Disney Plus includes a vast Disney and Fox catalog of new and classic movies and shows to stream, boasting hundreds of movies and thousands of TV episodes from Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, X-Men, The Simpsons, Disney’s eponymous studios and others. On top of that, the service is releasing its own originals, now including movies that are skipping theaters.
As the coronavirus pandemic shuttered theaters and forced millions to entertain themselves at home, Disney has tweaked Disney Plus’ role as a bigger and earlier part of how it releases its big-screen films.
Prior to the pandemic, you could generally count on Disney Plus to start streaming all of Disney’s theatrical releases about six to 10 months after their big-screen debuts. Now, Disney has announced a string of surprise streaming releases as the service takes on a new role in big-screen films’ release plans.
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As Disney first started to cope with coronavirus cinema shutdowns, Disney Plus simply started streaming already-released movies months earlier than planned. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker began streaming three months early in May. Before that, Disney released animated hit Frozen 2 three months early as well, and Pixar’s Onward hit Disney Plus just weeks after coronavirus lockdown orders soon after its premiere deflated its theatrical run.
But then Disney ratcheted up the streaming releases of brand new movies too. The company’s live-action film version of the musical Hamilton skipped theaters and arrived on July 3, spurring a big bump in interest in the service. Artemis Fowl, a sci-fi fantasy based on a popular series of young-adult books, started streaming June 12, even though it had been scheduled to hit theaters May 29. And coming next is Pixar’s Soul, which will be added to Disney Plus on Dec. 25.
The biggest surprise was Mulan, the 2020 mega-budget remake of Disney’s 1998 animated classic. Prior to Mulan, Disney had mostly been holding back its biggest-budget movies by delaying them into next year and beyond. But with no end in sight for the widespread cinema closures, the company released Mulan on last week on Disney Plus for an extra $30 fee, skipping theaters.
But the pandemic also means the future remains unclear for other highly anticipated Disney Plus programming, including its Marvel live-action series linked to the blockbuster movies. The first of these, WandaVision, will hit Disney Plus on Jan. 15. But The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, originally planned to be its first live-action Marvel original series released in August, won’t hit Disney Plus until next year.
And the release plans for other Marvel shows are unclear. A Loki series featuring Tom Hiddleston was originally slated for spring 2021; and a Hawkeye series was aimed for fall 2021, starring Jeremy Renner and featuring Kate Bishop, who in the comics becomes a second Hawkeye. But Disney hasn’t confirmed specific release dates for any of the Marvel programs except WandaVision.
One silver lining: Even though the coronavirus has been widely disruptive to filming schedules, The Mandalorian’s second season premiered on the service Oct. 30, largely unaffected by pandemic.
This article provides details about when to expect high-profile titles. It also summarizes the pipeline of originals coming to Disney Plus, with timing details if they’re known.
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- Nov. 25 – Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, a film going behind the scenes of Taylor Switch recording her latest record.
- Nov. 27 – Black Beauty, a contemporary adaptation of the classic novel, this time about the bond between a teen girl and a wild mustang horse.
- Dec. 4 – Mulan becomes a standard part of the Disney Plus library that any member can stream without paying an extra fee.
- Dec. 4 – Godmothered, a new Christmas film about a fairy godmother in training.
- Dec. 11 – High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special, a seasonal music special.
- Dec. 11 – Safety, a biographical sports drama film.
- Dec. 18 – The Mandalorian’s second season finale.
- Dec. 18 – On Pointe, a docuseries about students at the School of American Ballet in New York.
- Dec. 25 – Pixar’s Soul.
- Jan. 15 – WandaVision.
This year, Disney has started skipping cinemas in favor of streaming movies originally planned to be a theatrical release. In normal times, you’d expect theatrical Disney movies to hit Disney Plus roughly six to 10 months after their big-screen debuts.
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
Closely tied to events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson character (and his Falcon alter-ego) return as the new Captain America, after elderly Steve Rogers handed off his shield in Endgame. Sebastian Stan’s Bucky joins him to fight evil as a duo, and Daniel Bruhl will reprise his role of villain Zemo from Captain America: Civil War in the series. Even though the budget of the miniseries doesn’t quite reach the stratospheric heights that MCU movies enjoy, Mackie said in June that the the filming experience for the show “feels exactly like” a big-screen Marvel movie. “So instead of a two-hour movie, a six or eight-hour movie,” he said.
It is being written by Malcolm Spellman of Empire, according to Variety, and John Wick writer Derek Kolstad, according to The Wrap. Meanwhile, Kari Skoglan — known for work on The Handmaid’s Tale — will direct all six of the series’ episodes, according to Deadline. Timing: 2021; original August 2020 release date was scrapped.
- Star Wars: Bad Batch
An animated series about a unique squad of clone troopers, which first appeared in the final season of The Clone Wars. Timing: 2021
A pop/hip-hop musical that imprints sneaker culture on the Cinderella fairy tale. Timing: 2021
- The Mysterious Benedict Society
A series originally planned for Hulu based on the bestselling book series by Trenton Lee Stewart, about a group of orphans at a boarding school who must foil a globe-threatening plot. Timing: 2021
- Just Beyond
A horror/comedy anthology series based on the best-selling graphic novel series from children’s writer R.L. Stine. Timing: Fall 2021
Disney hasn’t confirmed the release dates for any of the following titles since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted plans. The release timing that’s listed for each title is either its originally planned timing or the expectation for when that show or movie is likely to come out.
