November 12, 2019 will be a day long remembered. It saw the launch of Disney Plus and it would soon see people holding their remotes, paralyzed by the vast choices before them as they struggled to decide what to watch first on Disney Plus.
Oh sure, there were technical glitches. So many people signed up at once – more than expected, if you can possibly believe it! – that Disney’s sign up process froze and trembled before the hordes.
Twitter users mentioned problems accessing the service or some of its features around 7 a.m. ET, and Downdetector.com showed 6,900 reports of problems with the service around 7:30 a.m. and slightly more than 7,000 later before problem reports dropped off. People mentioned problems signing up, logging in and streaming.
Those met with technical problems were greeted by a classic Disney-esque error message that featured Mickey and Pluto in space…because apparently the verification process takes place near Saturn. (Also, quality control experts take note – Mickey’s ears don’t’ fit inside his helmet.)
“The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our high expectations. We are working to quickly resolve the current user issue. We appreciate your patience,” Disney said in a statement.
The rush to sign up was perhaps aided by the arctic temperatures blasting much of the central and Eastern US – it was much too cold to do anything but stay at home and binge something.
But once you finally got logged in – whether for the free week, or as a committed $6.99 a month user – a new dilemma appeared: what to watch first!
All the animated movies! All the Star Wars! (Except Last Jedi and Solo which are still on Netflix.) Mostly all the Marvel! Finding Dory! Cars 3! The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes! Treasure Island! (“Arrrrr, Matty Harkins!!!!”)
We’ve already alerted Beat readers to the treasures awaiting in the Disney Afternoon vault – now you can stream Bonkers to your heart’s content – but there was just so much choice! What to do!
Based on the Twitter response, most folks’ first choice seems to have been The Mandalorian, the first episode of the first ever live action Star Wars series. Because who doesn’t want to see Werner Herzog in Star Wars?
The Mandalorian seems to have landed with most folks – production values were high, the shock twist at the end was a real stunner, and, best of all, someone mentioned Life Day.
Life Day, if I must explain, is the holiday that everyone was celebrating in The Star Wars Holiday Special, the legendary never to be seen again, one off special that scarred a generation of kids with its horrible songs and Bea Arthur as a cantina bartender. BUT the SWHS was also the first appearance of Boba Fett – who was the first Mandalorian to be seen in the canonical films. And The unnamed Mandalorian (Pablo Pascal) also carries the same tuning fork-shaped gun that Boba Fett did in the Holiday Special. Damn, that’s a deep cut and it’s great.
So Life Day is canon again! Perhaps somewhere it will be revealed that Life Day is celebrated on November 12th, to celebrate the debut of Disney+.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Entertainment pundits seem eager to slam Disney for the launch day glitches, but, come on, no one will remember that as the streaming wars hit D-Day level frenzy.
The entertainment giant has promoted its streaming service on every conceivable Disney-owned outlet and beyond. ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” featured shout-outs, Disney theme parks and ESPN have also been drowned in promos, and riders of New York’s short-term rental CitiBikes even received an ad on their app.
And for good reason: Disney has spent billions of dollars on content and technology to ensure that it is a winner in streaming. Netflix, the market leader, launched its streaming service in 2007 and expects to end 2019 with 165 million subscribers. Disney has said it is hoping to garner 60-90 million subscribers by 2024.
“It’s pretty sad that they couldn’t anticipate demand, particularly since they know how many subscribers they have,” said Wedbush tech analyst Michael Pachter, noting that Disney already operates Hulu and ESPN Plus and owns a back-end tech company.
Yah, pretty sad that so many people wanted this service that they couldn’t all log in at once!
Once Disney+ launched, of course, many people jumped to the old favorites, like, um, Star Wars, and were shocked to see that George Lucas had tinkered with the cantina scene yet again, and this time Greedo shouts out “Ma Klounkee!” before firing at just about the same time as Han. But as Donna Dixon pointed out, this is just a common Huttese phrase:
Other Star Warriors were delighted to find that the Disney+ versions of the OG trilogy include DELETED SCENES, including a disturbing one where Leia and Luke are romantic! EEK.
And of course, many, many people were just thrilled to have favorites like Gargoyles available again – including show creator Greg Weisman, who led the way for a revival campaign with the hashtag @KeepBingingGargoyles:
I'm told #Gargoyles is trending! Keep it up and help us #SpreadtheWord! And please, it really helps if we consistently use #KeepBingingGargoyles as our official campaign hashtag. So #KeepBingingGargoyles on #DisneyPlus!
— Greg Weisman (@Greg_Weisman) November 12, 2019
I’ll jump right on that hashtag!
BUT there were other disappointments, including classic early Simpsons episodes being shown in the wrong aspect ratio.
Those first 19.5 seasons of The Simpsons comprise a total of 429 pre-HD episodes — nearly two-thirds of the 661 that are currently available on Disney Plus. But on the streaming service, they’re only viewable in a 16:9 aspect ratio. The modified episodes are the result of a “remastering” process that is meant to translate the show into HD with improved color and clarity. But in many cases, the conversion to widescreen simply involves chopping off the top and bottom of the original image and/or stretching it to fit a 16:9 aspect ratio — which crops out some of the show’s cleverest sight gags.
Doubtless the coming days will bring more shocks and reveals, as it’s discovered that scenes have been added to the Robin Williams version of Flubber.
But in the meantime, like everyone else, I just couldn’t decide what to watch first on Disney Plus as I huddled under my fuzzy blue blanket with the cats. I’m always paralyzed by too much choice, and this was no exception. Star Wars? Or Pixar? Or Goof Troop?
But I made a decision! After watching The Mandalorian I decided to check out another Disney Original: The Imagineering Story Episode One, chronicling the making of Disneyland. This six episode documentary series was directed by Academy Award nominee Leslie Iwerks, the granddaughter of legendary animator Ub Iwerks, and it has long been anticipated by Disney fans.
As a former Disney employee, I learned to revere the amazing craftspeople at Imagineering, and this episode does a great job showing us icons like Marc Davis, John Hench, Harriet Burns and Alice Davis in action, and the origin of things like The Magic Tiki Room and the Matterhorn. If you’re a Disneyland aficionado, this stuff will be like crack. Best of all: footage of the sublime Mary Blair drawing and coloring. “We didn’t appreciate her as much as we should have,” says Alice Davis.
This is, of course, very much the company story told by the company – well known disasters such as the lack of water fountains on Disneyland’s opening day are acknowledged, but the larger controversies about racism, environmental destruction and so on are not mentioned. Still…Mary Blair!
After that it was still freezing cold and I was under my blanket and I thought…well, there is nothing to do but watch Avengers: Endgame again. I’ve seen all the other Marvel movies three or four times, but Endgame only twice…gotta catch up. I’ll say one thing about those final two Avengers movies: they may be nearly three hours long but they both fly by. The pacing is superb. “I am….Iron Man.”
So that was Disney+ Day One. Did you sign up? What did you watch first? What are you most excited about binging? Let us know in the comments!