"I Was Completely Gutted." Writers Speak Out on Disney's Streaming Purge
Streaming originals are being pulled from Disney's streaming services.
Movies and TV shows bounce from streaming service to streaming service all the time. That’s the beauty of streaming original programming: no matter what, it would always be available to stream there. That is until December 2022, when HBO abruptly pulled Westworld and The Nevers from its streaming service HBO Max (as of today, simply called Max.)
That move broke the dam, and Disney followed suit just last week by removing dozens of movies and shows from its two streamers Hulu and Disney+, including fan-favorite titles like Lucasfilm’s Willow and Hulu’s Y: The Last Man.
Among the original titles planned to be erased from Disney+ was the criminally underseen book adaptation The Mysterious Benedict Society, a quirky adventure show full of puzzles and brain teasers starring Tony Hale. The show was the first staffed writing job of Taylor Chukwu, which made the loss all the more tragic. Inverse spoke to Chukwu about the show’s sudden departure from the streaming service and what it means for the future.
“I was completely gutted,” Chukwu tells Inverse. “I know I didn’t own the show but it somehow feels stolen from me.”
Still, after the HBO purge, it wasn’t a complete surprise.
“I’d read about this happening to other shows and other writers but I’d been incredibly naive and never imagined I might one day feel the same loss,” Chukwu says. “I feel powerless and I hope no other writer, director, actor, or anyone in this industry ever has to be in this position.”
The timing of this is eerie, with these cuts arriving soon after the decision of the Writers Guild of America to strike and cease all TV and movie writing services. Chukwu guesses the decision was made before the strike, but says the timing still feels like a jab.
But all hope is not lost. Soon after Westworld and The Nevers were eliminated from HBO Max, Warner Bros. Discovery announced they would be available on FAST streamers — Free, Ad-Supported Television — like Tubi or PlutoTV. It’s very likely that these titles will find a second life elsewhere. Chukwu takes this as a small consolation, but worries that “when you’re already a niche show, ads may be an unnecessary deterrent for a lot of people.”
However, it seems like this move isn’t entirely derided. Willow creator Jon Kasdan tweeted that he was in fact in favor of the move. To him, the scarcity and re-releasing possibility of the story made it more similar to the fantasy stories of yore.
But no amount of spinning can completely soften the blow for fans. Willow fans seemed dismissive of Kasdan’s take, accusing him of trying to stay on Disney’s good side. And with Disney reluctant to give physical releases to even its biggest hits (not even the sleeper horror hit Barbarian is available on Blu-ray yet), it seems unlikely that a newfound enthusiasm generated by this scarcity will convince the company to rerelease its Disney+ or Hulu originals.
Chukwu sympathizes with fans especially. “I understand what it’s like to lose a show that you care deeply for and I share in that loss,” she says. But to her, the real enemy is not the staff of these shows, but the studios at large. “I know a lot of writers hope we can either address these issues as a union or shame studios into caring more about their artists and fans,” she concludes.