Disney+ hands-on preview: Franchise-heavy juggernaut looks irresistible

On the eve of its UK launch, HCC was invited to get an early hands-on with Disney+, the bullish new entrant in the OTT streaming market. Can this PG-friendly streamer make headway against market-leader Netflix, and the increasingly compelling Amazon Prime Video? We bustled our way into the Disney+ lounge to find out...

As you’d expect, platform usability is strong. Like Netflix, you log on using a specific profile. Up to seven are available, each customisable with a well-known Disney character. There’s no specific Kids option because, well, that’s the whole platform anyway...


Once in, navigation is via a familiar rail-interface of themed bars. There’s a 4K UHD rail, but it’s low in the pecking order, and you can’t rearrange its ranking to make it easier to peruse.

The first thing that strikes you is that there’s a lot here. The official line is that there’s more than 500 movie titles, and 350 TV series on tap from day one. Of particular interest will be 26 Disney+ originals, including High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, The World According To Jeff Goldblum, Lady and the Tramp, and The Imagineering Story.

There’s also seasons 1 – 30 of The Simpsons, totalling some 600 episodes. You might want to start on these early, as Season 31 lands on the service in November.

Content can be streamed on up to four devices at the same time, and downloaded for offline viewing. Helpfully, downloads won’t auto delete when watched. They remain accessible on your portable device, as long as your subscription is valid.

Obviously key to the appeal of Disney+ are the big franchises - Marvel and Star Wars. The service is a virtual theme park of attractions, with each accessible via a dedicated entrance - Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic.


The Marvel content library brings shows together under one umbrella which have previously been distributed across multiple broadcasters, namely Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D., Runaways and even the short-lived Inhumans.

There are some enticing archive animations too, including the complete run of the brilliant X-Men: The Animated Series from the early 1990s.

Animation geeks will also have plenty of fun trawling the Disney archives, featuring everything from Steamboat Willie through classics like Sword in the Stone and The Little Mermaid, all the way up to the photorealistic 2019 flick The Lion King.

Star Wars fans get The Skywalker Saga, aka Episodes 1 through 8, with The Rise of Skywalker arriving later in the year. There’s also the entire collection of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, as well as original series The Mandalorian.

National Geographic documentaries include BAFTA-nominated Jane, the Sundance Audience Award-winning Science Fair, and eco-focused Into the Okavango. Library film titles from the Fox vault include Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Ice Age, Sister Act and Avatar.

It’s worth noting that the service we had access to was the Dutch iteration, as Disney+ UK wasn’t live yet. We were told there may be some differences, due to content licensing restrictions, but by and large it would be the same.

Interestingly, a Disney executive revealed that there would be slight regional differences in how the service was presented. For example, Donald Duck is particularly popular in the Nordics, so content featuring the belligerent fowl would be promoted on their home page.

Similarly, Mickey Mouse is big in Italy, so he would be centre stage there. ‘We also know where Star Wars is particularly popular, so we will promote that there,’ we were told.

For our demo, Disney+ ran on an Apple TV streamer, as well as a mobile app. Don’t worry if you’re not an Apple user. We expect a high level of access across devices when the service launches.


There’s support for Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio on select hardware. If your screen or audio hardware doesn’t support it, you’ll receive HDR10 and 5.1. There is a UHD content search filter, but this only applies to movies at the moment.

The choice in 4K also looks rather limited. Certainly UHD represents a small percentage of what’s available at launch, although all new Disney+ originals are expected to be in the format.


We were told that Disney is not recommending a specific broadband speed for subscribers. We suspect it wants to keep its messaging simple.

Demonstrations of Avengers: Endgame, on a Samsung Q90R TV, looked impressive. The 4K stream offered excellent detail and dynamics. But there was no home theatre audio system running, so sound quality went unchecked.

Disney+ is debuting with an introductory annual price of £50, just over £4 a month. Standard pricing at launch will be £6 per month, or £60 for an annual subscription.

This price point, clearly undercutting its rivals, is key. Perhaps the question is not ‘should I subscribe to Disney+?’, but ‘why should I not?’