However, despite Disney’s apparent plan at the moment to proceed with a theatrical release, it’s important to keep in mind that anything can happen this year. Remember, Disney shifted the U.S. movie release date of Mulan more times than we can remember, before ultimately scrapping the whole theatrical debut and making it available to U.S. Disney+ subscribers for an additional “Premier Access” fee.
The company almost certainly has multiple release plans at the moment for Soul because of the fluid pandemic situation. Currently, some U.S. pandemic projections indicate a sharp rise in infections and deaths around November, which could complicate plans for fall theatrical rollouts.
And it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see another animated film go straight to VOD. Since the start of the pandemic, every major U.S. animated release has either gone VOD (Trolls World Tour, Scoob!) or cancelled its 2020 release (Minions: The Rise Of Gru, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run).
The Disney Company’s hands are tied in terms of how far they can push back the release date for Soul. The film has to come out sometime by February 28, 2021, the Academy’s deadline for this year’s Oscars race, because the Pete Docter-directed film is Disney’s only serious contender for year-end awards. Pixar’s other film Onward was a creative dud, while Walt Disney Animation Studios doesn’t have any films scheduled for release this year. With Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon scheduled for March 12, 2021, Disney will likely want to keep Soul as close as possible to its current November release date, whether it be theatrical or Disney+.