Disney+ offers peek at Mena platform before official launch

Tamim Fares, director of Disney+ Mena, offers a glimpse at press preview at Dubai Opera

'Ms Marvel', which centers around Marvel's teenage Muslim superhero, is released on Disney+ on Wednesday, coinciding with the platform's launch in the Middle East and North Africa. Photo: Disney+ via AP
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Disney is introducing its streaming service in the Middle East with operatic pomp.

The media and entertainment conglomerate is marking the launch of Disney+ in the Mena region on Wednesday with an event at Dubai Opera. The streaming platform has launched in 65 global markets to date and is being released in more than a dozen countries in the region, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine and Oman.

Disney offered a glimpse at what the occasion holds in store in a press preview on Tuesday. The event featured live performances of Disney classics by DCappella and Disney Princess The Concert as they belted out familiar songs including the Cantina theme song from Star Wars: A New Hope sung in a cappella as well as the Frozen hit Let It Go. Dubai's DJ Kaboo, who was among the Egyptian musicians featured on the soundtrack of Marvel's mind-bending series Moon Knight, also performed a setlist before the main event.

But while the official launch on Wednesday will dial up the festivities, the press preview event was aimed at introducing Disney+ to regional media and hinted at how the company is hoping to expand in the region through its streaming platform.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for our company,” Tamim Fares, head of Disney Plus in the Mena region said during the press event. “Although Disney+ is global, we know that every market is unique. This was taken into careful consideration when we decided to bring Disney+ to our region. We're a team in the Mena region for the Mena region, and a local team of over 100 people.

“While the stories might be the same, we spent a lot of time localising the experience. This is to ensure that each interaction with Disney+ feels relevant to you and to every user across the Mena region.”

User experience

Presenting the Disney+ home screen on the cinema-wide display at the Dubai Opera, Fares pointed out that the Disney team spent significant time honing the platform’s user-accessibility and the parental control settings.

The goal was to make something sleek, streamlined and familiar.

“We set out with the goal of building a compelling consumer experience that is easy to navigate, highly personalised, and most importantly, puts the world's greatest content first,” Fares said. "We know the parental control features are very important for parents all over the world, especially those in our region.

Ewan McGregor in a scene from 'Obi-Wan Kenobi'. The series will be available to watch in the region on Disney+, along with other Star Wars titles. Photo: Disney+ via AP

Parents will be able to set up special profiles for their children, setting access limits based on five content age ratings. When a user opens Disney+ for the first time, they’ll be prompted to go through the parental control setup.

“They'll be asked if they want to set the content age ratings to 18 plus, which will allow them to see the full content catalogue,” Fares said.

Users will be able to create seven member profiles on up to 10 devices under one account. The app will be available to access on most smart TVs and computers, as well as iOS and Android smartphones.

“With your account, you can have unlimited download and personalised recommendations,” Fares said. “And importantly, no added fees and no advertisements. Users will be able to browse from the platform before they subscribe, giving them an insight so all the Disney plus has to offer.”

Incorporating Arabic

Fares said the streaming platform is working to incorporate Arabic subtitles and dubbing to all major content, a task, he said, that takes time “to do right”.

“Our ultimate goal is to have all series on Disney+ available in Arabic,” he said. “Our team is hard at work to make that happen. In the meantime, Disney+ will launch tomorrow with all content available in English and most available with subtitles in Arabic. The latest titles and the majority of fan favourites will also be dubbed in modern standard Arabic and in Egyptian Arabic."

What's on Disney+?

With 1,200 films, more than 1,000 TV shows and 100 exclusive originals, the confirmed library of content on launch is staggering, and includes titles from Disney, Marvel, National Geographic, Star Wars and more.

The Mohamed Diab-directed Marvel series 'Moon Knight' will also become available in the region with the launch of the Disney+ streaming app. Photo: Marvel Studios

“With Disney and Pixar, we're bringing you special entertainment with hearts,” Fares said. “Star Wars promises a galaxy with epic adventures, self-discovery and the power of hope. Marvel content brings epic storytelling with a human spirit. National Geographic brings you closer to the world, whereas [the] Star [content hub] offers a whole new world of general entertainment film and series.”

Superhero fans will have access to Marvel's acclaimed TV shows including Moon Knight, as well as all the titles from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The highly-anticipated Ms. Marvel will be also released on Disney+ globally on Wednesday, coinciding with the launch of Disney+ in the region.

Star Wars fans can now officially enjoy hit spin-off shows including The Book of Boba Fett, both seasons of The Mandalorian and the latest series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, starring Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen.

Of course, all the hit Disney and Pixar films will be included – from the Oscar-winning Soul to Luca and Encanto, as well as the massive hit Cruella starring Emma Stone as the legendary Cruella de Vil – as well as classic titles Cinderella, Aladdin, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.

Other popular shows include The Simpsons, Grey’s Anatomy and The Walking Dead, as well as films such as Avatar and the action-packed comedy Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds.

The line-up also includes National Geographic content, with titles such The Rescue, Free Solo, The World According To Jeff Goldblum and Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted.

“On top of this will also be new and exclusive original titles from Latin America, India, and Korea,” Fares said. “While we don’t have any local productions from the Mena region yet, we’ll be looking to announce some in due course."

How much does Disney+ cost?

Before its arrival in the Mena region, Disney+ launched an introductory offer of Dh239 ($65) for an annual subscription against its original price of Dh298.99, meaning a 12-month offer for the price of eight. The offer will be available as a discount code until Tuesday. The code must be redeemed by June 19.

The service is also available for a monthly fee of Dh29.99.

Updated: June 08, 2022, 8:14 AM