Disney took a bold step earlier this year, when the House of Mouse announced its plans to launch its own streaming service, just as it also began a merger with 20th Century Fox. Now, after months of behind-closed-doors planning, Disney is starting to drop the first details of its planned VOD platform, giving us a better idea of what to expect when it eventually launches in 2019.
We already know that a live-action Star Wars series from Jon Favreau is in development, but a new interview by the New York Times with Favreau and Disney exec Ricky Strauss, who is overseeing the service, gives us a sense of the scale. In a word? Big.
The budget for the 10-episode series will reportedly be around the $100 million mark.
“Star Wars is a big world, and Disney’s new streaming service affords a wonderful opportunity to tell stories that stretch out over multiple chapters,” Favreau told the NYT in an email.
It is one of a number of ambitious projects slated for the platform, with anonymous sources adding to the newspaper that at least nine movies are either in production or advanced development. Both Lady and the Tramp and The Sword in the Stone are lined up for live-action remakes, while other movies include Togo, a period adventure about a dog, and Noelle, a festive flick starring Anna Kendrick as the daughter of Santa Claus. Three Men and a Baby is also set for the remake treatment, while adaptations on the way include Stargirl, based on the young adult novel, and a new take on Don Quixote from Billy Ray. The Paper Magician is also in development, alongside Timmy Failure, based on the best-selling detective books, which is being directed by Tom McCarthy.
On the TV front, a spin-off from High School Musical and Monsters, Inc. are both in the works, as well as unknown Marvel properties. Favreau’s Star Wars series, meanwhile, will be joined by a new season of animated hit The Clone Wars.
The movies’ budgets range from $20 million to $60 million, while the series are expected to cost between $25 million and $35 million.
These will be joined by movies from Disney’s existing library and “at least 5,000 episodes” of Disney-bradned TV shows.
What of newer Disney titles, such as Marvel and Star Wars? This is where things begin to get complicated, as Disney has already licenced both IPs out to other distributors for the near future. In time, when Disney’s deal with Netflix ends, any Disney movies affected will automatically move from Netflix to Disney’s streaming platform. (The Marvel Netflix series, produced by ABC, will remain on Netflix.)
Star Wars movies from 2019 onwards, though, will be included in the Disney platform at its launch, while Marvel movies from Captain Marvel onwards will also find their subscription streaming home on the House of Mouse’s site.
Disney CEO Bob Iger told Varietythis week that the marketing will “make clear that [recent Star Wars movies are] not going to be on there”.
“We want to walk before we run when it comes to volume of content,” he added. “We have to put enough on to make sense from a price-to-value relationship perspective.”
Indeed, there is a chance that Disney’s streaming service will be priced cheaper than Netflix to reflect that “lower volume” of content.
Across the board, there will be no R-rated movies on the Disney platform, notes NYT. Indeed, Hulu is expected to cater to older audiences and will soon be part of Disney’s empire, as part of the Fox deal. Other expected Fox collateral to join the Disney streaming catalogue are programmes from National Geographic, which would fit in with the service’s family-focused offering. Whether family movies from Fox’s library, such as Ice Age and Home Alone, will be included is not yet clear.
While the service is being overseen on the technical front by Michael Paull, president of Disney Streaming Services, the other most revealing thing about Disney’s recent investor outreach about its plans is that a lot of it hinges on one man: Strauss, who has creative oversight of the programming. And in an age of exclusive and original TV shows and films, content is vital to a platform’s success.
Strauss is behind the untitled platform’s “strategic content vision”, which will build on a career that began in TriStar Pictures’ advertising department back in the 1980s.
Kevin Mayer, Chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, announced his appointment by highlighting his content and marketing experience, plus “an astute awareness of how audiences connect with the Disney brand”.
“He is hugely supportive of storytellers,” Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, told the NYT, noting that Strauss has strong “creative instincts and expertise”.
New Marvel and Star Wars series lead Disney’s streaming plan
9th February 2018
Disney is gradually pulling together its plans for its new streaming service, and Marvel and Star Wars will unsurprisingly be part of the line-up.
There has been much discussion about how the House of Mouse will structure its new VOD push, as the Hollywood giant tries to muscle in on the kind of over-the-top territory that has been dominated by Netflix for several years. Now, as Netflix and Disney prepare to part ways, Netflix is stepping up its family-friendly original content, while Disney is consolidating its own brand and position.
The latter includes, of course, its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, which will give it a whole heap of new IPs and franchises to attract subscribers and build out its library. There is no word yet on how Fox’s assets will fit in with the service, which launches in 2019, but with Fox also owning Hulu, Disney has now answered the question of what role Hulu will play: Deadline, which has been privy to some of Disney’s talks with creatives in Hollywood, reports that Hulu will be home to any R-rated content, which will leave the Disney platform to house content more in keeping with its brand.
That includes four to five original movies, plus five new TV series. The budget for the TV series will be between $25 million and $35 million for 10-episode runs, although Deadline says that more ambitious projects could go as high as $100 million per series. That is the bracket you can expect, perhaps, for Disney’s new Marvel live-action series, and its Star Wars-branded show. They will be joined by a High School Musical series and an animated Monsters, Inc. programme.
The movie slate, meanwhile, includes Don Quixote, penned by Billy Ray, Lady and the Tramp, The Paper Magician, Stargirl, directed by Julia Hart, and Togo, directed by Ericson Core, plus 3 Men and a Baby, Sword and the Stone, and Timmy Failure, with Spotlight director Tom McCarthy attached. Others already in post-production include Magic Camp and Noelle, directed by Mark Lawrence and starring Anna Kendrick.
The site is being steered by OTT programming chief Agnes Chu, who has worked on ABC’s digital platforms and was involved in the relaunch of the Star Wars franchise. Her team includes Sean Bailey, who is expected to be chief of live-action family films, Tendo Nagendo, Sam Dickerman and Louie Provost. The service will launch initially in the USA before expanding overseas.
And what of Marvel’s Netflix series? As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has previously said, those shows will remain where they are.