For the first time since its inception nearly four years ago, Disney+ is finally releasing three of its original series on physical media. Announced on August 21st, and on sale as of August 28th, the streamer now has steel book-packaged home video releases planned for the Star Wars show The Mandalorian (for Season 1 (2019) and Season 2 (2020,) and two entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Loki Season 1 (2021) and WandaVision (2021).
There’s no denying it – this is fantastic news.
It’s also news I never thought we’d be lucky enough to get.
We’re currently in an era where both the writers (Writers Guild of America) and actors (SAG-AFTRA) of Hollywood are currently on strike, fighting for improvements in wages and working conditions, protection against the advancing threat of artificial intelligence in the entertainment industry, and more. Beyond that, some original movies and shows debuted on streaming series that seem to disappearing at a rate that feels almost weekly at this point. Therefore, the fact that Disney has decided to release three of their marquee shows as physical media (in both 4K UHD and Blu-ray disk formats) is worth paying attention to.
And don’t get me wrong – I know this company isn’t doing this “out of the kindness of their heart” (to quote Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3). Speaking purely from the perspective of a Marvel fan, and not someone with any actual insider or expert knowledge, this long-overdue decision by Disney is quite obviously about the money (isn’t everything?). I strongly suspect this strategy to start making their original Disney+ content available in disk format very much has to do with the growing awareness that the streaming bubble has burst, and corporations now seeking different revenue streams for their pre-existing content.
Simply put, these two-plus-year-old shows on Disney+ have fans, millions of them, and those fans have dollars that they might just be willing to spend so that they can own their favorite projects in a fancy steel bookcase. We see you, Disney. We see what you’re doing.
And guess what? It’s working.
Justified corporate cynicism aside, though, this decision is still a monumental one, and one that I couldn’t be more excited about, seeing as I adore physical media. When I moved out of my parent’s house, a main priority was sorting through my family’s 20-plus year DVD and Blu-ray collection and picking out which movies would make the move to my new apartment. I’ll never forget how excited I was to snag a complete season of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother on a DVD box set for a mere 25 cents at a garage sale many summers ago. And just last year, I rented a historical romance, Mr. Malcolm’s List to view on YouTube, and ended up enjoying it so much that I then proceeded to order the Blu-ray shortly after, just to guarantee that I’d always have access to it.
So yeah, I was definitely amongst the fans who woke up early on August 28th and waded through numerous online retailers to secure my steel books for both Loki and WandaVision (I even ended up having to ship my copy of WandaVision to a friend in a different country, before it’ll then make its way to my doorstep, all in the name of acquiring the particular format I wanted!). [I’m also definitely still paying my annual Disney+ subscription, and I know I’ll continue to do so as long as the MCU as an entity continues to exist.] To me, buying physical media is how I as a fan can speak with my money to support the projects I care the most about.
Going forward, as a Marvel fan (I can’t speak for Star Wars), I’d love to see them continue to be strategic with their physical media releases. (I’d also just love to see them continue with their physical media releases, period.)
As a teaser for whenever Sam Wilson’s solo film finally hits theatres — Captain America: Brave New World is currently slated for a July 26th, 2024 release, but that date is subject to change as a result of the ongoing strikes — how about they start the movie’s promotional train by letting fans purchase the complete six-episode run of Sam’s starring turn in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)?
Assuming Thunderbolts stays on its December 20th, 2024 release date, why not plan to sell steelbooks of 2021’s Hawkeye series around the same time? Hawkeye was not only a Christmas show in its own right but also featured the most recent past appearance of the presumed star of Thunderbolts herself, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), so it’d make perfect sense to aim for a late 2024 entrance into the home video market for that show.
Maybe even when The Marvels hits home video sometime in the new year (as would be expected for its November 10th, 2023 theatrical premiere), perhaps Disney could offer a combo deal, where collectors could have the option of purchasing the new movie alongside a hard copy of the first season of Kamala Khan’s solo series, 2022’s Ms. Marvel?
I don’t know what Disney’s plans are, if any, for the bevy of other Disney+ streaming series from Marvel and Star Wars (among projects from other franchises and studios), but I do know that this decision to re-embrace physical media feels like a step backward, to the way things used to be, before the era of streaming – which, to me, is a step in the right direction.
The Mandalorian Seasons 1 and 2, Loki Season 1, and WandaVision are all available for pre-order in 4K UHD and Blu-ray formats from online media retailers. These series are also currently streaming on Disney+.