Disney+ Launch: Here’s the Good and the Bad

Disney+ launched to much fanfare on Tuesday, and then immediately hit some bumps.

Disney fans looking to enjoy all the content the company’s new streaming service had to offer were instead greeted by error pages starring Disney’s own Wreck-It Ralph.

“Unable to connect to Disney+,” one error page, which showed Wreck-It Ralph holding a WiFi signal, read. “There seems to be an issue connecting to the Disney+ service.”

Another error page depicted Mickey Mouse and his dog, Pluto, as forlorn astronauts looking off into space.

“The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our high expectations. We are pleased by this incredible response and are working to quickly resolve the current user issue. We appreciate your patience,” a Disney+ spokesperson said in a statement.

Downdetector, a website that provides information on online outages, had received more than 7,300 reports of problems related to Disney+ by 7 a.m. ET. The number of reports then dropped before going up again, spiking at nearly 8,500 reports around 9 a.m. ET.

Some users on social media reported a litany of difficulties launching the app and watching content on the service.

“Introducing Disney+ Premium! For a small $15-per-month upgrade fee, you can enjoy our vast catalogue of films and television series without the hassle of none of it working,” Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair’s chief critic, tweeted.

Dave Itzkoff, a culture reporter for the New York Times, tweeted, “PHENOMENAL COSMIC LIBRARY/itty bitty server capacity,” a joke referencing the company’s animated classic “Aladdin.”

The rough start for Disney+ is a bit embarrassing for the company considering the attention around the service’s launch.

The service is Disney’s first charge into the “streaming wars,” in which media companies like WarnerMedia and Comcast as well as tech giants like Apple are battling with Netflix for consumers’ time and money.

For Disney and its CEO Bob Iger, Disney+ represents a major shift in the company’s business focus and a possible key to its future.

“The launch of Disney+ is a historic moment for our company that marks a new era of innovation and creativity,” Iger said in a statement when the service launched early Tuesday.

The service will have 30 original series, 7,500 past episodes and 500 movie titles. That includes a new Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian,” Disney Animation, Marvel films such as “Avengers: Endgame,” documentaries from National Geographic and 30 seasons of “The Simpsons.”

Disney+ looks familiar

Disney+’s homepage is not all that different than Netflix’s, and that’s a good thing.

At the top of the Disney+ homepage is a section that hosts a carousel of content, which includes a new Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian,” its live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp” or “The World According to Jeff Goldblum.”

Below that are tiles for five major brands: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.

The platform’s shows and films are arranged in a seemingly endless scroll of categories. Once a selection is made, the service offers a button that lets users bypass the introduction credits. Again, just like Netflix.

Disney isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with its user interface and it doesn’t need to. One of Netflix’s biggest benefits is its ease of use, and Disney understands that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Premium video at an affordable price

A lot has been written about the library of content. In year one, the service will have 30 original series, 7,500 past episodes and 500 movie titles. That includes Marvel films such as “Avengers: Endgame,” documentaries from National Geographic and 30 seasons of “The Simpsons.”

But what’s notable is how Disney has chosen to present some of that content.

For example, the original Star Wars films, which will be available at launch, will be streamed in 4K, a video resolution also known as “Ultra HD.” That means you’ll be able to see in sharp detail the grime on R2-D2 and Darth Vader’s cape will be a richer black.

“The only place it’s going to be that way is on Disney+,” Kevin Mayer, Disney’s chairman of direct-to-consumer, said at the media event last week.

Not every film and series on the service will get the 4K treatment, but classics like 1995’s “Toy Story” and 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” have been cleaned up. I was surprised that Disney decided to remaster “The Black Cauldron,” an obscure 1985 Disney animated film, in 4K.

If you don’t have a 4K TV, this will probably not matter much to you. But if you do, then Disney+’s premium HD offerings are a great deal for $6.99 — especially considering that Netflix’s ultra HD plan costs $15.99 a month.

“Disney Collections” help with the paradox of choice

The amount of content may be overwhelming, but the service’s search functionality and curation really helps cut through the clutter.

When you use Disney+’s search option, the service will offer “Disney Collections,” curated libraries that sort programming into different categories.

Fans of The Muppets can click on the Muppets collection in search and find a list of films and TV shows starring Kermit and Miss Piggy.

There is a collection for Disney Nature, one for the the Skywalker Saga from Star Wars and my personal favorite, Disney Through the Decades, which organizes Disney’s content by decade starting with the 1920’s.

“What we’re doing is we’re actually taking the best of our judgment on these titles, and what consumers want, and the machine learning algorithms and putting them together to create a really, really great personalized experience,” Michael Paull, president of Disney’s streaming services, said at the event last week.

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