At the start of their decade-long career, fans of Korean group BTS couldn’t just switch on a Western streaming service like Disney Plus and stream concerts or behind-the-scenes documentaries featuring their favorite musical artists. Not only did Disney Plus not exist in 2013, but the Bangtan Boys didn’t have the resources that allowed them easy industry exposure in Korea, let alone on the other side of the planet, in the world’s biggest music market. Back then, BTS was an underdog group coming out of Big Hit Entertainment, a small music company rather than one of Korea’s “Big Three” music corporations (JYP, SM, and YG) that got most of the mainstream exposure. Because of this, much of BTS’s early fan interaction — especially internationally — came via their own YouTube channel, where they connected with fans via vlogs even before their official “debut” as a group.
Today, BTS is the biggest band in the world — even as they take a break from group activities to focus on solo music and complete their mandatory military service. And their small music company, Big Hit Entertainment, has grown into a global media corporation called HYBE. They still release much of their content via YouTube (their global popularity also allowed HYBE to launch an entire web platform called Weverse), but have made the occasional distribution deal with other platforms. The biggest of these deals is with Disney Plus, which launched at the end of 2019 and is currently available in 60 countries around the world.
Last July, HYBE announced a collaboration deal with Disney that would see “five major content titles” from the Korean music company get distribution on the global streaming platform. Less than a year later, Disney Plus has released four of the five planned BTS-centric titles. Whether you’re a BTS fan who has yet to dive fully into BTS’ story or simply a Disney Plus subscriber who is curious about the band that has taken over the world, here is a guide to what you can learn about the K-pop superstars on the streaming platform.
BTS: Permission to Dance on Stage — LA
Recommended for: Every BTS fan.
Since their debut, BTS has been known within the K-pop industry for their creative, energetic, and meticulously executed live performances. BTS Permission to Dance on Stage LA gives viewers at home a taste of the experience of seeing one of those performances in person. The concert movie, directed by Sam Wrench and Jun-Soo Park, was filmed at SoFi Stadium in late November 2022, at the group’s first in-person concert series in over two years.
The Permission to Dance on Stage tour, named after a 2021 track, would run for 11 nights across Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium, Seoul’s Jamsil Olympic Stadium, and Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. With more than 200 songs in their discography, the band had many choices as to which tracks and stages would be featured in the show. Notably, for “PTD on Stage,” BTS prioritized songs that included all seven members rather than interspersing the setlist with solo tracks that would allow the other members to rest. The result is more than two hours of some of the world’s top performers tirelessly doing what they do best.
In the Soop: Friendcation
Recommended for: BTS fans looking for a chill afternoon, or who want to pretend they are on vacation in the Korean countryside.
In the Soop, which translates fully to “In the Forest,” is a reality series that sees the members of BTS escape to the Korean countryside to enjoy a period of rest and relaxation. (In 2021, it was the eighth most tweeted about show globally.) The original incarnation of the show gave us two seasons, released in 2020 and 2021 respectively, featuring all seven members. In the Soop: Friendcation is a spinoff that follows BTS member V as he goes on a bro-trip with four of his famous friends: actors Park Seo-joon (the upcoming MCU film The Marvels, Itaewon Class), Choi Woo-shik (Train to Busan, Parasite), and Park Hyung-sik (The Heirs), as well as rapper Peakboy.
The famous friendship group formed during the production of 2016 K-drama Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth, and even has its own name. The friends go by “Wooga Squad,” which is short for the phrase “Are we family?” in Korean. In Friendcation, they go on a four-day trip to Goseong, where they eat steamed buns, go fishing on the ocean, sing karaoke, and watch the latest episode of Choi’s Our Beloved Summer together. It’s the least plot-driven of the Disney Plus offerings, but that’s kind of the point. The four episodes are the perfect watch for a slow, rainy weekend.
J-Hope in the Box
Recommended for: BTS fans who are interested in what goes into creating a BTS-level performance.
At one point in J-Hope in the Box, BTS’ rapper and dancer J-Hope remarks to the camera that he devoted the entirety of his 20s to BTS. It’s not a comment made with regret or nostalgia. It simply is. When the members of BTS announced to the world they would be taking a break from group activities in order to rest, undertake mandatory military service, and pursue solo projects, it was framed as necessary for the long-term sustainability of the world’s biggest band. They wanted the chance to grow, experiment, and mature outside of the immediate context of BTS.
When Jack in the Box, J-Hope’s first solo album, released in July 2022, he did just that in brave and surprising ways. He continues to do it with J-Hope in the Box, which allows the artist to be the sole main character in the film’s story to a degree that wasn’t really possible during BTS’ first chapter. (It’s fascinating to see the other members appear as supporting characters — as J-Hope’s dear friends and his oldest work colleagues — in J-Hope’s story.) This 85-minute film gives a rare depth of access into J-Hope’s work process and family life; explores the immense preparation that went into preparing for Jack in the Box and Lollapalooza; and successfully recreates the energy of being at his historic headlining performance in Chicago.
SUGA: Road to D-Day
Recommended for: BTS fans who are curious about what goes into BTS’ music-writing process.
If you’ve paid attention to the “hiatus” work of BTS member Suga, then you may have noticed how much of it is about searching for advice on how to sustain a career as an artist across a lifetime. It has been 10 years since the 30-year-old musician, producer, and performer debuted in BTS and, as he looks beyond his upcoming solo world tour and his subsequent mandatory military service, he seemingly has every intention of dedicating his life to making music.
In Road to D-Day — a feature-length documentary about the writing of Suga’s most recent album, D-Day — we get a peek into why the rapper and producer does what he does, how he struggles with it, and who he is inspired by. In one of the doc’s most moving scenes, Suga travels to Japan to meet one of his musical heroes: Ryuichi Sakamoto, the Oscar-winning Japanese composer who passed away in April. (The two collaborated on a track called “Snooze” for D-Day.) While the entire documentary is fascinating, I won’t be forgetting about this moment — which sees two generations of world-changing musicians meet and appreciate music together — anytime soon.
BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star (Upcoming)
Recommended for: BTS fans who want to relive the story of the group’s rise to global superstardom.
Not yet released, BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star is a docu-series that will tell the story of BTS, with “unprecedented access to a vast library of music and footage over the past nine years.” While BTS’ story has been chronicled in many places, there has yet to be an official attempt from Big Hit Entertainment/HYBE to create a docu-series that tells the story of their career. This could be it. With BTS set to turn 10 in June 2023, this summer would be a perfect time to start releasing this chronicle of their story so far…