Tom Hiddleston will reprise his role as Loki, saying the show will feature the version of Loki seen in 2012’s first Avengers film. Loki appeared to be killed by Thanos at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, but Endgame’s “time heist” plot showed Loki in 2012 snatching the tesseract/space stone and teleporting away. The Loki series will explain what happened to Hiddleston’s character right after that, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said. Hiddleston also said the series version of Loki reflects the mischievous version seen in The Avengers, not the reformed Loki seen in Thor: Ragnarok. Timing: Originally slated for spring 2021, but production was halted because of coronavirus.
- Marvel’s What If…?
Marvel Studios’ first animated series takes inspiration from the comic books of the same name. Each episode will explore a pivotal moment from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and turn it on its head, leading the audience into alternate realities.
Many actors from the MCU will serve as voice talent, and the casting is already hinting at what storylines What If…? will explore. Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman coming back ensure a Black Panther alternate reality with Jordan’s villain Kilmonger. In the Thor corner, the Ragnarok team of Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Taika Waititi and Jeff Goldblum are all getting back together — plus Natalie Portman. Another episode will address a Peggy Carter alternate world with Hayley Atwell returning as Peggy and Dominic Cooper reprising young Howard Stark. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas will voice their Ant-Man roles, and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury will be showing up too.
A narrator voiced by Jeffrey Wright will serve as a through line across episodes. Wright’s narrator is The Watcher, part of a celestial race that watches over events taking place in the MCU. The Watchers were briefly seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 during Stan Lee’s cameo. Timing: Originally slated for summer 2021.
Picking up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the Hawkeye series will see Jeremy Renner reprise his role as the archer, and feature Kate Bishop, who in the comics becomes the next Hawkeye. Exploring the character’s time as Ronin, Renner said in a Comic-Con appearance, “I get to teach someone else how to be a superhero without superpowers.” Timing: Originally slated for fall 2021.
- Ms. Marvel
In the comics, Ms. Marvel, or Kamala Khan, is a teen protege of Captain Marvel’s Carol Danvers and is Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book. Timing: Originally slated for 2021.
- Untitled Cassian Andor Star Wars Series
Diego Luna will reprise his role of rebel spy Cassian Andor in this series set during the formative years of the Rebellion prior to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The spy thriller will explore tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire. Alan Tudyk will also reprise his role as K-2SO with Stephen Schiff (The Americans) as showrunner and executive producer. Timing: Unknown, possibly 2021. Luna said in February that shooting was set to begin in 2020 ahead of the planned 2021 release, but progress toward shooting halted in March.
- Monsters at Work
Inspired by the characters of Monsters, Inc., the animated series picks up six months after the events of the original film. Tylor Tuskmon, an eager young mechanic who works on the Monsters, Inc. facilities team, dreams of working his way up to the Laugh Floor. Returning cast members Billy Crystal, John Goodman, John Ratzenberger, Bob Peterson and Jennifer Tilly will join new cast members Ben Feldman, Kelly Marie Tran, Henry Winkler, Lucas Neff, Alanna Ubach and Stephen Stanton. Timing: Originally slated for spring 2021.
Another reality series, each episode of (Re)Connect will show a family disconnecting in order to address a relatable issue and confront the family’s dilemma. Timing: Originally planned for 2020.
- Earthkeepers (working title)
Earthkeepers is a cinematic documentary series profiling people changing the way we see the animal kingdom: conservationists who seek to help some of the planet’s most endangered species. Timing: Originally planned for late 2020 or 2021.
- Ink & Paint
The documentary series, based on the book of the same name, tells the story of how an unsung workforce of women helped create some of the most beloved animated films of Disney. Timing: Originally planned for late 2020 or 2021.
The release timing of some Disney Plus originals is hazy. In some cases, the company has announced plans for originals without any indication of when they’ll come out:
- She-Hulk series, a Marvel original about the cousin of Bruce Banner who gains super-human powers from a transfusion of Banner’s blood (and yes, Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo is in talks to appear on the show)
- Moon Knight series, another Marvel original abut former mercenary and CIA agent Marc Spector, who has multiple personalities and is imbued with powers from an Egyptian god
- A female-focused Star Wars series
- A Willow reboot series, set to start production in 2021
- A series based on the National Treasure franchise of movies
- A Gaston and LeFou original series that is a prequel to 2017’s live-action Beauty & the Beast, starring the actors from the film
- A live-action remake of Robin Hood
- A Lizzie McGuire reboot series
- A Home Alone reboot movie
- A Mighty Ducks reboot series
- A Doogie Howser, M.D. reboot set in Hawaii called Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.
- Big Shots, a dramedy focused on girls high school basketball, starring John Stamos
- The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, a series based on The Disney Channel animated series
- A comedic puppet talk show, Earth to Ned, with the Jim Henson Company
- A Turner and Hooch series updating the 1989 Tom Hanks movie
- An untitled Mickey Mouse documentary
- A docu-series about people who “embody the Disney ethos,” called People & Places
- A project about celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, called simply Wolfgang
- A National Geographic documentary called Science Fair
What’s new to stream for November 2020