If your first reaction to that headline is, “-But they just added Hollywood Stargirl and Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers,” let us briefly explain the difference between “catalog content” and “originals.” Both increase the overall size of the Disney+ catalog (also referred to as library), but originals are films made specifically for or premiering on the service whereas library films are films that have already been released. Many of them are classic and bring with them a fanbase searching for nostalgia and looking to pass on their experiences to their own children. Both are essential to a streaming service’s growth and reduce churn while increasing brand loyalty.
Disney+ Library Problems Began At Launch
When Disney+ first launched, people were thrilled with the hundreds of films from Disney’s past all together in one place. It didn’t take long for it to sink in that Disney+ brought the smallest film library of any major streaming service. Somehow, even after then-streaming head Kevin Mayer and then-CEO Bob Iger promised “all your favorites in one place, “the vault is open,” and “At some point fairly soon after launch it will house the entire Disney motion picture library,” half of the main Disney Pictures film canon were unavailable.
That was okay, people reasoned – it was a treat to have so much in one place and to know the Disney Vault was finally open. After all, it would be exciting to see what new films arrive each month! It was just a matter of time… or so we thought. Since November 2019, the available Disney film library has only incrementally increased with an overwhelming amount of vintage family favorites left out of reach. All practical signs suggest this will never change.
When Disney+ launched there were over 100 title pages with “coming soon” messages that appeared in search results. 1-2 films scheduled for each month for the first couple years. The scheduled films came from the Disney Pictures, Pixar, Marvel Studios, or Lucasfilm lines. Fox films and made-for-TV films did not receive pre-installed pages. This is what they looked like:
The final pre-installed date from launch came and went in November 2021, exactly 2 years after launch, when A Pixar Story moved over from Netflix. Since that point the film library has virtually ceased additions altogether. Prior to its 2nd anniversary, Disney barely added any films from outside the already scheduled Disney Pictures selections and extremely short-term Fox films anyway. The Fox film library is a complete disaster with extremely large library deals at Starz, Epix, FXM, and HBO tying up most Fox films into the mid 2020s! The only chance for this to improve is if Disney starts buying out deals the same way they did for their own studios. For that reason, our primary focus is on the homegrown Disney films that people expected on a service baring Walt Disney’s name.
“2022 has been a marked decrease in effort and catalog from their content team.”
In Year 3, Disney+ Remains Empty
The quantity of titles on Disney+ USA remains well below competitors Peacock, Paramount+, HBO Max, Netflix, and even Disney’s own Hulu. This isn’t for lack of catalog, it’s for lack of adding it. Disney would double the “Disney” film library and service value overnight if they added their underutilized brands and films. We personally know people who have chosen not to subscribe solely based on Disney executives’ unwillingness to add classic content reliably or consistently.
We have statistics. Including titles available at launch, Disney+ has added practically no Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures, Freeform (nee ABC Family and Fox Family Original Movies), Disney Channel Premiere films, or made-for-TV films. In addition, Disney+ removed 1 Disney Channel Original Movie, seemingly forever (The Other Me), and one of them promoted as a launch title (The Jennie Project) left the service immediately after the Netherlands beta test period ended, never to appear anywhere.
Missing Films And Where To Find Them
|Brand||Films Streaming||Films Missing|
|Disney Channel Premiere Films*||1||43|
|ABC Family Original Movies*||7||86|
|Freeform Original Movies||1||9|
|Disney Channel Original Movies||107||5|
|ABC Original Movies||A few||Most|
Those numbers are upsetting, aren’t they? Thats 2.5 years of progress, most of which was made on Day 1. The Disney Movie Club has had over 100 films since launch that are not streamable, including classics like Selma, Lord, Selma; Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King And I; Stub, The Best Cowdog In The West; and Never a Dull Moment.
Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD) retailers such as Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube Movies, and iTunes house over 400 Disney films that are not available via Disney+ and hundreds upon hundreds more 20th Century Fox films including films such as Disney’s American Legends, Mickey’s House of Villains, and The Muppets: Wizard of Oz.
Tumbleweeds In 2022
Nobody could have prepared themselves in June 2020 for the reality we’re now facing in June 2022 – one where Disney basically provided everything they were going to up front. One where the film library would shrink until 2022 when they decided to just… stop. It was around January 2022 when Disney started adding ESPN “30 for 30” documentaries. It didn’t hit everyone at first, but half a year in more and more people have realized that Disney replaced their monthly film additions with these sports documentaries. They are not supplementary, they are all there is.
We’d gone 3 months with no proper films from Fox, Disney Pictures or Touchstone (a service record) before they surprise-added Dr. Dolittle and The Sandlot on Friday, June 3rd. Unfortunately, those films are yet another round of their patented “accidental additions” or “just visiting” films. Since launch, Disney+ has regularly added Fox films with no prior warning or promotion. Often they don’t even appear in the “New to Disney+” row.
When this happens, it’s code for “don’t get attached” and often, “oops.” Every time they’ve done this the films either leave within days (accidentally added) or soon after. For example, they accidentally added Eragon last spring, then immediately removed it when they released their summer campaign promo and people commented in their mentions “we’ve had Eragon for weeks.” It had been added months early. Hot Shots and Hot Shots: Part Deux arrived the first day of April, then immediately left 2 days later. They’ve done this so many times you’ve be surprised that Disney+ is a professionally run streaming service.
The other clue titles were added on accident is the weekly graphics they put on social media each Friday. If the graphic doesn’t list the “surprise” film (like last week’s), it won’t be there long. The past 3 months without films scheduled on their press lists are the only 3 months since launch, so it’s a clear sign that things have changed suddenly, and not for the better. Not only that, the amount of films removed from the service have grown each year resulting in these unfortunate statistics that will make your head spin.
Disappearing Film Library
Ignoring June 3rd’s “surprise / accidental” additions, let’s look at 2022 thus far:
From January 1 – June 1, 2022, Disney added 14 20th Century Fox library films to Disney+.
From January 1 – June 1, 2022, Disney removed 14 20th Century Fox library films from Disney+.
This is a net gain of 0 library films in half a year.
From January 1 – June 1, 2022, Disney added 2 Disney Pictures films to Disney+.
From January 1 – June 1, 2022, Disney removed 1 Disney Pictures film from Disney+.
That is a net gain of 1 library film in half a year.
At this point in 2021, Disney had achieved a net gain of over 15 films and the year ended with over 30 for each brand; 60 total. We are not hitting a 60 net gain in 2022. We won’t even hit 30 without massive improvements, fast. With all maturity ratings finally unlocked on March 16, 2022, you’d think they’d be adding Rated R films. Nope. Still 0.
2022 has seen a marked decrease in effort and catalog from their content team. The original lineup has overtaken the catalog and that’s not a problem at its core, but it is a fault when the catalog has dried up entirely. Disney+’s unique drawing point was that it would house all its own titles. Throughout the first year of the service, there were many misleading comments about “everything in one place” and “all your favorites under one roof” and the vault being “open.” As journalists like Josh Shepherd and Josh Spiegel have noted each month, that has never been true.
Certainly never as far from the truth as it has been in 2022.
Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.