Review: Disney+ Immediately Establishes Itself as an Essential Streaming Platform

Star Wars series The Mandalorian is promising, but the library alone is worth $7 a month

A tv showing disney+ originals
The Mandalorian and Forky Asks a Question are among the early standouts of Disney+'s original offerings.
Disney+

Last spring, Disney claimed an early victory over Apple in the looming streaming wars by unveiling its upcoming Disney+ OTT service at an event that succeeded in all the ways that Apple’s own presentation for Apple TV+ had failed just weeks earlier.

Seven months later, Disney has one-upped its rival again by rolling out Disney+ and immediately demonstrating why, unlike Apple TV+’s underwhelming debut earlier this month, its new streaming service is an essential platform for anyone who is a fan of the company and its many brands, including Marvel and Star Wars.

Earlier today, Adweek shared five things to know about Disney+ on launch day. Now, it’s time to share a sixth thing about the platform: Disney+ has raised the bar for what people should expect out of their streaming services, and will make it even more difficult for the OTT offerings debuting next year—NBCUniversal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max—to stand out in an already overcrowded space.

Disney+ already has a killer feature: The Mandalorian

While this morning’s Disney+ launch was marred by connectivity issues, which seem to have dissipated, the platform itself is impressive on many levels: a solid slate of original series led by the promising Star Wars series, The Mandalorian; a hefty library of Disney series and movies; and, perhaps best of all, a user-friendly interface.

Disney+’s most anticipated original series at launch is The Mandalorian, which follows a Boba Fett-like bounty hunter played by Pedro Pascal, with an engaging premiere episode that sets up a fascinating world featuring visuals that can hold their own with the theatrical films. Created and written by Jon Favreau, the episode–which, at a time when many streaming dramas have stretched to hour-long episodes and beyond, clocks in at an economical 39 minutes—boasts a few thrilling action sequences, sly nods to other Star Wars films and a clever final twist that should ensure viewers return for the second episode.

(That second episode, like most new Disney+ series, will be available at 12:01 a.m. PT Friday, with subsequent episodes rolling out each Friday.)

The one major quibble so far in the debut episode (Disney declined to share additional episodes with press): Given that Pascal’s character never removes his helmet—no Mandalorians do, we are told—it is difficult to connect to a lead character whose facial features are completely hidden.

As for the rest of Disney+’s original content, a pair of short-form series should be your next stop after The Mandalorian: Forky Asks a Question and SparkShorts.

Forky Asks a Question features Forky, the breakout new character from Toy Story 4 voiced by Tony Hale, as he hilariously tackles queries like “What is money?” and “What is a friend?” At just a few minutes each, the shorts are the perfect length and offer more laughs than entire seasons of some comedies. (Toy Story’s Hamm, voiced by John Ratzenberger, also frequently pops up to lend a hand.)

SparkShorts, Pixar’s short film series that discovers new storytellers and explores new storytelling techniques from across the studio, are also very moving (though not quite as much as Pixar shorts like Bao that run before Disney and Pixar animated releases). Two early standouts are Kitbull, about the friendship between a stray kitten and an abused pit bull, and Float, in which a father tries to hide his son’s difference from the world.

The rest of Disney+’s original content

The other original shows are pleasant but not essential viewing. The World According to Jeff Goldblum, originally developed for National Geographic, follows the actor as he examines the origins of things like sneakers, tattoos and ice cream. It’s always fun to spend time with self-described “curious kind of cat” Goldblum—who is in peak form—though you don’t ultimately learn anything you didn’t already know.

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