Airk and Elora sit under a tree in Willow.

There Are Some Huge Losses in This Disney+ and Hulu Originals Purge

Update 5/19/23: After massive backlash, Deadline is reporting that the documentary Howard will remain on Disney+ and that the full list of titles set for removal is “still being finalized.

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Cancellations of popular series and planned original movies on streaming services have been steadily rising since 2022. From 1899 to Batgirl to Paper Girls to Mighty Ducks: Game Changes, even popular shows just barely past their first season and highly anticipated films in post-production were hit by cancellation sprees. However, many streamers are now entering the next stage of their cost-cutting measures, and this includes purging original content from their libraries. This means some shows aren’t just going without a renewal or proper conclusion, but their past seasons and entire presence is disappearing from platforms.

Disney is the latest to enact a purge of its streaming content libraries, following in the footsteps of HBO Max, AMC, and Showtime. Back in February, HBO Max instigated a large purge of its content library and removed shows like The Gordita Chronicles, Westworld, Minx, Raised By Wolves, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Nevers. Most of those shows’ cancellations were relatively recent, but after canceling popular series, these streamers are waiting little more than a few months before purging every trace of the show from their platform.

Disney’s purge is expected to be complete by May 26 and will see dozens of original series and movies disappear from both Disney+ and Hulu.

The big losses in Disney’s content library purge

John Stamos as Marvyn Korn in Big Shot

As reported by Deadline, Disney’s move to begin reducing its content library was announced on May 10, during the company’s earnings call. CFO Christine McCarthy stated, “We are in the process of reviewing the content on our DTC services to align with the strategic changes in our approach to content curation.” The specific content being affected by the move has been released, and it includes an extensive list of original movies and recently canceled original TV series from both Disney+ and Hulu. Some notable series being removed are Turner & Hooch, Willow, The Might Ducks: Game Changers, Diary of a Future President, Y: The Last Man, Dollface, and Big Shot. Several of the original films being removed include The One and Only Ivan, Stargirl, Better Nate Than Ever, and Darby and the Dead.

The removal of newer projects like Willow and Darby and the Dead is especially painful because they enjoyed a home on the platform for just six months after their debut before being cut. Six months is not enough time to reach their maximum audience. While shows in the past could live forever in the form of DVD boxes, many of these originals’ sole home was Disney+. This means they’ll be virtually wiped out from existence after less than a year of being accessible. Casts and crews of the projects that were hit are already expressing devastation over their hard work and creativity being erased.

Meanwhile, many are also pointing out that the reason for these cancellations is so that Disney can avoid paying out residuals to actors and writers. Residuals are calculated differently for streaming services and have resulted in significantly less earnings than workers would typically earn on broadcast content. However, these streamers have now found a way to further avoid paying residuals by simply removing content from their platforms altogether. Willow writer John Bickerstaff pointed out that removing these shows won’t result in tax write-off opportunities since they’ve already been released. Hence, the only motive these streamers have to remove this content seems to be to avoid paying residuals.

Streamers have no obligation to provide a home for a show for any set amount of time. It’s expected that as shows age, many of them will eventually be removed to make way for new content. However, removing a brand new series after six months is outrageous and devastating to workers who were counting on receiving residuals and being able to share their work with countless audiences. Now, all they can do is hope another streamer picks them up to avoid their contributions to the industry being entirely erased.

(via Deadline, featured image: Disney+)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.