We’ve had Disney+ for about a day, and it feels like a dream come true. The “Vault” has been busted open and you no longer have to beg to see your favorite cartoon re-released, hunt for blurry pirate copies, or wait until 2024 for the next video pressing of Pinocchio. It’s all here. No matter how old you are, Disney owns a significant portion of your childhood, and having all of those memories instantly accessible through a few menu clicks feels, in a word Disney trademarked back in 1975, Magical™.
Dumping the catalog would be satisfying alone, but the service has also launched with a few exclusives. Most of them are targeted at Disney’s traditional audience (read: kids and parents) and don’t feel all THAT special, with one exception: The Mandalorian, the main attraction. There have been off-and-on rumors of a live-action Star Wars TV show for over a decade, but it’s always been assumed such a show would be a downgrade from the movie world, since TV typically tends to be.
Boy, did we get lucky: highly competitive circumstances have resulted in the kind of TV budget that can produce a show that actually stands up to the films visually. The storyline is also captivating so far, though the Mandalorian himself is a man of few words and we haven’t decided yet if he’ll be interesting enough to carry a whole series on his armor-plated shoulders.
The competition must be in panic mode, because they’ve quickly released news of their own Disney-ish exclusives: Netflix just yelled out that it has the rights to Nickelodeon’s entire library, while WB previously confirmed that the Hanna-Barbera’s back catalog, all the Ghibli movies and South Park would rest on HBO Max.
The interface is pretty simple to use. You can look at a long lineup of logos for everything Disney+ has, limit the list to animated, live-action or other categories, bring up everything under a specific brand (Star Wars, Pixar and National Geographic have their own buttons on the home page)…finding what you’re looking for doesn’t take long. You’ll also see a few things you weren’t aware Disney actually owned (the fact that Thumbelina appears among the animated catalog is just bizarre).
So now we get to the frustrating parts. For some weird reason, up to 1993, ALL of the Disney Afternoon shows have their episodes out of order. DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop and Bonkers have a completely random layout. When we get to Gargoyles, everything’s fine, but before that….finding your favorite episode takes some hunting. The multiparters are never in the same place. The Bonkers pilot movie is listed near the end, but the Rescue Rangers pilot is in the middle.
Some of these shows had episodes previously banned, mostly for dumb reasons. TaleSpin’s banned episodes are not on the service (they were included on the DVD sets). Bonkers’ banned episodes are there, and this gratefully includes New Partners On The Block, the episode that transitioned from Lucky to Miranda. That episode hasn’t been officially released in a long time. Until now the only copies around were in fuzzy VHS quality.
Some are remastered in HD and some are not. Some are annoyingly cropped to 16×9 and some aren’t. The two aren’t related…..Timon and Pumbaa retains its original ratio but Goof Troop doesn’t, both were remastered. And here’s the strangest part….the digital Amazon versions of those shows are in reverse — T&P is cropped; GT isn’t. This all makes no sense whatsoever.
The cropping is what’s getting the most attention. The Simpsons is the most scandalous example and more than one news outlet has expressed their outrage. Hopefully this gets through to Disney and we are at least given the option of watching the show in 4×3.
Finally, some shows and movies are just not there. Aladdin: The Series is curiously absent, but The Return Of Jafar is accessible. “The Legend Of Tarzan” is MIA, yet “Tarzan and Jane,” the video movie that sewed together three of the episodes, makes an appearance. Again, there’s no explanation for any of these things.
The service is still young, and few ventures have bump-free takeoffs. We hope the flaws of Disney+ can be fixed so we can focus on the strengths without distraction.