Disney+ Has a New Look—Which Is No Look at All

Are you one of those people who arranges your apps by color? Do you keep folders? Or are you, like me, a moron who just keeps a loose memory of what color any particular app is and swipes and scrolls until their eyes catch a familiar glimpse? If you are the latter, finding Disney+—and Hulu—might be getting a little harder.

This week, Disney rolled out Hulu on Disney+ in the US. Ostensibly part of company CEO Bob Iger’s promise of a “one-app experience,” the launch basically just means that if you have one of the Disney “bundles” you can now watch Hulu stuff while you’re in Disney+. OK, cool. Along with the change, though, Disney+ got a new logo, one awash in what it is calling “aurora,” a swampy blue-green hue that looks like what would happen if the eyes of Tammy Faye were imprinted on your device’s screen like it was the Shroud of Turin.

As with any minor change to their digital experience, internet people have noticed this shift. And commented. Some called it “bland,” while others called it “lifeless.” More nuanced and jugular-aiming takes went like this: “I mean, it’s Disney. Making new versions of stuff that’s worse than the original is what they do.” A hot take for a cool color.

Courtesy of Disney+

Disney’s shift here isn’t entirely insignificant. It involved modifying everything, from re-encoding Hulu’s video files to work on Disney+ to updating the metadata attached to shows and movies. The idea is that one day Disney will have “one master media library for the entire company,” Aaron LaBerge, president and CTO of Disney Entertainment and ESPN, told the Verge. It is, in other words, about making Disney+ a bigger trove of content than it already is.

This is where, metaphorically, the Disney+ color change takes on a different tone. It serves as a reminder of the flattening of the streaming experience. In the app libraries of our minds, Netflix is red, Apple TV+ is black, Hulu is green, Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video have a very similar blue hue, Peacock and Discovery+ have a rainbow-and-black thing going on. These visual signifiers indicate what kind of experience will emerge when clicked. (I don’t know about you, but I now associate perfectly zestless television with RGB 229 9 20, aka Netflix Red.)

As the streamers have consolidated or changed their identities, they’ve muddied the nonverbal cues that have set our expectations around what they offer. Had HBO kept that old black-silver-blue look from the Go days, maybe, coupled with Apple TV+, black would be the official color of prestige television. But it’s not.

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

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By asm3a