Thursday 19 January 2017

Our budding superhero and DisneyLife

As a regular blogger with DisneyLife, I wanted to share some super ideas for the mini superhero in your life, as we have a budding superhero in our house and have used the subscription service a lot recently for him to enjoy adventures with his favourite caped crusaders.

Over to my hubs, aka. To Become Dad, to tell you more...

With me as his father it comes as no surprise that Ethan could recognise – and name – most superheroes by sight not long after he could say “mummy” and “daddy”. I’ve always been a big fan, particularly of Marvel, with Spider-Man being my all-time favourite.

A few years ago, Disney signed a deal with Netflix that allowed the streaming site exclusive rights to much of the Disney catalogue and, for a time, that included the Marvel universe, thanks to the $4bn (£2.5bn) purchase of the comic giant way back in 2009. Indeed, that deal still exists, after a fashion, allowing Netflix to create original shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and, more recently, Luke Cage, as well as continue to offer a much reduced selection of Marvel cartoons. But the bulk of the Disney content was removed gradually as Disney began to phase in their own streaming service known as DisneyLife.

DisneyLife, which is available on PC, Android and iOS, is a veritable treasure trove if you’re a Disney fan. From the latest films and Disney Channel shows to some really obscure classics, it is almost an embarrassment of riches.

So, it was with some relief that I discovered that Disney Life had become the new one-stop shop for all things Marvel, albeit with a few caveats…but I’ll get to those in a moment.

Upon signing in to DisneyLife you’re presented with a number of tiles for the most popular shows and characters. Naturally Marvel and a few of the key superheroes make an appearance here, allowing you to quickly get to the action.

There are dozens of Marvel cartoons on offer here covering most of the “big” names, from Hulk and the Agents of Smash to Avengers Assemble and even the relatively new Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon.

Ultimate Spider-Man makes an appearance, but the site doesn’t offer the far-better Spectacular Spider-Man, nor the classic 90s Spider-Man I used to watch as a teenager.

As I mentioned earlier, there are also some omissions when it comes to films: none of the live-action, Marvel cinematic universe films are on here, I can only assume due to the service being “family” orientated (although the presence of the Pirates of the Caribbean films challenges that assumption), nor are any of the X-Men or Spider-Man films (due to long-standing and ongoing rights issues with Fox and Sony, respectively). In fact, a quick scan of Netflix shows that Guardians of the Galaxy is the only Marvel film available on that service, and none of them show up on Amazon Prime, so it would appear as though you’re currently out of luck if you want to watch the big-screen adventures of the Avengers and co as part of a streaming service – a shame, but thankfully we own them all digitally through Google Play anyway, so they’re only ever a click away.

What DisneyLife offers over other, similar services, however, is the extras. Clicking on the Jack Sparrow character tile, for example, not only brings up the four available Pirates of the Caribbean films, it also brings up a trailer for the soon-to-be-released fifth film as well as loads of behind the scenes featurettes and content.

Not only that, but through the app the service also offers countless read-aloud books and stories: perfect for car trips or putting on something for your kids to fall asleep to.. These stories are also graded by reading ability, should your child be at the stage where they’re able to read for themselves, with ratings such as “early reader” and “preschool”. There is also a great selection of soundtracks available if you just want to listen (or sing!) along to some of the classic Disney songs from your favourite films. It’s worth pointing out that the stories and soundtracks are only available through the app and not available through the computer version of the service.

A new feature, which I’ve literally only just discovered whilst typing this review, is the ability to watch Live TV, offering the Disney Channel, Disney XD (home to the fabulous Gravity Falls) and Disney Junior. A nice surprise!

However, even with all this great content on offer, there are a couple of minor downsides and ongoing issues I personally have with DisneyLife: it doesn’t remember and therefore show which episodes of something you’ve watched so if you have a child that likes Jake and the Neverland Pirates, as our son does, unless you’ve also been paying attention you may not know which episodes he has or hasn’t seen, until they inform you ‘we’ve already watched this one, daddy’ in that irritated voice only a toddler can pull off. It also doesn’t automatically play the next episode of something once the current one has finished – something that every other streaming service manages and which is a godsend for when your child wants to watch relatively short cartoons as it means you don’t have to mess with phones, tablets or whatever else to get the next one playing every 10 minutes. I mentioned this in our last review of the service and I’m sorry to say it still hasn’t been implemented.

Nor as the odd issue whereby the service will randomly refuse to play content, possibly due to it signing you out in the background whilst you’ve been watching something, the only solution to which seems to be shutting the app down completely and reloading it. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to (it used to do it every single episode of something), but it does still happen and, more recently, a new error comes up stating something along the lines of ‘cannot obtain licence’, whatever that means. A quick reload also solves this issue, but it’s still a minor annoyance worth mentioning.

What the team behind DisneyLife has finally implemented, however, and I thank them for it, is a ‘continue watching’ reel which allows you to pick up where you left off in films or TV shows. This was lacking during our last review but has thankfully now been put in place, making it easier to continue watching Toy Story without having to skip through to find where you were.

Overall, DisneyLife is a welcome addition to our home. It hasn’t replaced Netflix as our streaming service of choice, nor will it ever do so, but it does complement it nicely, offering a great selection of content both old and new for kids of all ages.

You can read our full review of the DisneyLife monthly subscription service, but as a brief guide, here's some things that you need to know know about DisneyLife this year:

* It's more than just movies, with stories, songs and games to enjoy

* Now features Live TV for the Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior

* Download your favourites to enjoy when you go away

* Watch on your TV, desktop, tablet or mobile - it's up to you

* You can get 10% discount at the Disney Store

* Try it out for seven days for free

* Just £4.99 a month with no contract or strings attached

We are DisneyLife bloggers but all opinions are our own.


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