Disney Plus Day marked two years since the streaming service launched on November 12, 2019, and was meant to celebrate all the reasons you should be giving Disney your money. Older Disney content was put on the site for the first time (such as Enchanted), new Disney content was removed from behind the secondary paywall (such as Jungle Cruise), new Disney Plus original content dropped (such as Olaf Presents and Ciao Alberto), and mountains of new content was announced along with their respective release dates.
Thirty-four new original Disney Plus shows and movies were announced and/or given teaser trailers on Friday November 12, most of them tied to Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar. Disney Plus Day’s offerings show us the number one problem with Disney Plus original content: so little of it is truly original.
Don’t get me wrong, I watched a lot of great content on Disney Plus on November 12. Ciao Alberto made me cry, Free Guy was fun, the Olaf Presents shorts were far more entertaining than they had any right to be, and Shang-Chi is easily one of the best pieces of media Marvel has ever made. The thing is, these shorts/movies worked because they were either full length movies that weren’t made for Disney Plus (just put on Disney Plus) or perfectly sized shorts about characters we already know and love. I un-ironically love Olaf as a character, but even I wouldn’t want to see an entire series dedicated to him. Olaf Presents works because all of the “episodes” total an 11 minute run time.
Disney has always taken popular characters and tried to wring as much money out of them as possible, and the invention of Disney Plus has just given Disney more opportunities to capitalize on their most popular characters. When I looked at all the new Marvel shows coming to Disney Plus I got excited for ones like She Hulk and Ms Marvel because these are new characters whose stories haven’t been told in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) yet. But when I see that Agatha Harkness from WandaVision and the zombies from one of the weaker episodes of What If. . ? are getting their own spin-off shows, I can’t help but wonder what the point is. Who are these shows for? Why do they need to exist? Why does every single character in the MCU or in the Star Wars franchise need their own spin-off show? Must we keep beating fans over the head with content until every last possible dollar has been made? It’s not like Disney has to worry about whether their content on Disney Plus is a huge success or not. As long as they’re giving viewers enough watchable content to keep them paying that subscription fee (which went up by $30 a year since the service first launched in 2019), it’s okay if the content as a whole is hit or miss.
Another more recent problem of Disney’s is how they’ve rebranded to being “self aware.” If a study on the last 20 years of Disney content is something you find intriguing, I highly recommend watching Lindsay Ellis’ YouTube video titled “Woke Disney;” to sum it up. Disney acts self-aware so that they can look woke and hip without alienating too much of their audience. Nothing makes this more clear than the terrible short The Simpsons in Plusaversary. To save you five minutes of your life you will never get back, the short is about Springfield hosting a Disney Plus Day party where all your favourite Disney characters get to drink beer and play pool with The Simpsons. It seems harmless enough until Lisa comes out to sing a song about Disney stockholders and “having your credit card number.”
Disney so desperately wants to have their cake and eat it too, and it keeps working. I can sit here and write paragraph after paragraph about how Disney is the embodiment of “if we just acknowledge our mistakes while not doing anything meaningful to remedy those mistakes moving forward we’ll be appealing to the broadest audience possible,” about how Jungle Cruise featured Disney’s fifth “first gay character,” or about how despite Shang-Chi’s resounding success, Marvel will be making more media starring zombies than Asian people. But at the end of the day, I’m still paying for Disney Plus. Between Disney’s 70 years of back catalogue, and the actually interesting projects they have coming down the pipeline (I’m still awaiting more information on the Percy Jackson show), I’m not cancelling my subscription anytime soon. As long as we keep thinking critically about what we’re watching, and keep pushing for more diverse, inclusive, and original media over fake “wokeness,” Disney can keep having my credit card number.