Yet ANOTHER Pixar Movie is Getting Released on Disney+. Why?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years ago, film studios have had to adjust to the reality of a movie-going audience spending more time at home, either based on preference or in some cases out of necessity. As more films’ release dates were coming down the pike, decisions have had to be made on how to get the movies in front of as many audience members as possible.

AMC in Disney Springs

In the beginning for many studios, that meant skipping a theatrical release and heading straight to a streaming service, either with (or in some cases without) an added fee. As movie theaters started opening up, however, the option became available for studios to do a hybrid theater and streaming release, or a third option would be to release the film in theaters à la 2019.

When it comes to Disney, we’ve seen the full smorgasbord when it comes to release strategies: straight-to-Disney+ at no extra cost to subscribers, straight-to-Disney+ via Premier Access for an additional fee of $29.99 for a limited time (before becoming available to all subscribers at a later date without a fee), and your traditional theatrical release without an accompanying streaming release.

‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ © Disney

Last year, however, we started to notice a pattern when it came to the newest releases from Pixar. While other animated films like Raya and the Last Dragon were released both in theaters as well as on Disney+ via Premier Access, the same treatment wasn’t given to Pixar’s Soul, in which the theatrical release date was originally delayed before ultimately moving solely to Disney+ on Christmas Day 2020 with no added fee — a move that Disney CEO Bob Chapek called “a treat for families to enjoy together this holiday season.”

Pixar’s ‘Soul’ ©Disney

In 2021, the pattern started to emerge. While a film like Encanto was able to open in theaters before moving to Disney+ at no added fee, the next Pixar film in the lineup, Luca, was also released straight to Disney+ with no theatrical release and at no added fee.


The third Pixar film to be released since the start of the pandemic, Turning Red, is the latest to be released straight on Disney+, bypassing a theatrical release and without any added fee via Premier Access. The film will be available to all Disney+ subscribers on March 11th, 2022.


With three back-to-back Pixar films receiving no theatrical release, we can’t help but wonder why Disney continues to send these movies in particular straight to their streaming service, all at no added cost to subscribers — a move that has yet to be made on any other Disney film thus far.

Soul ©Pixar | Disney

According to Variety, it seemed like a straight-to-streaming release for Turning Red was not the original plan. One Pixar staffer said that “Until today, we all thought ‘Turning Red’ would be our return to the big screen, and everyone at the studio was so excited about it being this film in particular. It was quite a blow.” So, why make this seemingly last-minute decision, and perhaps more importantly, why has it only been Pixar films to move straight to Disney+ at no additional cost?

Disney+ Subscriber Count

The first explanation could be the overall Disney+ subscriber count. Variety’s film and media reporter Rebecca Rubin wrote in a recent report that “Box office revenues matter, but Disney is equally concerned with sustaining and growing the number of people who pay to use Disney Plus.”

‘Eternals’ Opening Weekend

A recent earnings report indicates that overall subscriber growth at Disney+ has seemed to hit a plateau, with subscriber growth slowing in Q4 of fiscal year 2021. As of October 2nd, 2021, Disney+ had amassed a total of 118.1 million subscribersan increase of only 1% from Q3 that same year. Despite the slowing growth, Chapek believes that the company is still on pace to meet its long-term goal of reaching 230 and 260 million subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024.

Josh D’Amaro talking about Disney+ at Destination D23

One of the ways Disney may be working towards that long-term goal is by enticing more families with young children to subscribe to Disney+, and what better way to do so than by offering the newest films from Pixar at no additional cost?

Disney+ Gift Cards available for purchase in Disney World

During Disney’s Investor Day presentation in December of 2020, a little over one year following the launch of Disney+, it was shared that while Disney originally predicted families would be their largest subscriber base, more adults WITHOUT kids were subscribed than those with kids. So, Disney may simply be trying to balance out their subscriber demographics, and releasing Pixar films at no additional cost to subscribers is one of the tactics they’re using to achieve that goal.

The Omicron Variant

Another possible reason for Turning Red heading straight to Disney+ specifically in early 2022 is the rise in COVID-19 cases, in large part due to the surge of the Omicron variant. The CDC has authorized the use of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and up, but as of this writing, the vaccine has not been authorized for children younger than age 5.

©Jeff Vahle

With so many children still unvaccinated, families may be reconsidering certain indoor activities at this time, such as going to the movie theater. While films like Spider-Man: No Way Home can be released in a movie theater to massive Box Office success due in party to a target demographic that is largely vaccinated, the same may not be said for a family film like Turning Red.


Another Pixar staffer mentioned to Variety that “With omicron infections so high, I haven’t heard anyone say the decision to pivot to streaming is wrong.” Still, it begs the question: why not offer films like Soul, Luca and Turning Red via Premier Access for a limited amount of time? That would still offer families the option to watch the film from the comfort of their own home while still giving Pixar films a chance to earn a respectable revenue.


While Disney+ subscribers (particularly those with young children) are likely elated to have new releases available at no extra cost, the decision has seemed to drain morale over at Pixar. Variety shared that after Luca was moved to a straight-to-streaming release model, one staffer said, “We don’t want to be a title just on Disney Plus. These movies are crafted for the big screen. We want you to watch these movies with no distractions, no looking at your phones.”


In a recent earnings call, a question was brought up in regards to Disney’s decision at the time to revert back to exclusive theatrical releases (specifically, in the case of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as well as Eternals). In response, Chapek noted that Disney would remain flexible when it comes to its movie releases, and that they would watch very carefully to see what movies should go to theaters, versus which should go to Disney+.

Shang-Chi ©Disney/Marvel

Chapek also specifically highlighted in that call the need to watch how the market would react to family films returning to theaters, and that may lead Disney to having shorter theatrical release windows for those films. The family film that was released in theaters right after that earnings call, Encanto, was exclusively in theaters for one month before being released on Disney+ at no additional cost to subscribers.


Keep in mind that Pixar movies are not the only family films falling under the “straight-to-streaming” category. Variety has also reported last summer that Sony Picture’s latest installment of the popular family franchise Hotel Transylvania (with a proven track record of Box Office success) would skip its theatrical releases, pointing to a surge in COVID-19 and a largely unvaccinated younger population at the time as its main reasons.

© Sony Pictures

Whatever the real reason may be for Pixar’s films heading straight to Disney+, it’s certainly a pattern that we will continue to keep our eyes on in the months to come. The next Pixar film slated for release is Lightyear, the origin story of the man who would go on to inspire the Buzz Lightyear action figure from the Toy Story universe.


It will be interesting to see what Disney’s decision will be on this film’s release model — keep in mind that Lightyear is not slated to be released until the summer, when more children will likely be eligible to have received the vaccine, and it will also have the backing of a successful Pixar franchise to bring more audiences in — perhaps a larger audience of that older, largely vaccinated demographic who grew up watching the Toy Story films.


No matter what Disney decides to do moving forward with their theatrical and streaming releases, you can count on AllEars to bring you the latest news and updates. Be sure to follow along for up-to-date announcements!

Click here to watch the trail from Pixar’s Turning Red!

Have you been to the movie theater regularly in the last two years? What do you think of Disney’s flexible model for releasing new films? Let us know in the comments!

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One Reply to “Yet ANOTHER Pixar Movie is Getting Released on Disney+. Why?”

  1. I’m willing to bet that Turning Red has not done well with test audiences. Pixar’s track record has slipped over the past year and the films Soul and Luca being quite lackluster. At the very least, they don’t have the replay value for a paying customer like the Pixar films during the studio’s infancy.

    Lightyear is a much more high profile film with more box office potential, and I fully expect it to be released exclusively in theaters.