I Want Disney’s Streaming Service to Be a Repository of History

Much has come out about Disney’s upcoming streaming service lately. CEO Bob Iger has provided a number of interesting comments about the nature of the platform amid news that ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018) will be the last Marvel movie to come to Netflix and that Disney is navigating conversations with Turner to reacquire the broadcast rights to pre-2019 STAR WARS films. This streaming service, Iger said, will be available at the end of 2019.

New films that will be released by that time, like Tim Burton’s live action DUMBO (2019), CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019), and the AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018) sequel (2019), are expected to be available on the service, but the focus, at least of the press so far, is original content. Jon Favreau is developing a live action STAR WARS series that will reportedly cost over $100 million for ten episodes. Live action remakes of LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955) and THE SWORD IN THE STONE (1963) will come to the platform, continuing Disney’s almost maddening approach to its animated history. Series based on MONSTERS INC. (2001) and HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL (2006) are also expected. It sounds like a lot, and I’m sure it will be, but Iger said it’ll actually be a low volume affair at first, meaning the streaming service’s pricing may be lower than Netflix’s.

DUMBO (2019) — Tim Burton

Disney’s recent purchase of Fox will likely mean a lot of Fox properties will appear on the platform, but nothing R-rated will be allowed on the new streaming service. Disney now has a 60 percent stake in Hulu by way of Fox, so as Variety points out, that could mean those movies end up there. And of course, through this purchase, Disney now has access to long-lost Marvel properties like X-Men and the Fantastic Four for film. Now Spider-Man is the only one strangely isolated behind a deal with Sony.

In any event, because of its long history and near-monopolization of the media industry, Disney has no shortage of content to bring to its streaming service. It’s Disney, so I don’t expect the platform to fail, but I wonder about the conflicting nature of a service like this. It could be a future proof solution (for now), but Disney also has interests in traditional TV; obviously, ABC, Disney Channel, ESPN, and more. Streaming services are directly competing with legacy media, and any kind of delay for, say, ABC shows to appear on the streaming platform (if it will indeed be the home for anything like that) seems redundant. Hulu obviously relies on the library of broadcast TV shows, but their original series, and Netflix’s, are born from their ability to deliver their content more effectively than a traditional TV channel/schedule. Why should Disney continue to produce TV when they could just have their streaming service be a one-stop shop?

Of course, the answer lies in money. There are still plenty of customers, for now, in TV. Splitting the difference and base across various delivery systems keep respective audiences locked into their desires. As Iger said, the Disney streaming service is for a hardcore Disney fan. Watchers of ABC aren’t necessarily going to go out of their way to subscribe to another a la carte platform. And ESPN and sports content clearly doesn’t make sense. As I said, this platform is also a future-proofing tool. In a world turning to streaming, different studios/corporations are offering their own services. Eventually, we’ll get to a place where everyone has their own and services will come out that package all the platforms (AKA channels). We’ll just be back where we started.

In any event, logistics aside, I was intrigued and pretty excited by a Disney streaming service. It allows them to do things they wouldn’t necessarily devote a theatrical release or TV time to, but more than that, the promise of instant access to an incredible history of one of the most important movie studios of all time (now, plus Pixar/Fox/Marvel/Star Wars, of course) was really where my mind went.

SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946) — Harve Foster, Wilfred Jackson

I want to see the entire library of Walt Disney Animation Studios movies on this platform. I want to see live action classics like MARY POPPINS (1964) and THE PARENT TRAP (1961). I want the company’s original nature documentaries and relatively obscure TV productions like ZORRO (1957–59). I want true historical relics like Walt’s Newman Laugh-O-Grams, the ALICE series, and the original Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts; and, of course, the entire run of Mickey/Donald/Goofy shorts and SILLY SYMPHONIES. And I even want intentionally restricted films like SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946) as historical/scholarship tools. That one might be a bit of a stretch. But I want the Disney streaming service to be a constantly updated repository of Disney history and knowledge, and to that end, features that would usually be associated with DVD and Blu-ray releases. The biggest failure of the streaming age is the absence of supporting material for home video. Hell, there could be whole original series dedicated to behind-the-scenes treasures and the making of classic films.

I imagine I’m in the minority of Disney’s audience on this one, though. I’m sure certain “classics” will end up coming to the platform, but Disney’s streaming service likely won’t be a definitive collection of its groundbreaking, controversial, and unknown work. As much as this streaming service is for “core” Disney fans, it’s still a streaming service. They haven’t really proven capable of cultivating old movies to this point.

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I write about movies, music, video games, and more.

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Tristan Ettleman

Tristan Ettleman

I write about movies, music, video games, and more.

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