The fluidity between the streaming services means that Disney can pluck titles from one and drop it onto the other. Hulu announced on Monday that Disney’s Love, Simon spinoff series (based on the film that it acquired when Disney purchased 21st Century Fox) would move from Disney Plus where it was intended to stream to Hulu. Sources told Variety that the reason for the movie was because Disney didn’t think a show that contained “alcohol use and sexual exploration” would be appropriate for its family friendly Disney Plus service. The reaction to Disney’s supposed explanation didn’t go over well.
The spinoff, Love, Victor follows a new student on a “journey of self-discovery, facing challenges at home, adjusting to a new city, and struggling with his sexual orientation,” according to a synopsis. It’s unclear just how sexually suggestive the show is, or how much drinking is involved, but Love, Victor would hardly be the first show on Disney Plus to feature LGBTQ+ characters. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series stars two openly gay characters, Carlos and Seb.
Not to mention that just last month, Disney sent out a press release stating that the 1984 film Splash would stream on Disney Plus. Splash starred Tom Hanks, Darryl Hannah, and Eugene Levy, and insinuates an off-screen sexual relationship between a man and a mermaid. Splash was so out left park for Disney, that it became the first film released under an entirely different studio arm — Touchstone Pictures. Ron Miller, Walt Disney’s son-in-law and former president of the company, wanted to make more live-action movies with adult characters, and launched Touchstone as a result. Splash was the first release, and it became a hit for House of Mouse.
Why is Splash streaming on Disney Plus, and not Hulu? Technically, the film is rated PG — Splash was released in March 1984, and the PG-13 rating didn’t exist until July 1984. Anything rated G, PG, and PG-13 can exist on Disney Plus. More adult entertainment, like an R-rating for example, goes to Hulu. When Disney eventually gets the streaming rights to its X-Men franchise, titles like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dark Phoenix can land on Disney Plus, but superhero movies like Deadpool are on Hulu. Arguably, both X-Men movies are more violent, and deal with more adult premises, than a Love, Simon spinoff.
“I’d just love to know the thought process behind putting everything on the one service when Disney has essentially two streaming options to use,” Josh Spiegel, a critic and Disney expert, noted at the time. “And why some arguably inappropriate content is OK for Disney Plus, but not other content.”
Perhaps the biggest confusion people have over the Disney Plus and Hulu divide is a main staple of Disney Plus’ offering: The Simpsons. Out of all the shows Disney Plus offers to its subscribers, The Simpsons is arguably the least family friendly. It’s tamer than other adult animation being released today, but many of The Simpsons jokes are based around Homer’s alcoholism.
Parents on Common Sense Media have written about the slapstick humor being borderline content for their kids, argued episodes have mildly sexually suggestive content, and the language might not be appropriate for anyone under 10. Again, while many of these concerns have lessened over time (remember the ‘90s panic over The Simpsons?), The Simpsons is the exact type of show that seems built for Hulu, not Disney Plus.
The Simpsons is the only “comfort food” that Disney Plus has to offer subscribers right now, though. The Simpsons is Disney’s version of The Office or Friends; it’s what keeps people streaming and subscribing even after they’ve watched The Mandalorian. Kevin Mayer, Disney’s head of direct-to-consumer products including Hulu and Disney Plus, noted at a conference in November that Disney Plus had multiple “adult entry points,” like The Simpsons. He added that having the bundle — Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN+ — was an attempt to stop people drifting from the monthly subscription.
Why, then, couldn’t a Love, Simon spinoff series exist on Disney Plus? It was originally developed with Disney Plus in mind when the company announced the show back in April 2019. That means it’s probably within the PG-13 guidelines, and therefore more similar to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series than Hulu’s raunchier shows based around teen characters, like PEN15.
There’s always a chance that Disney is trying to bring more exclusive titles over to Hulu — the company is launching its “FX on Hulu” hub in just a couple of weeks. But as Variety reporter and critic Adam B. Vary said on Twitter, the move might make “sense from a branding POV, but there are many families with same-sex parents and families with queer kids who would love to see themselves in a Disney Plus show.”
“I really would love to listen in on the conversations being had in Burbank about which shows/films are Disney+-focused vs. Hulu,” Spiegel tweeted yesterday. “Seems like they’re still not quite sure themselves. At some point, too, there needs to be a discussion about the line being drawn by Disney in terms of their overall content and its appropriateness for Disney+ vs. Hulu. Because Disney+ has a broad, G to PG-13-rated amount of content available now.
“Where/why do they draw a line?”