The Walt Disney Company is course-correcting and giving theatrical releases to three Pixar films that had originally debuted on streaming.
The studio announced today that moviegoers can now experience these Pixar films “the way they were meant to be seen.” The films will be released as limited special engagements on different dates in early 2024.
The films – Soul, Luca, and Turning Red – were released direct to streaming between 2020 and 2022 on Disney+. Soul’s streaming release was out of necessity due to theater closures during the height of the pandemic, but the other two films were designated for streaming debuts as part of a questionable strategy by former Disney CEO Bob Chapek to prioritize “feeding that [Disney+] machine” over theatrical releases.
Chapek’s strategy, however, backfired spectacularly, especially as Disney continued to release its own Disney Animation Studios films to theaters. Some Pixar employees felt that Disney had devalued the Pixar brand and created a tiered system that prioritized some of the company’s animated films over others. The fact that all three of the Pixar films were boldly original concepts, with Pete Docter’s Soul even winning two Oscars, only added insult to injury.
A few Pixar employees voiced their discontent anonymously to the media, but the collective frustrations of the workers were expressed most boldly by Docter, the studio’s chief creative officer, who blamed the misguided Disney+ strategy in a recent interview. “There has been an overall shift in viewing habits as a result of the pandemic, but it’s also specific to Disney+,” Docter told the New York Times. “We’ve told people, ‘Hey, all of this is going to be available to you on Disney+!’”
Disney’s decision to release these films early next year signals an attempt by the company to repair the prestige of the Pixar brand ahead of releasing the high-profile sequel Inside Out 2. Further, Disney is taking advantage of a lull in the theatrical calendar. Currently, the majors have slated just one animated film – Kung Fu Panda 4 – to release theatrically in the first four months of next year, creating an opportunity for more family-friendly releases during this dry stretch.
Below is the release schedule of the three features, as well as the short films that will play in front of each:
- January 12, 2024: Soul, plus the short Burrow
- February 9, 2024: Turning Red, plus the short Kitbull
- March 22, 2024: Luca, plus the short For the Birds