Is It Just Me, or Does Disney+ Kinda Suck?

Nostalgia alone isn’t worth $6.99 a month

Photo by King Lip on Unsplash

We’re only about one month into having Disney+, but I’m having a hard time taking the service as seriously as I take Netflix, Hulu, or even Amazon.

One month in, and my household is already running out of new things to watch. One month in, and I’m still running into frustrating glitches and unexplained shortcomings.

There’s not enough to watch on Disney+

For whatever reason (probably marketing), I pictured myself swimming in a sea of titles like Scrooge McDuck Dives Into All of That Gold.

Yeah, that’s not happening.

It never occurred to me that I’m already officially over certain Disney movies because I had to replay them 50 times on Netflix for my daughter. (I’m looking at you, Moana.) Or that we already purchased many digital titles through Amazon. (Hello, classic Disney princesses.)

It also didn’t occur to me that some titles would simply be missing. Sure, they’ve got Frozen and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, but Frozen Fever is nowhere to be found. I’m also far from the only mom frantically searching for Descendants 3 and coming up blank.

Those titles are inexplicably missing from the Disney+ catalog, while other missing titles at least give us a release date for 2020 or 2021. (Update: Now some movies are disappearing without warning.)

The interface is surprisingly cumbersome

Perhaps there are many more titles my daughter and I would like to watch, but I just haven’t found them yet. It’s entirely possible that I’m missing something as I browse Disney+’s categories, since I’m not positive that going through each section will actually show me the complete catalog.

The Disney+ interface is tedious, offering up the same suggestions for me over and over again. Worse yet, there’s no option of using a playlist, like on YouTube. You can autoplay to the next show in a series, but you can’t autoplay for a series of short films like you can on Hulu.

Parents of young children will feel me when their kids want to watch old classics like Three Little Pigs, The Big Bad Wolf, and Three Little Wolves. Every six to eight minutes, we’ve got to load up the next selection.

And that’s assuming the app doesn’t bug out.

Disney+ is still glitchy

We’re using Google Chromecast to cast Disney+ from the Android app on my Samsung S9+ to our Vizio smart TV. Disney+ is the only streaming app to get jumpy as the content loads, or to fail altogether in between titles. I find it necessary to frequently exit the app just to get it up and running again and while this isn’t the end of the world, it’s an annoying feature that I don’t run into with the other guys.

Then, there are realms where “too little content” and “bugs galore” intersect. For instance, try watching the much-praised Andi Mack series. On the selection screen, season one starts with episode 11, season two starts with episode five, and season three begins with episode four.

And no, downloading each season didn’t uncover the missing episodes, either.

I’ve already contacted customer service to let them know that they’re missing 17 episodes of one hit show. No response.

And then it gets… awkward

Still not satisfied with my inability to watch Andi Mack, I took to Reddit and found this conversation.

The theory goes that Disney pulled those episodes because one of the adult actors was arrested for “enticing a minor by internet or text.” And while that’s certainly one explanation, I’m not sure how I feel about Disney pulling episodes of a show due to an actor’s crimes when it’s willing to simply throw a disclaimer onto any of their older work with racist depictions of Black people.

Admittedly, when Disney made their live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, it omitted certain racist representations of Italians and Asian people, so it hints that the company wants to “do the right thing.” But, what is that exactly?

So far, placing a disclaimer in the app on old Silly Symphonies and other content that was unapologetically racist falls short. Yes, it’s up to parents to talk to their kids about all programming they watch, but there’s something inherently uncomfortable in the fact that something so nostalgic is also littered with injustice.

Pedophile actors certainly don’t help. But it makes you wonder how Disney can pull episodes of a show for things an actor did off-screen, while allowing other awful moments to remain available to stream. Is racism “less bad” than sex crimes? Or do white people simply care less about those “inaccurate cultural depictions?”

Disney+ isn’t a streaming service at heart

The lack of a user-friendly interface or plethora of titles (not to mention the history of racism) is really just a reminder that Disney+ was never really going to be competing with the other streaming services. Not really.

With such a limited title selection, it already feels more like a “channel” on Amazon, Hulu, or YouTube TV than a true streaming platform. Those of us who are old enough to remember the days when Disney didn’t own Star Wars (or any of the other myriad of franchises) know that even co-opting these titles doesn’t make the platform feel big. And I’m not convinced that Disney cares. As a latecomer to the whole streaming industry, it had every opportunity to learn from the hiccups of their predecessors.

Instead, it fell prey to overloads and security issues from the start.

It seems that Disney has been banking on nostalgia from day one, and perhaps some of the disappointment I’ve been feeling isn’t just about the entertainment conglomerate. Not completely.

Perhaps it’s more depressing that old things aren’t what they used to be.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s very cool that I can finally stream all of Gargoyles, several old-school Marvel cartoons, or ’80s flicks like Flight of the Navigator. And I’m pretty sure that one of the best things on Disney+ right now is the Carol Burnett camp-filled flick, Once Upon a Mattress. (Seriously, look it up.)

But there’s been some disillusionment, too, as I realize that some things aren’t as good as I used to believe.

Sometimes my daughter doesn’t think they’re that great and that stinks. Other times, they’re not quite what I remember. And then, when the app bugs out or a particular title isn’t even available, I remember that regardless of the actual service, Disney+ still has my money.

Because where else can I freely stream so many animated movies or (almost) all of the Star Wars films? Just seeing the Disney name attached to so many different franchises that weren’t always Disney titles is a significant reminder of the power it yields within the entertainment industry.

Disney doesn’t have to compete with the big dogs like Netflix or Hulu, because it’s already the big cheese. Er, mouse. And we’re going to let them get away with a subpar streaming service, because for $6.99 a month, we will get our on-demand fill of nostalgia.

It’s not always the way we remember it. And it’s certainly not complete or perfect. But maybe that’s not really much of a problem for Disney (or most of us) because, when it comes to nostalgia, these shortcomings are nothing new.

It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. 🍵 https://ko-fi.com/shannonashley 📧shannon.ashley.medium@gmail.com

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