Streaming Wars

Disney+ Streaming Purge Punishes Families In Two Horrible Ways

Slept on Willow? Too bad.


There are a lot of legal reasons why different TV shows and movies jump between different streaming platforms. But, as the entertainment industry makes repeated cutbacks, bloodletting has become borderline unthinkable. Why would Disney+ delete original shows that haven’t even been streaming for a full year yet? The answer is: To save money. But, whatever Disney is saving, the people who are losing are clearly families. Remember when Disney used to put movies in the VHS vault for long periods of time? Get ready for the 21st-century version of that, with two horrible twists.

On May 26, 2023, Disney+ will remove several TV shows from its streaming service, including, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Marvel’s Hero Project, The Mighty Ducks, and the new sequel series, Willow. Why? Well, the answer boils down to money. Why would a massive company like Disney save money on removing a TV series it's already, presumably, paid for? Well, that’s a bit complicated, but essentially, it’s the same thing HBO Max has been doing; which involves big companies writing off costs, and getting tax breaks. Like many media companies right now, Disney is trying to save money, and that means getting rid of several shows, which are, essentially, brand new.

Since the beginning, Disney+ promised to do what Disney had never done with home video before — offer an entire library of streaming Disney movies and shows, presumably, forever. Combined with that massive library of classic movies — which is very handy for families — Disney+ started airing original programming too, perhaps most notably, shows like The Mandalorian, and then, later all the various Marvel series, starting with WandaVision. But unlike other brands that offer streaming content, Disney+ shows are never released on physical media. You can’t own The Mandalorian on DVD or Blu-ray, which is also true of the shows that Disney is purging, like Willow and The Mysterious Benedict Society. If you haven’t been able to watch these shows as a family yet, tough luck. You won’t be able to rent these shows from Amazon or Apple either. As of May 26, they’ll just be gone.

Now, does that mean Disney won’t bring back some of these shows in other ways? No. It’s always possible that the new Willow series could appear in some other format in the future. In fact, Willow co-creator Jon Kasdan suggested as much on Twitter. He also reminded everyone of the good ole days when Disney doled out its library titles, selectively, leading to long periods of time when you couldn’t rent Sleeping Beauty even though you wanted to, and your parents could never explain why. But does that make it okay? Wasn’t that always kind of annoying in the ‘90s?

The Disney+ purge punishes parents who waited

This isn’t 1993. It’s 2023. Families pay for a Disney+ subscription specifically because it allows people to decide when they want to watch these shows. Willow has literally only been out for six months. In the grand scheme of family planning, it’s reasonable if you missed it. To be clear, it’s a great fantasy show for kids, but perhaps a little too scary for very little ones. So, if you waited to watch it with your kids because it seemed too scary, but now, this year, you’re thinking they’re ready...well too bad.

Ditto Mysterious Benedict Society, an excellent book series, turned into an equally great series starring the wonderful Tony Hale. Why should parents be punished because their kids weren’t ready to watch this yet? When your kids get into the books, and then want to watch the show, what will you say? Now, of course, streaming TV gives parents way more options than we had as kids back in the day, and comparatively speaking, we’re spoiled. Having Mysterious Benedict Society on tap as a possibility might sound like a TV luxury. However, if Netflix just pulled A Series of Unforntaute Events from streaming, it would be shocking.

No physical media releases is a bad policy for families

In some alternate universe where Netflix pulled A Series of Unforntaute Events the way Disney+ is pulling Mysterious Benedict Society families would be equally screwed because that show is also nearly impossible to get on physical media. And, what’s horrible about this new Disney+ policy of pulling shows that only exist digitally, is that it’s even worse than the VHS “vault” of yesteryear. Back in the day, if you had a Disney movie on VHS that was currently in “the vault” (meaning you couldn’t buy it new) no biggie, you still had the movie. But now, there is no physical recording to purchase with Disney+ shows. Remember when Disney+ altered various scenes from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Of course, you don’t. Because you can’t own the original version on Blu-ray because there is no Blu-ray to buy.

Watching movies and TV with kids can be a special bonding experience. Yes, streaming services like Disney+ have arguably changed the way families think about entertainment. By making these movies available to stream all the time, one could argue they’re less scarce than when we were younger, and therefore, less special. And yet. Disney+ simply yanking shows with little warning doesn’t feel like a throwback to simpler, special times. It feels like what it is: Something that families might have been looking forward to has simply vanished.

You can stream Willow and The Mysterious Benedict Society until May 26 on Disney+.