Disney used to be synonymous with quality animation and innovation in the field.
But now Disney is finding itself sorely lacking in original animated content as both Netflix and HBO Max seem poised to “out-Disney” Disney during the streaming wars.
Disney has been focusing on building its live-action Empire, and neglecting the boom in streaming animation.
The Disney of today is far removed from the humble Mouse House that Walt built. Disney has been pre-occupied with acquiring and growing its live-action franchises (Marvel, Star Wars) while every other Pixar and WDAS film is a sequel seemingly designed to move merch and drive theme park attendance.
As such, Disney has been banking on its Star Wars and Marvel content to draw in subscribers for Disney Plus. (Even if much of that content is still years away.)
Most of that content is live-action.
While Disney is still producing some excellent animated series such as the DuckTales reboot and The Owl House, those gems are getting fewer and farther between.
Meanwhile, Netflix and HBO Max are betting heavily on animated features, adult animation and anime. And many media outlets are more impressed with films like Klaus than they are with Disney’s recent output.
Netflix is quickly becoming known for innovation in animation.
Klaus was a phenomenal animated film directed by a former Disney animator, and many feel it deserved the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature over Toy Story 4.
But Netflix is also taking chances on other innovative animation styles, such as the new film The Willoughbys.
For adults, Netflix recently debuted The Midnight Gospel from Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward.
Netflix is also betting heavy on anime. In addition to scoring one of the most popular anime series of all-time — Neon Genesis Evangelion — Netflix has been producing or co-producing several exclusive anime series. And there’s more on the way.
Speaking of anime, Netflix has recently snatched Pokémon away from Disney XD.
HBO Max is coming, and it’s bringing Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, DC Comics and Studio Ghibli.
This one is going to hurt. HBO Max (launching May 27) might be the first legit Netflix competitor, and they’re bringing the boom when it comes to animated content.
Of particular note to Disney animation fans is that HBO Max has nabbed the streaming rights to the popular Studio Ghibli library. Ghibli was synonymous with Disney here in the States, until Disney let the deal lapse a few years ago.
AT&T / WarnerMedia is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to first rate animated content, including new Looney Tunes cartoons and another season of Adventure Time.
And HBO Max will have access to tons of anime and anime-style content via Crunchyroll and Rooster Teeth. They’ll also put DC Comics head-to-head against Disney’s Marvel Comics library.
Oh, and they have the exclusive streaming rights to South Park, too. But I wouldn’t expect Disney to touch that one with a ten foot pole.
Disney doesn’t seem to care about animation as much as they used to.
Disney has been so focused on building its portfolio of IP acquisitions that it seemingly back-burnered what made the company in the first place.
While I’m sure there’s some logistical reason why Disney Plus doesn’t seem to have a lot of original animated content on the horizon, from the perspective of this animation fan, Disney Plus will come up very short in the streaming wars.
At least initially.