hope that it’s on there. Now, here’s where things got a little…interesting. I was about to go into the “profile picture” menu so that I can change the picture of Iron Man to Princess Jasmine from “Aladdin” for my sister’s profile, and then all of a sudden, I got an error message. You read that right, I got blocked by an error message on my first day of using Disney+. I reseted the app and reentered the “profile picture” menu a few times, and I still got the same error message. After multiple attempts, I decided to leave it alone for now. I did some research on the streaming service during my lunch break at work and I found out that the reason why I kept getting the error message about the app not being able to connect was because it received some technical difficulties upon launch. That means that I wasn’t the only one who has that problem. The main source of those technical problems would have to be the high demand since it has already gathered more than ten million subscribers on its first day. That’s not too surprising to me given how popular the Disney brand is nowadays. When I got done with work, I went back to the app and tried the profile menu again. I didn’t get the error message that time, which means that they fixed the app. I successfully changed my sister’s profile picture to Jasmine, and I was finally able to explore Disney+. So let’s see what it has to offer.
The Disney+ homepage looks exactly like what you would expect from a streaming service menu in terms of the display and how they list its selection of films and shows in different categories. Speaking of which, the search menu in Disney+ not only lets you search for something, but it also has an "Explore" section, which has a list of special categories that filter specific films and television shows based on the selected category. For example, the “Princess” collection has a list of films and shows that involve Disney Princesses and the “Star Wars” collection has everything that’s related to “Star Wars”. I found that to be a nice touch. The app menus were easy to navigate similar to Netflix, and so far, I didn’t have any buffering issues while I was watching some content. I did receive an error message once while browsing, but it’s nothing too serious. So it looks like the presentation and the playback are both passable, but what about the app’s library, AKA the main reason why everyone wants Disney+? Well, from my personal perspective, it’s definitely a match made in heaven for Disney fans. Disney+ has a buttload of content that features films and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and National Geographic, ranging from the classics to the most recent ones. Yes, even the ones that have cultural stereotype moments that were now deemed insensitive, except “Song of the South”. For those types of films such as “Dumbo” and “Peter Pan”, Disney+ has put out disclaimers warning viewers about those topics. It also contains specific content from 20th Century Fox since it was purchased by Disney back in March as well as select titles from Fox Searchlight Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Disney Channel, and Freeform. Oh, and it also has 30 seasons of “The Simpsons”, in case you’re wondering. Of course, a streaming service just isn’t complete without its own list of original content, and this one is no exception. So far, we have two original films (which I will get to later), the live-action “Lady and the Tramp” remake and “Noelle”, and a few original shows like “The Mandalorian” (which I thought was pretty good so far), “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”, and “The World According to Jeff Goldblum”. So if you want to revisit the films and shows from your childhood or get caught up on the ones you missed, Disney+ has you covered. It has everything that you could ever want from a Disney-themed streaming service. Well, almost everything. There were actually a couple of setbacks when it comes to the library. First off, Disney+ is only created to provide family-friendly titles that are G-rated, PG-rated, and PG-13-rated, so if you’re hoping that it will also have some adult content like “Alien” or “Deadpool”, I’m sad to say that Disney doesn’t roll like that. You’re better off using Netflix or Hulu or even cable. Another setback I would like to address is that due to some licensing deals, Disney+ won’t be able to have certain films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars until later on, except for “The Incredible Hulk” and the first two “Spider-Man” MCU solo films, which were still owned by Universal and Sony Pictures respectively. Unless Disney has enough money to fully purchase Universal and Sony, the MCU collection is sadly still incomplete. On the bright side, we got the original “Star Wars” trilogy. I also want to point out that Disney+ doesn’t act like any other streaming service as it ditches the binge-watching idea and have the new episodes of its original shows appear weekly instead of all at once. You know, like any other network on cable. I’m used to the binge-watching scenario since I had Netflix and Amazon Prime for a couple of years, so it’s going to be a while for me to get used to its new strategy. There were also some other issues that I read about, including the presentation of the non-HD episodes of “The Simpsons”, but since I haven’t gotten to them yet, I can’t say that much about them. Other than that, Disney+ has a respectable collection of films and shows that will surely make any fan happy. Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time for me to share my brief thoughts on the two films that were released exclusively on the streaming service.
