Disney will be opening up its infamous Disney Vault when it launches its streaming service.
Disney+, which is expected to launch in September this year, has been in the pipeline for some time, as the House or Mouse looks to take a leaf out of Netflix’s book and win over subscribers to its own platform and ecosystem. That means much-hyped exclusive shows are already in the works, such as MCU spin-off series for Loki and others, two new Star Wars series – The Mandalorian and a Cassian Andor prequel – and a High School Musical show, plus multiple movies, including Stargirl. But Disney’s strength as a brand stems from its existing library of unique contents it already has, with much-loved classics such as Beauty and the Beast and Snow White.
That library, though, has been notably kept under lock and key for decades, as Disney’s classic vault opens to release an old favourite on home video or elsewhere for a limited period before being locked away again. Now, though, Disney is planning to open its vault permanently. CEO Bob Iger told a shareholder at its annual member that it will effectively end its vaulted approach, with all Disney movies eventually available to stream.
“At some point fairly soon after launch, it will house the entire Disney motion picture library,” Iger said. “So the movies that … traditionally have been kept in a vault and brought out basically every few years will be on the service.”
That raises the question of what will happen to such a controversial movie as Song of the South. The 1946 live-action film, based on the Uncle Remus stories, follows a young boy who, shortly after the end of the Civil War, goes to visit his grandma’s plantation in the American South. There, he befriends a worker and hears his tales, and the resulting portrayal of African Americans in the film has been criticised for using racial stereotypes. The movie has never been released on home video in the USA. The launch of Disney+, then, represents the way in which the online age, and decisions about distribution and availability, is enabling established Hollywood companies to confront and address their analogue pasts.
More details about Disney+, including whether it will be available in the UK, are expected to be unveiled on 11th April, when an investor’s meeting will take place.