Star has been one of the best additions to Disney+ since the service even launched back in 2019. It has offered a whole range of general entertainment for fans of all ages to enjoy. Now that it has been six months since it launched, there’s no better time than now to look at why Disney added Star and how it has changed Disney+.
The Hulu Conundrum
The biggest criticism that The Walt Disney Company faced when it came to Disney+ was the lack of content for adults. In the United States, all films and series deemed un-family friendly found their way over to Hulu, where Disney holds a majority stake, or they were sold off to other companies.
Internationally, non-Disney networks like Amazon and Sky could scoop up the distribution rights to some content Disney declared unsuitable for their leading service. However, the controversies only started to grow.
Lizzie & Victor vs. the House of Mouse
The most famous Disney+ controversy surrounded Love, Victor and the cancelled Lizzie McGuire reboot. Love, Victor was d to developed as a Disney+ Original. Still, Disney moved it to Hulu because they declared it non-family-friendly due to the depiction of alcohol abuse, parental marital issues and sexual exploration (which can all be found on The Simpsons, another show available on Disney+).
If you’ve seen the first season of Love, Victor, you know how there isn’t particularly anything that isn’t family-friendly; still, many were quick to accuse Disney of homophobia.
Since Love, Victor was the third Disney+ Original with LGBTQ+ characters and themes that would never make it to the service, many were understandably upset.
Then came the Lizzie problem. In 2019, Disney announced that Hilary Duff would reprise her role as Lizzie McGuire in a sequel series to the popular Disney Channel show. This new series would see Lizzie navigating life in New York as an engaged thirty-year-old.
The series began production on October 29th, 2019, in New York, but Terri Minsky, showrunner and Lizzie creator, left in January 2020 due to creative differences with Disney. Due to her departure, filming had to stop while Disney tried to find a new showrunner.
In February, Hilary Duff revealed that Disney had halted production because Disney did not like how the show was dealing with some heavy adult topics such as sex and a love affair.
Duff started to openly campaign for the series to move to Hulu to stay true to Lizzie’s age, but Disney would end up cancelling the series outright.
While we don’t know the full behind the scenes details, it can be assumed that Disney was not willing to move it to Hulu.
As 2020 went on, Disney found itself in a tight headlock due to the delays of new content due to the pandemic, and their own rule against all-aged entertainment was becoming a common complaint amongst adults. It also didn’t help that Disney was outride hoarding their back catalogue of newly acquired Fox content by making them unavailable in most territories.
Disney’s Investors Day brought a lot of fantastic news with a whole string of Disney+ movie and series announcements, and if you lived outside of the US and South America, then you were in for a surprise. Disney would launch a sixth tile named Star, a new area for general entertainment that doesn’t fit in Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars or National Geographic sections.
The catalogue of the new section would mostly contain titles from 20th Century Fox, Touchstone, ABC, and certain Hulu Originals. Depending on your region, you would benefit from some non-Disney content such as The Walking Dead!
The addition of Star would not be an optional add-on and is not something users can opt out of. But users could implement a new PIN protection system to stop younger viewers from tuning in to 28 Days Later or Alien.
The Problems with Star
Star officially launched on February 21st in 21 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, Canada, every European country where Disney+ is available.
Included in the vast back catalogue were news shows that had never been legally available in some countries – these would be called “STAR Originals”. But those Star Originals brought Star’s main ongoing issue.
A massive chunk of these Star Originals is series that was cancelled long before their debuts internationally. Even more peculiar, Disney decided to make these cancelled shows weekly released.
Another issue was that some shows, like Solar Opposites and Love, Victor, are only available weekly, but were available to binge on Hulu in the US. Such a decision caused piracy, particularly for Love, Victor, to skyrocket.
Currently, one of the most common complaints is that subscribers have to wait longer for new content. For example, American Horror Stories: Double Feature won’t debut until mid-October, around two months after it starts in the US. The wait could be down to rights, but when the shows aired on the Fox Channel before Disney shut it down, UK viewers had to wait at most one month for new titles.
Outside of the catalogue itself, the general UI system in the Star tile is a bit of a mess. Some titles don’t even appear unless you search for them, or occasionally they may appear in the suggested section of another title.
Star has been somewhat of a saving grace for Disney+ as it has filled the site’s catalogue to the point where the US and Latin American versions look pretty empty.
Star still does have some more room for improvement. It’s seriously lacking new movies and won’t have Star Original Movies until Vacation Friends releases on August 31st.
There is also a lack of non-English content, but Disney will be required to film at least 30% of their content in European Union countries, thanks to a relatively new law.
Another option Disney has is retiring Hotstar, their streaming service dedicated to Bollywood movies and series. Retiring Hotstar and moving the catalogue over to Disney+ is another option Disney could take to provide a massive boost in non-English language content.
Disney also needs to allow international audiences to watch new shows simultaneously with the US, whether weekly or all in one go. And if they’re going to drop more cancelled series, then they should be available to binge.
Star has been a welcomed addition to Disney+, bringing a whole slew of new content for subscribers despite its flaws. Hopefully, Disney fixes the kinks it currently faces within the following year.
We’ll bring you up to speed on any more changes in another six months when the Star tile celebrates its first birthday.