Lady and the Tramp (2019)
The first of the two Disney+ original movies is the latest addition to Disney’s collection of “live-action remake” cash grabs, “Lady and the Tramp”. Directed by Charlie Bean, who is known for directing “The Lego Ninjago Movie”, “Lady and the Tramp” is the live-action adaptation of the 1955 animated film of the same name, which was based on the Cosmopolitan magazine story titled “Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog” by Ward Greene. It tells the story of Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson), an upper-middle-class dog whose joyous life gets turned upside down when her owners have a baby in their lives. She then meets a stray Schnauzer known as the Tramp (voiced by Justin Theroux), who shows her the world that is beyond her home. This is one of the few Disney movies that I haven’t watched that often compared to many others. My mom, on the other hand, adores the heck out of it since she’s a massive dog lover. So, I decided to take the opportunity and experience the remake with my mother. Like much of the other Disney remakes, “Lady and the Tramp” follows the same plot and themes as the original, but it made a few changes to make it stand out on its own, such as the Siamese Cats because racial stereotyping. The end result is obviously what you would expect from a live-action remake from Disney: a charming, yet imperfect, treat. Because it followed the original’s plot, the story can come across as predictable and formulaic, but it did its part in delivering the type of charm that you would normally find in any romance film thanks to its likable cast and the two furry leads. Thompson and Theroux delivered some pretty good vocal performances as Lady and Tramp, respectively, and the two dogs who portrayed them were unsurprisingly adorable. The film used CGI to animate the dogs’ facial expressions and, to be honest, they don’t look too bad. The dog characters were nicely expressive without suffering from its uncanny valley effect. For those who aren’t fans of how the animals express their feelings in the “Lion King” remake, this one is a nice return to form in terms of live-action films with talking animals. The film did happen to rely on nostalgia from time to time rather than provide stronger storytelling, which is basically the main concern in any live-action Disney remake. Just because it worked well in the original, it doesn’t always mean that it will work again in the remake. I mean, it’s nice to see some classic moments being remade into live-action, but for some reason, they don’t always have the same appeal and wonder as the moments in animation form. Overall, the live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp” is a cute and watchable film for those who are curious. While the story has the same issues as the other Disney remakes, it still has the charm and enjoyability that made the original a cuddly classic thanks to its cast and some decent CGI. I would give this one a B-.
The second original film from the streaming service is already getting us into the holiday spirit, even though we’re not finished with Thanksgiving yet. “Noelle” is the latest Christmas-themed film from Disney that’s set to become the next holiday tradition. Written and directed by Marc Lawrence, who worked on such films as “Two Weeks Notice”, “Music and Lyrics”, and “Miss Congeniality”, the film follows the title character (played by Anna Kendrick), the daughter of Santa Claus, as she attempts to journey beyond the North Pole and find her brother (played by Bill Hader), who is destined to become the next Santa Claus. There are many films that literally scream “holiday movie tradition”. Some are classics like “Home Alone”, “The Santa Clause” and “A Christmas Carol”, while others are watchable enough to spread some holiday cheer. “Noelle” pretty much falls towards the latter. It’s a pleasant, if uneven, holiday gift that offered a good amount of Christmas cheer despite its plot being a bit too on-the-nose with itself. Anna Kendrick once again delivered plenty of goodwill in her role as Noelle with her chirpy attitude and her unique sense of energy. Whether you like the film or not, you have to admit that Kendrick has the right spark to keep it away from the naughty list. Bill Hader was also good as Nick Kringle, Noelle’s brother, and Shirley MacLaine had some decent moments as Elf Polly, Noelle’s nanny. Along with its charm, the film also provided some thoughtful and effective messages that’ll help teach young kids about the true meaning of Christmas. As for its flaws, the story did feel painfully predictable and there were a couple of scenes that dragged a bit. The film’s humor is also a hit-and-miss for me. It had some humorous moments that were passable, mostly due to Kendrick’s performance, but the rest of them weren’t memorable enough to make me laugh as hard as the big man in red himself. Overall, “Noelle” has enough Christmas spirit to make itself a watchable holiday film for the whole family. It’s not as inspiring or endearing as Disney’s other Christmas classics from the past, but in terms of the cast and its enjoyable sense of charm, it’s a fine watch for those who are in need of some holiday cheer. I would give it a C+.
In conclusion, Disney+ has plenty of stuff to offer for Disney fans young and old in terms of the library and its presentation. Sure, it has some setbacks and it doesn’t have every film available from Disney (not yet, anyway), but it has enough interest to serve as a respectable (and cheap) competitor to the other streaming services like Netflix. I’m quite impressed with how it handles so far, and I can’t wait to see what Disney+ will deliver next in the future. If you want to check it out for yourself, it costs $6.99 a month, which is my personal recommendation, and $69.99 a year, or if you’re feeling feisty today, you can get the bundle that consists of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for just $12.99 a month. That about does it with this latest episode of Movie Talk. Thank you all for reading and have yourself a glorious Disney-filled day.