This one is soul crushing.
In a surprising turnaround, Walt Disney Studios has decided to move Pixar’s Soul to its subscription service Disney Plus, deciding to forego a theatrical release altogether. (The animated feature will release theatrically in global markets that don’t have access to Disney Plus, with a release date to be determined.)
Adding to the surprise, Disney Plus will not require subscribers to pay a premium $30 fee to access Soul as it did for Mulan. Instead, the Pixar film will simply be added to the Disney Plus catalogue. A subscription costs $6.99 per month.
The shift is another major blow to theaters in a year-long series of them. Sadly, it follows the pattern of false promises made by Disney concerning its live action remake of Mulan. Similarly, the studio remained committed — both publicly and adamantly — to releasing Mulan in theaters until they decided to betray those commitments.
That betrayal is particularly acute given that Soul marked the first time a Pixar story was led by an African-American character (voiced by Jamie Foxx). For a demographic that has longed to see that level of representation in a Pixar feature — one that would’ve been particularly meaningful this year — the decision to pull it from theaters (and from full public access, no less) rather than reschedule it to 2021 has to come as a major gut-punch.
The move must also speak to how good Disney feels about the performances of Mulan, Artemis Fowl, and The One and Only Ivan on Disney Plus, three films originally planned for full theatrical runs that were shifted to the streaming platform, plus Onward once the onset of the pandemic cut its run short. Disney, however, has not reported financial or viewership data for those movies, so it remains unclear just how profitable each film has been, or how much of a loss each may have suffered.
As of now, the next animated films on Disney’s slate scheduled for theatrical release are Raya and the Last Dragon (March 12, 2021) and Pixar’s Luca (June 18, 2021).