Disney+ Has Arrived—Meet the Mom Who Made it Happen

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Will our kids ever know how easy they have it? Will they ever feel the pain of having an older sister record an episode of ER over your bootleg The Little Mermaid VHS? Will they ever understand the deprivation of not being able to watch five episodes of The Simpsons in a row? Of course not! Our kids, with their cotton candy brains, think that shows flicker to life when they snap their fingers. (And they’re right.) Now, to make their lives even cushier, Disney has launched Disney+, the Mother of All Entertainment Platforms.

The best part, fellow parents, is that you may fall for this streaming service as much as your kids do. The nostalgia factor rides high throughout Disney+’s arsenal of movies, but there’s also plenty of fresh new content sprinkled in, giving us an entertainment platform that can finally bridge the generational gap in TV viewing. How’s that for magic?

Here’s what all the fuss is about:

  • Every movie imaginable is available to stream. Think of the “streaming wars” as a game of Hungry Hungry Hippo, where Disney is the 2nd-grader dominating a bunch of preschool-aged players (aka Netflix, HBO, etc.) in a race to grab up as many titles as possible. So all your favorite movies from childhood will be available to stream on one platform because Disney owns everything.
  • In addition to the oldies (like Newsies!!) there’s a slew of highly-anticipated originals, including the Star Wars live-action series, The Mandalorian.
  • Nothing on Disney+ is rated R, which means your kid won’t stumble into some creepy content.
  • Everything can be downloaded. Think: holiday travel.
  • Episodes of its original series’ are released weekly instead of all at once, giving a new rhythm to our viewing. Here’s a way to teach our kids to wait for shows the old fashioned way. Make them suffer a bit!

Behind all of this is Agnes Chu, the Senior Vice President of Content for Disney+.  Agnes is a mighty mom who’s taken the time to chat about the best new shows on Disney+ and how the platform is going to change our families’ lives.

I know these are all your babies that you’ve been working on…and a mother can never really choose a favorite. But, if you had to, which series are you most excited for? 

Oh it’s really hard to pick one! We do have a series called Encore [executive producer Kristen Bell.] I mentioned that I was a theatre geek as a kid and this [series] totally speaks to me. But it’s actually so much more than just being about theatre. The idea is that in real life there are adults who are reunited to put on the musical that they put on in high school. We have a cast that is 40 years out of high school. They are reunited and perform it again now as adults, in front of their family, friends and their community. There’s not one episode in which I am not crying my eyes out.

You’re a mom to an 18-month-old baby girl. How did being a mom shape your work on this platform?

It’s about being in an optimistic and aspirational place on a regular basis because I do think that the entertainment that everyone watches—whether you’re an adult or a kid—does inform how you feel about things. As moms, we’re all about creating a foundation and a security of hope for our children…this is something that ultimately helps to build that kind of world citizenship that our brand already does.

Which piece from the Disney canon are you most excited to introduce your daughter to?

Oh, man, there are so many things. My favorite animated classic is Cinderella, so I’m excited for her to see that. I’m holding off a little bit. I haven’t been much about screen time with her but I am excited. She loves music so anything with music in it will be really great.

What’s the through-line between Disney+ and the Disney brand we all grew up with?

You know, it’s amazing because if you think about families gathering together to be entertained, it’s something that this company has done so well. It started with Walt Disney… that’s what he did when he created Wonderful World of Disney, back when there were only three channels. And people all gathered around—young and old. [TV] wasn’t just babysitting for kids. It was adults, too. We all got together around the television to watch his latest episode, giving you an insight into the building of Disneyland, for example.

How do you think family entertainment has changed since we were kids?

Some of my favorite childhood memories are going to rent a movie and us gathering around in the family room to watch that movie together. Or the annual watching of The Sound of Music, which always played over the holidays. That was on the calendar; the whole family sat and watched it together. So those are all these really great communal experiences in our own homes that I think we all regularly looked for.

And in this day and age it’s so easy to watch anything…right now, Tom, my husband, and I…we are watching completely different things. He’s in the middle of Catherine the Great and I’m in the middle of Succession, you know, because he’s already watched it. So we don’t have any kind of communal viewing experience except when we go to the movies together. It’s really hard to coordinate schedules because of this ease and immediacy of people being able to access whatever they want at the moment they want it.

You mentioned in a previous interview that you are creating this “digital hearth” for families. How does Disney+ represent that idea?

A lot of what our hope is with Disney+ is that yes, there’s going to be a great and safe and uplifting platform for kids to watch content on demand but we also hope that there are going to be those moments where families come together and use it as a digital hearth. That’s the most expressive way to say How do we bring people together? Disney+ is the way to do it.

Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Nashville. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.