Scrolling through Instagram, I can never avoid posts asking for a return to the “Old Disney”: the Disney Channel movies and TV shows that defined childhood in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Nostalgic young adults reminisce in the serendipity of seeing old commercials, theme songs and musical numbers pop up on their feed. These clips, however, appeared to be the only remaining form of these fading memories. That is, until now: starting this month, the nostalgic can binge all of their favorite titles on one platform.
Disney will launch its new streaming service, Disney+, Nov. 12. For $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year, subscribers can access hundreds of their favorite movies and TV shows from the comfort of their living room. Streaming services are nothing new; Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video have dominated the streaming industry for over a decade. What makes Disney+ different? How much does Disney have to offer?
In addition to their own animation studios, Disney owns the rights to Pixar, Lucasfilm (“Star Wars”), Marvel, ABC and ESPN and, after their surreptitious merger with 21st Century Fox, they also own National Geographic and classic Fox titles such as “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Avatar.”
By expanding their assets, Disney maintains their image of kid-friendly cartoons and heartwarming fairy tales while benefiting from the action-packed and emotionally mature productions of Marvel and Fox. They even profit from the lo-fi, indie films of the Fox Searchlight division, which creates both Oscar-nominated heartbreaking narratives (“12 Years A Slave,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) and quirky rom-coms (“Juno,” “500 Days of Summer”). Adding such award-winning films to their collection means Disney serves the interests of fans of the prestigious and the juvenile.
Although Disney+ won’t feature all Fox films, the merger is indicative of the mega-corporation’s monopolization of the entertainment industry. Gaining control of the most popular films and shows is about more than profits: it is about power. Disney has already started removing Fox films from for-profit theater screenings, forcing fans to subscribe to their streaming service if they wish to watch 20th Century Fox titles including “The Sound of Music” and “The Sandlot.” Disney is acquiring the nation’s biggest titles and cutting out the middleman, making them the entertainment superpower from filming to viewing across genres.
This merger also gives Disney+ a significant advantage over its main competitor, Netflix. Acquiring Fox inherently means acquiring Hulu, and Disney is offering a bundle in which subscribers can receive Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month — the same price as Netflix’s most popular plan. Having the rights to Hulu allows Disney to place their adult content (such as “Deadpool”) on a platform separate from the family-friendly Disney+. In regards to Disney titles currently on Netflix, movies released between Jan. 2016 and Dec. 2018 will be moved to Disney+ and won’t return to Netflix until 2026. Films released in 2019 and after are to be reserved for Disney+. Disney also plans to release a slate of original programming exclusively for their new service.
While Disney’s expansive selection makes them appealing to every member of the family, it is the undeniable appeal to Generation Z that may signal the success of this release.
Generation Z — those born roughly between 1995 and 2010 — grew up with the Internet and iPods and the Nintendo DS. It is also the generation that grew up with “High School Musical,” “Hannah Montana” and loads of other Disney Channel original movies and shows constantly playing at home. As they long for reminders of the simpler days of childhood, they turn to these productions as shared memories across the entire generation.
Social media has only enhanced this nostalgia; Instagram accounts dedicated to the shows of our childhood and the trending #Tweetlikethe2000s on Twitter display how Disney and other major entertainment corporations have converted the personalized experience of childhood into something shared among all people of the same age group. Regardless of race, religion or income, kids had access to the same forms of entertainment to a degree unprecedented by past generations — and they’re desperate to see their favorite shows again.
Disney knows this. And they can satisfy your nostalgia for $6.99 a month.
With the release of Disney+, Gen Z is given access to on-demand reruns of shows and movies they’ve been begging for. Yet, it is not just the accessibility to these memories that makes Disney+ significant — it is the timing of which it is being released. The kids that grew up on a plethora of Disney Channel original productions aren’t kids anymore; with the older half of the generation entering adulthood, Disney’s largest audience now has the ability to pay for their own subscription. Avid fans of productions from “The Cheetah Girls” to “Wizards of Waverly Place” no longer need a “parent’s permission before going online.”
No, binging episodes of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” won’t solve your quarter-life crisis. But that won’t stop you from subscribing.
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