Last week brought the surprise news from The Walt Disney Company that Turning Red, the new film from Pixar Animation Studios, would be skipping movie theaters all-together and would instead debut on Disney+. Turning Red‘s move to the streaming service marks the third film in a row from Pixar that will be released on the platform at no additional charge to subscribers, and staff at the studio are reportedly upset about it. A new report from Insider quotes several unnamed Pixar staff members, one of whom said the news has left them “feeling extremely disappointed” and another saying that the change was a “shock.”
“It’s safe to say that we’re all feeling extremely disappointed,” Insider quotes the staffer as saying, adding that “everyone at the studio was so excited about it being this film in particular” that would put them back in theaters. Not everyone agrees however noting that the rise in COVID-19 infections as a reason to move the films to Disney+ made sense. “I haven’t heard anyone say the decision to pivot to streaming is wrong,” the source said. To that end, they’re right, another source told the outlet that the arrival of regular Pixar movies on Disney+ has been “huge” for the service in gaining and keeping subscribers.
Prior to Turning Red‘s debut on Disney+ the Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature, Soul, was released on the platform on Christmas of 2020. Following that their most recent movie Luca arrived in the summer of 2021 on Disney+.
To put things in perspective, Disney shifting new Pixar movies to their streaming platform instead of movie theaters does fit into their plan of having shorter theatrical windows on their four-quadrant animated movies as a whole. During an Investor Relations call back in November Disney CEO Bob Chapek said as much himself, noting that while Disney was releasing movies they had faith in to “prime the pump” for theatrical exhibition they still had plans to bring family films to Disney+ quicker.
“We’re sticking with our plan of flexibility, because we’re still unsure in terms of how the marketplace is going to react when family films come back with a theatrical first window,” Chapek said last year. “You’ll notice that the films that we are putting into the marketplace, in theatrical, that are family films, have a fairly short window, at least in terms of any reference point to what history might have been. And we’re doing that so that we can get our films quicker to Disney+ and — but at the same time see if the theatrical market can kick back into full gear as we prime the pump with these films.”
Considering the larger box office receipts that Pixar movies have brought in in years past this shift in strategy by Disney should make it crystal clear that their main priority moving forward is their streaming platform, something that they’ve said outright previously.
This is all to say that while Pixar staffers seem divided on the prospect of their movies not being seen in theaters, it’s something that Disney seems keen to continue for the sake of retaining family engagement on their streaming platform.
Directed by Academy Award winner Domee Shi (Pixar short Bao) and produced by Lindsey Collins, Turning Red arrives on Disney+ on March 11.