Well, it’s finally here. For months we’ve had to put up with the many, many Disney-owned franchises slowly disappearing from our favourite current streaming services and making their way to the House of Mouse's new one, Disney+, which launched in the US last year.
The internet has been awash with Baby Yoda memes ever since, but we had no choice but to wait patiently for a UK rollout. That wait is finally over, as Disney+ is officially live. You can currently sign up for a free seven-day trial here, after which a subscription costs £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year.
The app is available to download on smart and Android TVs, Apple TV, numerous streaming sticks, Sky Q and mobile now, and if you’ve done that, you’re probably wondering what to watch first.
Already Disney+ is stuffed with entertainment, from animated classics, to Pixar, Star Wars and the MCU. There’s enough to keep you going for months (good news given the current state of the world), but here are our handpicked choices to start you off.
The obvious one. The Mandalorian is Disney+’s flagship launch show, and if you’ve somehow managed to stay away from spoilers since our friends across the pond got hold of it, you’re in for a treat. Pitched as a space Western, the first live action series in the Star Wars franchise is set five years after Return of the Jedi and 25 years before the first film in the sequel trilogy, The Force Awakens. It follows the adventures of a bounty hunter known as a Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), who suddenly finds himself the guardian of a very important youngling. Annoyingly, Disney has decided to go with the same release structure as it did in the US, which means the first two episodes are ready to stream now, but you’ll have to wait a week at a time for the remaining six to be drip fed onto the service. At least we've got good at waiting.
The World According to Jeff Goldblum
Do you really need anything more to go on than the title? The impeccably dressed actor and jazzman Jeff Goldblum is the inquisitive type, making him the perfect host for this show. Each episode focuses on a popular topic - think trainers, ice cream and video games - as Goldblum goes deep on their origins, associated science and ideas. Think of it as Disney’s answer to Netflix’s Explained, plus Jeff Goldblum, and you’re on the right tracks.
If you like the MCU, it’s a case of take your pick with Disney+. Save the Spider-Man films, 2008’s very forgettable Hulk movie and a few others, you can watch the whole lot from day one. We keep going back to Thor: Ragnarok because not only is it a great superhero film, breathing some much-needed new life into the otherwise pretty missable Thor franchise, but it’s genuinely one of the best comedies of the last five years. Pairing a world-dominating media universe with the strange mind of Taika Waititi was a masterstroke from Marvel Studios, and with the follow-up due to land next year, now is the perfect time to remember why.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The best thing about the Star Wars prequels? The cartoon series that they spawned. The first five seasons of The Clone Wars ran on Cartoon Network, becoming one of the channel’s highest rated series ever. A sixth was aired on Netflix, and now Disney+ has them all, plus a brand new seventh and final season. Up until now, The Clone Wars has taken place between Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but the latter part of the seventh season runs concurrently with the final prequel, leading us to the infamous Siege of Mandalore. If you’re disappointed you can’t binge The Mandalorian, get stuck into this lot instead.
The Imagineering Story
Originally intended as a feature documentary before then Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that the film was being reworked into a series for Disney+, The Imagineering Story focuses on Walt Disney Imagineering, the company responsible for the creation, design and construction of Disney’s 12 theme parks. The doc is as excited about its subject matter as you’d expect, but it’s not all candy floss and carousels, and you might be surprised by the honesty in this riveting story of how an international leisure phenomenon came to be.
Toy Story 4
How do you follow one of the best movie trilogies in history? It was a question that understandably worried an entire generation of Toy Story die-hards. As it turned out, the fourth film was an inessential, but thoroughly likeable epilogue that (hopefully) wraps things up once and for all. And while the goofy new character, Forky, was front and center of the promotional campaign, Toy Story 4 is more memorable for being easily the most thematically heavy film in the series. Kids will come for the talking cutlery and typically imaginative animated set pieces, but for us adults the film is about a once beloved cowboy battling with philosophical ideas of duty and obsolescence, and by the time the credits roll, you’ll have been on one hell of an emotional roller-coaster.
Heard of this one? Seeing The Simpsons next to the Disney logo remains a bit jarring, but once you’ve got over that, you can sit back and enjoy the first 30 (yes, 30) seasons of the most famous cartoon of all time. There are too many highlights to start listing them here, but any Simpsons fan worth their salt knows that the early stuff is the best stuff. From Homer’s legendary failed ravine leap to Maggie’s darkest secret, it’s all here, and there’s enough of it to keep you going until this self-isolation business is (hopefully) but a distant memory.
Shorts are arguably as important to Pixar’s legacy as its feature films, and what better way to honour this tradition than with SparkShorts, a six-part Disney+ program designed to showcase the work of new storytellers, and very likely the household animation names of the future. Each of these deliberately small-scale stories has its own visual style, and all of them are hugely inventive. Perfect viewing if you’ve got a spare 20 minutes.
Captivating and terrifying in equal measure, this remarkable film documents the ever-so-slightly bonkers free solo climber Alex Honnold, whose lifelong dream is to scale the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without any ropes or equipment. Those who aren’t keen on heights are advised to watch from behind the sofa, but for everyone else, the Oscar-winning Free Solo is a thrill ride that not even Star Wars and the MCU can compete with. But thanks to Disney’s ownership of National Geographic, Disney+ subscribers can have all three.