IndieWire has learned from sources that Walt Disney Pictures today informed exhibitors that “Turning Red,” their latest animated Pixar release, is moving off its March 11 theatrical release date to play on Disney+ on the same date, with non-premium access free for subscribers. Disney has confirmed the news.
“Disney+ subscribers around the world enthusiastically embraced Pixar’s Academy Award-winning ‘Soul’ and the critically-acclaimed “Luca” when they premiered exclusively on the service and we look forward to bringing them Pixar’s next incredible feature film ‘Turning Red,’” said Kareem Daniel, Chairman, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. “Given the delayed box office recovery, particularly for family films, flexibility remains at the core of our distribution decisions as we prioritize delivering the unparalleled content of The Walt Disney Company to audiences around the world.”
This comes as the current Omicron surge seems to be cutting into what little box office there is. Smash success “Spider-Man: No Way Home” fell in half its grosses from Monday to Thursday, an unusual trend when weekday grosses are otherwise normally stable.
While the release date for “Turning Red” is still two months away, it remains uncertain how long it will take for normal grosses to return amid Covid spikes. The “Turning Red” release falls a week after “The Batman,” from Warner Bros., is expected to be the next huge grosser after current Marvel/Sony smash “No Way Home.”
“Turning Red” joins the trend of past Disney/Pixar films such as “Onward,” which opened March 6, 2020, at the onset of the pandemic before being shuttled to Disney+ for no extra charge for subscribers on April 3. On December 25 of 2020, “Soul” was released globally to all Disney+ subscribers (unlike the year’s earlier “Mulan,” which skipped theaters and carried a $29.99 premium access pricetag when released in August 2020.)
Disney also scrapped the theatrical release of Pixar film “Luca,” which went straight to Disney+ for non-premium access on June 18 (though it did play a one-week engagement at Hollywood’s El Capitan at the time).
Back in April of last year, Pixar staffers were up in arms over Disney’s decision to move their films straight to Disney+. Several Pixar sources said Docter was not happy with Disney’s decision to move “Soul” onto Disney+ exclusively, although any fears about the transition were quelled by the movie performing well on streaming. One Pixar staffer, according to reports, said Disney “was over the moon about the numbers,” but other staffers expressed concern on Pixar success no longer being quantified by box office grosses. As a worker put it, “If these movies aren’t having $1 billion runs, does that hurt the company? You wonder that.”
“Turning Red” is directed by Domee Shi, and features the voices Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, and James Hong. It’s the first Pixar film to be solely directed by a woman. It’s centered on a 13-year-old girl who turns into a giant red panda whenever she’s stressed out.