Living the Bug’s life with Disney+

Aditya Mani Jha | Updated on April 10, 2020 Published on April 08, 2020

Essential diet: Disney, of course, is firmly in the staple food category as far as children’s entertainment is concerned, with films such as Jon Favreau’s The Lion King (2019)

So the IPL went kaput, but Disney+ kept its date with Indian viewers, streaming a formidable array of shows and movies for all age groups locked down by a microbe

Around this time every year, Hotstar sees new subscriptions. The service, after all, has the streaming rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL), and people don’t want to miss out on cricketing action. That is why nobody was surprised when Disney India announced last month that its rollout of Disney+ content on Hotstar would happen on March 28, coinciding with the IPL.

But Covid-19 struck, and the IPL was postponed indefinitely, like every other sporting event around the world, and the Disney+ launch was delayed accordingly.

The games are off, but there is a captive audience glued to television sets in every house. So again, not surprisingly, Disney+ shows and movies reached Hotstar last week.

Here’s a quick primer on all the cool stuff you can now watch on Hotstar. Existing Hotstar Premium users can access all of this without additional costs, but starting next year, they will have to pay the updated annual fee of ₹1,499, up from the pre-Disney price of ₹999.

For children

Disney, of course, is firmly in the staple food category as far as children’s entertainment is concerned. Leading the way here are three recent remakes of classic Disney material — Guy Ritchie’s very enjoyable Aladdin (2019), Jon Favreau’s The Lion King (2019), and Charlie Bean’s The Lady and the Tramp (2019). In Aladdin, Will Smith’s performance as the genie was widely praised.

Captive audience: In Aladdin, Will Smith’s performance as the genie was widely praised.   -  IMAGE COURTESY: DISNEY


Joining these are the latest editions of Disney’s smash-hit franchises Frozen 2 (2019) and Toy Story 4 (2019). The Toy Story franchise really is a gift that keeps giving. Stacked edge-to-edge with great music (including Randy Newman’s Oscar-winning We Belong Together), witty dialogues and some dependably feel-good storylines, it’s just the thing to watch huddled up with your kid on the couch. As is DuckTales, the classic animated show that many may remember watching on Disney Hour.

Pixar, once Lucasfilm’s in-house animation studio (a Disney subsidiary since 2006), has a solid line-up at Hotstar now. Among the blockbuster movies are Inside Out, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Coco, Onward, The Good Dinosaur, Ratatouille and A Bug’s Life. They’re backed up by some evergreen shorts — including Luxo Jr (1986), Jack-Jack Attack (2015), and Bao (2018), the last winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Also on offer are a few cutesy wildlife documentaries such as In the Footsteps of Elephant (2020), Diving With Dolphins (2020), and Penguins (2019).

For teenagers (and grown-ups who are children, like this writer)

Disney means Marvel and Marvel means the last word in unabashedly crowd-pleasing, large-scale cinematic entertainment. A full MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) catalogue now awaits Hotstar users (until now, you only had the bigger films such as Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity Wars).

The most high-profile new entrant, however, is Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian, the Disney+ original series (set in the Star Wars universe) that took over the Internet last year, thanks to ‘Baby Yoda’. The cute-as-a-button character belongs to the same unspecified alien species as the green-skinned, short-statured Jedi Master Yoda, one of the most iconic Star Wars characters of all time (voiced by Frank Oz). Starring Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed from the Rocky movies) and, in a bit of a casting coup, the German director Werner Herzog, The Mandalorian is set between Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Force Awakens (2015). It follows the adventures of the titular bounty-hunter (Pascal) at the outer reaches of the galaxy.

Another promising new show on Hotstar’s roster now is the series Diary of a Future President. Created by Ilana Peña, based on incidents from her life, the show follows a 12-year-old Cuban-American girl called Elena Cañero-Reed through her diary entries, as she negotiates life in high school. These bits are interspersed with the grown-up Elena’s (Gina Rodriguez from Jane the Virgin) presidential campaign.

General interest

The World According to Jeff Goldblum is an unconventional new documentary series, where the charismatic, quirky host (whom we know from films such as Jurassic Park and the more recent Thor: Ragnarok) takes a deep dive into one topic every episode. Talking to experts and industry leaders in the field, he educates himself and his viewers. The first season (2019) covered such disparate topics as sneakers, ice cream, jewellery and video games. Goldblum deliberately did not research these topics, apparently in order to preserve the improvisational aspect of his performance.

Dr Oakley, Yukon Vet is another very likeable documentary series, following the titular Canadian veterinarian as she treats animals and birds of all shapes and sizes.

If you liked James Herriot and Gerald Durrell growing up, chances are you’ll instantly fall in love with the series.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted (2019) is a six-part National Geographic series following the famously mealy-mouthed celebrity chef as he travels across Peru, New Zealand, Morocco and other lands, sampling their local cuisines.

Clearly, there is a bit of everything — from food to fun. Just no cricket.

Published on April 08, 2020

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