Three of Pixar’s movies that had been released on Disney+ instead of in theaters are going to be available to watch on the big screen in 2024!
- Soul – Jan. 12
- Turning Red – Feb. 9
- Luca – March 22
Typically, Pixar films are must-sees at the theater, but Soul had been moved to the streamer because of COVID-19. It’s theatrical release date had been Christmas 2020. Theaters were open in the summer of 2021 when Luca was set to premiere but moviegoers, especially those with children, were still wary of risking a visit to the theater.
The decision to move Turning Red, however, was more complicated. Its theatrical debut was set for March 11, 2022 but it was shifted to streaming in January of that year. At the time, Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said the following:
"“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.”"
The concern was the rise of the Omicron variant but there was also a clear a lack in confidence that the film would hit the numbers Pixar was known to draw pre-pandemic. The former worry is understandable, the latter, however, is a shame because Turning Red is a triumph.
The movie follows Mei Lee, a confident but dorky young teen with a wonderful group of friends and an obsession with the popular boy band 4Town. Mei is a dutiful daughter but she’s also growing into her own person and navigating adolescence. She and her mother, Ming, are close. The issue is that as she gets older, Mei would like her mother not to be as overbearing (and at times embarrassing) as she is.
The cherry on top of this sundae is that Ming kept one important detail from her daughter. The women in their family turn into giant red pandas when they’re excited. Considering Mei is coming of age and dealing with changes in her body, her relationships, and her interests, excitement whether it be joy or nerves is par for the course as in ALL THE TIME. But transforming into a red panda has its perks and its drawbacks, it also has the added bonus of giving Mei the opportunity to understand herself and her mother better.
Turning Red is a movie for everyone, but it’s particularly for girls at a time when there isn’t a lot of media geared toward tweens and young teens. The popular teen dramas skew older and are often rated TV-MA with few exceptions. While that rating can be given because of language and not sexual content, 10-14 year olds aren’t going to be getting the coming-of-age storytelling they need and deserve from those programs.
Right now, in terms of ongoing series, there’s Heartstopper. But it’s slim pickings out here when it comes to films and shows that haven’t ended that also fit squarely in the Family & Children category for middlegraders or teens heading into high school. They’re an under-served population of media viewers. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is on its way on Dec. 20 to help fill the void but we need to continue the conversation The Baby-Sitters Club showrunner Rachel Shukert opened when the Netflix original was canceled:
"Girls are expected to go straight from Doc McStuffins to Euphoria. They’re not ready for TV about having sex, but they don’t want to be little girls. So who are they? It’s a really easy time for girls to define themselves solely by how they’re seen by other people and then you don’t get your sense of self back until you’re 35. What if you weren’t missing those 20 years?What if you always got to be yourself and see yourself represented in a real way…The Baby-Sitters Club speaks to so many girls because it meets them where they are…What we could do with The Baby-Sitters Club was make the girls as smart and interesting and mature as girls are without making it all about how other people see them. It’s about how they see themselves."
It’s a truth not often acknowledged that young children and older teens are the moneymakers for studios and those who fall into the in-between years are virtually ignored. Their programming, if it’s not on Nickelodeon or a Disney project, tends to be canceled out the gate or after a few seasons even when there’s more life to the story and a healthy base of fans. Media that interests girls and isn’t primarily focused on romance isn’t prioritized.
There’s a dearth of media, outside of the book world, for girls that centers on friendship. And you might think, well, Turning Red being released on streaming back in 2022 made it accessible to more people so it was a win anyway. But let’s be real, movies rarely pop on streaming and become phenomenons. We’re still a culture that lives for the theater experience not to mention that there’s a digital divide and just because you have Disney+ doesn’t mean everyone does.
A theatrical release for the movie in 2022 would have meant that Disney had faith in a female-led story that wasn’t hinged on a princess or a brave young woman on a quest to save the day but was instead about a cutely awkward girl going through puberty symbolized by her transforming into a giant red panda. That people would go to the theater to enjoy a film that didn’t shame interest in boy bands or the weird obsessions we develop as young teens or the desire to respect your family whilst also doing what’s right for yourself.
Now that Turning Red is headed to theaters on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, there’s a chance for more people to fall in love with the film the way that I and others did when it was first released on Disney+. There’s also something to be said about the entertainment year we’ve had in 2023 with the box office smash that was Barbie and Taylor Swift and Beyoncé taking over the music scene with their record breaking concerts and then, of course, their films.
To me, the release of this Pixar movie in theaters come the new year is an extension of that and hopefully, if it’s successful at the box office, the catalyst for more media like it. Deadline reports the film along with Soul and Luca will have moderate to wide theatrical runs so we’ll have to wait and see how limited their windows will be. All three movies will continue to stream on Disney+ while they’re available to watch on the big screen.
If you haven’t seen Turning Red, I encourage you to see it in theaters when it comes out. It’s a delightful film with great messages for kids and it’s a super fun watch. Stay tuned to Hidden Remote for more Disney news and coverage.