Disney, joining other large entertainment companies, is going all in on streaming.
A four-hour investor presentation Thursday is making that abundantly clear, as company executives promised that, in coming years, its Disney+ streaming service plans 10 new Marvel series, 10 more “Star Wars” series, 15 live action or animated series under the Disney or Pixar umbrella and 15 new Disney or Pixar movies.
A remake of George Lucas’ 1988 film “Willow,” directed by Ron Howard, will return as a 2022 series, with original star Warwick Davis in the cast and Jon Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) directing the pilot episode.
Pixar Animation Studios will produce series versions of its “Cars” movie franchise and “Dug Days,” based on a 2009 short “Dug’s Special Mission,” among other projects.
‘Star Wars’ forever
But much of the streaming firepower was directed at “Star Wars.” Two spinoffs of Disney+’s biggest hit, “The Mandalorian” – “Rangers of the New Republic” and “Ahsoka” – are joining Disney+ for Christmas 2021.
And more “Star Wars” series are coming soon: “Andor,” starring Diego Luna as the character he played in 2016’s “Rogue One” film, and (as previously announced) “Obi Wan Kenobi,” with the return of Ewan McGregor in the title role and Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader. (Production on “Obi Wan” begins in March.) Justin Simien (“Dear White People”) is behind “Lando,” featuring the Lando Calrissian character from earlier films. And “The Acolyte” is also in the works from Leslye Headland (“Russian Doll”).
More “Star Wars” animated series, “The Bad Batch” and “A Droid Story,” are also in the works. And “Star Wars: Visions” is a series of short films.
Marvel Studios plans newly announced series “Secret Invasion” and “Ironheart,” along with “Loki”; “Ms. Marvel,” starring Iman Vellani as Pakistani-American teen superhero Kamala Khan; “She Hulk,” to star Tatiana Maslany and include Mark Ruffalo; and “What If” (due next summer), featuring the animated backstories of several Marvel Cinematic Universe characters. Marvel will also produce a “Guardians of the Galaxy” holiday special for 2022. That film’s beloved Groot will also be featured in “I Am Groot,” a series of short episodes for the streaming service.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Disney+ has 86.8 million global subscribers as of Dec. 2, up from 73.7 million in November. At $6.99 a month, Disney+ is cheaper than Netflix’s lowest-price plan ($9.99) and less than half the cost of HBO Max. (It will raise the price to $7.99 in March.)
Chapek said that 80 of the 100 movies discussed at the investor day will head straight to a streaming platform, highlighting the company’s focus.
Although Disney executives in 2019 had projected 60 million to 90 million Disney+ subscribers by 2024, the company has revised that forecast sharply upward to 230 million to 260 million by that same date, 30% to 40% of which will come from its new international Star streaming service.
Hulu, which offers more adult fare, including a vast library of TV and movie titles. plus TV episodes a day after their initial airing, has 38.8 million subscribers. ESPN+ has 11.5 million. Many of these subscribers pay for a $12.99 Disney bundle that includes all three services. (Starting in January, an ad-free version of Hulu can be substituted for an additional $6 a month.)
Among Hulu projects showcased at the presentation:
- “Only Murders in the Building,” a Hulu murder mystery starring Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez.
- “The Dropout,” a new take on scamming Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, played by Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”).
- “Dopesick,” a drama starring Michael Keaton and Kerry Washington, about how Big Pharma profited from OxyContin.
- “Nine Perfect Strangers,” based on “Big Little Lies” author Liane Moriarty’s novel, about the wellness and healing industry, starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy.
The Kardashians move to Hulu
The Kardashian family, whose long-running “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” ends on NBC Universal’s E! next year, will develop new shows for Hulu that will be distributed globally on Disney’s Star service. The agreement starts in late 2021, the streaming service announced. No details were disclosed.
Disney Television Studios plans several new original series for the streaming service:
- “Game Changers,” an update of 1992’s “The Mighty Ducks” hockey series featuring Lauren Graham and original cast member Emilio Estevez.
- An update of “Turner & Hooch,” the dog-and-man comedy starring Josh Peck (“Drake & Josh”) in the role played by Tom Hanks in the 1989 film.
- “Big Shot,” a drama series from David E. Kelley (“Big Little Lies,” “Big Sky”) starring John Stamos as the coach of a girls’ high school basketball team.
- In development: a prequel series for “Beauty and the Beast,” a new version of “Swiss Family Robinson” and “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” based on a popular young-adult book series.
FX had its own turn to shine: The edgy cable network, like Hulu a recent addition to the Disney family, touted a “Shogun” series and a drama about the Rolling Stones.
And NatGeo will focus its next “Genius” series on Martin Luther King Jr. and plans a film about underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau.