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Netflix envy led Disney+ to squander three of the greatest entertainment brands ever

Published Jun 4th, 2024 2:49PM EDT
The Acolyte on Disney+
Image: Christina Black/Lucasfilm Ltd.

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I opened my Disney+ app today for the first time in goodness knows how long. And about 30 seconds later, I was frustratingly reminded why that’s the case.

Not a single thing from the carousel at the top of the app or the row of content algorithmically chosen for each user looked remotely interesting. Scrolling down the app, I was assaulted by row after row of titles that seemed like they’d look interesting if I was eight. We’re talking one example after another of a forgettable Star Wars spinoff; of pointless Pixar sequels; of Marvel movies and shows I couldn’t care less about. It’s at this point I’m thinking: Why am I still subscribed to this app?

The debut today of Disney+’s latest Star Wars series, The Acolyte, only reinforces the problem. And that problem, specifically, is the following: Thanks to the company wanting to replicate the success of Netflix, Disney+ has run three of the most iconic entertainment brands of all time into the ground. And it’s not even clear that the key decision-makers in charge of those brands (Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel) recognize that fact.

In an interview with The New York Times, for example, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy bemoaned the overwhelming presence of males in the Star Wars fandom. “Operating within these giant franchises now, with social media and the level of expectation — it’s terrifying,” she said. “I think a lot of the women who step into Star Wars struggle with this a bit more. Because of the fan base being so male dominated, they sometimes get attacked in ways that can be quite personal.”

How about… just make good shows and movies? Do you think you all could maybe give that a try at some point? Because shows like Ahsoka, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the newly released The Acolyte all seemed intent on checking every box except the most important one of all, failing to just be interesting.

I had high hopes for the latter, but it, too, has fallen short. From my colleague Jacob Siegal’s review of The Acolyte: “The muddled messaging made it fairly difficult to invest in any of these characters, which was compounded by the uninspired writing. Dialogue is often dull and repetitive, characters change their minds (and occasionally their entire personalities) on a whim whenever the story calls for it, and the archetypes are so familiar and played out that none of our heroes or villains feel new or different from any other live-action Star Wars show.”

For Star Wars, the problem has been too many Disney+ shows, about oddball characters no one really cares about. Marvel and Pixar, meanwhile, have arguably suffered from too many sequels and spinoffs.

Black Widow was one of the worst movies I’d seen in a long time up to that point. Terrible writing and every character pretending to have a Russian accent made that one a truly painful watch. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — I tried but just couldn’t find the interest to continue with that show. Same with She-Hulk, Hawkeye, Moon Knight, and Secret Invasion.

And I can’t believe we’re seriously going to be getting a fifth Toy Story movie a year from now.

To some extent, a lot of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of a simple problem: Netflix envy. Instead of making money by licensing its content to other streamers, Disney wanted to build an option of its own and keep more of its originals in-house. The problem, though, was the following (per former Disney CEO Bob Chapek, in an interview with CNBC): “When we first launched Disney+, we way underestimated how much fuel the beast needs to be where it can be.”

It’s too bad that’s the only lesson Disney+ took away from Netflix.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.