Here's the Thing

I’m Terrified of Disney+

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #121. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.

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Okay so, I’ve been enjoying Netflix’s streaming service for quite a long time – even more now that we’ve got some truly stellar exclusive series like Lost in Space, She-Ra, The Dark Crystal and so on. And the thought of Disney, with it’s metric fuckton of acquisitions and holdings, starting their own streaming service seems like both an obvious thing as well as a promising one. But here’s the thing: Disney as a corporation hasn’t exactly filled me with confidence when it comes to the treatment of their intellectual properties – both in terms of what they do with the stories/characters, and in terms of distribution and availability. And that lack of confidence actually has me feeling pretty scared for where the new Disney+ service might end up.

To be fair, Netflix isn’t a shining example of making the content people love available. They’ve pulled shows in the past without making them available on physical media or through other streaming services, effectively wiping them from existence. But Netflix is a much smaller company by comparison. Disney owns or has a major share in so many different companies and services it’s too daunting to even begin listing them all, but as a small example: Hulu, ESPN, Fox Searchlight, Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, ABC, FX, A&E and National Geographic. To name a few. And Disney isn’t exactly well known for always making their films and shows and whatnot available (i.e. the ridiculous “Disney Vault”).

More than just my own theorizing though, there’s also this report from Vulture which explains how Disney has been sneakily tucking classic Fox-owned movies into that damn vault, preventing theaters from screening them for no discernible reason (other than “fuck you, got mine” I suppose). Movies like Alien, The Princess Bride, The Fly and so on. I mean we all knew they loved to generate artificial scarcity with their home video releases but this is kind of ridiculous.

And that’s the crux of why I’m extremely worried about Disney+. I’m probably still going to subscribe to it of course (I mean have you seen the trailers for The Mandalorean?) but I’d be shocked if Disney didn’t start to pull some bullshit like getting rid of physical media releases of older films and movies – across an awfully large spectrum due to their absurd number of holdings, mind – and forcing people to subscribe to their service if they want to, say, watch 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or something. Or possibly even remove some films or shows entirely (both from physical media and from streaming) in order to hype up some overpriced collector’s edition boxed set. Yes this is all speculative, but based on their previous (and current) behavior I don’t think it’s an impossibility.

I wish I had some theoretical answer to propose, but other than simply “not buying” their shit to try and send a message I’ve got nothing. Disney is a huge corporation that owns a lot of other huge corporations, as well as all the properties that fall under those myriad umbrellas. And like all corporations they only care about money, so of course they’re going to do anything they can to try and make more of it no matter how blatantly shitty that might be. I really want to be wrong and have this all end up being ~600 words worth of nervous rambling. But this is Disney we’re talking about.

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Rob Rich has loved videogames since the 80s and has the good fortune to be able to write about them. Catch his rants on Twitter at @RobsteinOne

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