With all the confusion and change in the entertainment industry over the last couple of years, you’d think we’d all be used to announcements about movie delays and/or drastic changes in movie distribution. But, understandably, a lot of folks working for Disney are unhappy about the announcement that one of their upcoming movies is going to skip theaters and go right to Disney+. Specifically, the folks at Pixar are miffed over the decree that Turning Red won’t premiere on the big screen this March.
Business Insider spoke to a number of Pixar staffers under condition of anonymity about their reaction to the news, which came last Friday — only two months before Turning Red‘s release. The responses range from “extremely disappointed” to “shocked.” Arguably, both reactions and everything in between are difficult ones to condemn. As BI and others reported last June, Turning Red was slated to be the first Pixar film to be premiere in theaters for two years — since March 2020’s Onward. One staffer said, “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.”
As BI notes, in October 2020 the Oscar-winning Soul became the first Pixar film in 26 years to not release in theaters. The following June, Luca likewise went straight to Disney+. If Turning Red follows their example, it will be critically hailed, loved by home viewers, but still have fewer audiences than if the entertainment industry still looked like it did in 2019. BI says many key members of Pixar are frustrated with the situation, including CCO and Soul director Pete Docter.
It’s clear, however, that when it comes to Pixar staff there’s a difference between being disappointed in the decision to move Turning Red to Disney+, and not understanding it. One staffer told BI that, in spite of all the disappointment at Pixar, they hadn’t “heard anyone say the decision to pivot to streaming is wrong.” Likewise, another staffer said about the move, “Sucks, but I get it.” BI cites the new surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant for the move to streaming. This is particularly significant for a family film like Turning Red, since COVID is now causing more hospitalizations of children than ever.
Turning Red is about the 13-year-old Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang) who, along with dealing with the already turbulent time of adolescence, must also contend with the bizarre and — what’s sure to be — hilarious complication that every time she gets too excited, she transforms into a giant red panda. The film is set in the early aughts, in Toronto. Sandra Oh (Killing Eve) voices Mei’s overprotective mother Ming, Ava Morse (Surprise Me!) voices her friend Miriam, while Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Never Have I Ever) voices Mei’s more deadpan buddy Priya. Other voice talent includes Orion Lee (The Last Jedi) as Mei’s father Jin, Wai Ching Ho (Daredevil) as Mei’s grandmother, and Addie Chandler (American Horror Story) as Mei’s crush Devon. Turning Red is the feature film directorial debut of Domee Shi, from a script written by Shi and Julia Cho (Fringe). Turning Red will stream on Disney+ on Friday, March 11.