Pixar's Turning Red Will Now Be Released Directly On Disney+

It's beginning to feel a lot like early 2020 again, with the announcement that Disney and Pixar's next feature, "Turning Red," will now premiere exclusively on Disney+ in the United States. The news broke today in a statement from Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, and like the Academy Award-winning "Soul" and critically-acclaimed "Luca" that came before it, the anticipated theatrical run for "Turning Red" has pivoted directly to streaming. Unlike the Disney+ Premier Access films like "Black Widow," "Mulan," or "Cruella," the animated feature will be available to audiences for no additional fee outside of their existing Disney+ subscription. In international markets where Disney+ is not yet available, the film will be released theatrically, with premiere dates to be announced.

"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," said Kareem Daniel, Chairman, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. With the omicron variant spiking in staggering numbers, it looks like the company is hoping to gain new subscribers by releasing the film on Disney+ rather than delay the premiere for when theatrical releases are safer. "Turning Red" will still debut on its intended date of Friday, March 11, 2022.

A Questionable Release Trend for Disney

"Turning Red" is about a confident albeit dorky 13-year-old named Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang) who is entering the difficult years of puberty and finding herself torn between remaining her mother's dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective and definitely overbearing mother, Ming (voice of Sandra Oh), is always close behind, because Mei Lee's puberty experience is unlike anyone else in her life. Just as her interests, relationships, and body begin to change, Mei Lee realizes that whenever she gets too emotionally stimulated, she "poofs" into a giant red panda. The film comes from Academy Award winner Domee Shi, the director of the Pixar short "Bao," and it has a script from Shi and Julia Cho ("Big Love," "Fringe").

The film is just the latest in a slew of Disney releases to head to Disney+ immediately if not shortly after theatrical release, and continues a questionable trend of subject treatment. "Soul" featured a predominantly Black cast, "Luca" might as well have been "Call Me By Your Name" for children, and "Encanto" was given a shortened theatrical run before hitting Disney+ (but is still the highest-grossing animated film of 2021) and features an almost exclusively Latine cast. While the decision to pivot to streaming is inarguably the best possible plan for audience safety considering the state of the pandemic at this time, it's a genuine bummer that "Turning Red," another animated feature centered on a main character of a marginalized identity, is not going to be given the massive theatrical treatment it deserves.