Pixar’s ‘Soul’ and Other Pandemic Films Return to Theaters

Pixar’s films, “Soul,” “Luca,” and “Turning Red,” originally bypassed theatrical runs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resorting to streaming releases. Despite receiving critical acclaim and developing audiences, their absence from theaters may have impacted their recognition. While other animated Disney films like “Encanto” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” played in theaters, these Pixar gems were limited to locations without Disney+. The pandemic’s onset saw the last Pixar film with a theatrical release, “Onward,” and subsequent films went directly to Disney+, altering initial release plans.

Despite lacking theatrical runs, these Pixar pandemic films tackled significant and groundbreaking themes. “Soul” featured a Black lead and celebrated jazz and life, while “Luca” depicted a coming-of-age story set in Genoa, Italy. “Turning Red,” directed entirely by a woman, explored a young, Chinese-Canadian girl navigating her tween years amid a hereditary curse. Their unique storytelling received critical acclaim upon release on Disney+, but the absence of theatrical promotion may have impacted their popularity.

Disney, facing a decline with mediocre series on Disney+ and box office flops, missed producing a $1 billion movie in 2023, the first time in almost a decade. CEO Bob Iger admitted the company’s shortcomings, citing a focus on quantity over quality and regrettable strong messaging in recent films. The delayed theatrical release of “Soul,” “Luca,” and “Turning Red” presents an opportunity for Disney to redeem lost box office revenue and assess their films’ impact on audiences. It’s a chance for these passion-filled projects to shine on the big screen, proving their value beyond streaming success.

The re-releases of these Pixar films may not only bring them the recognition they deserve but also offer Disney a chance to reevaluate its content strategy. The hope is that the films’ love on streaming will be replicated in theaters, contributing to Disney’s resurgence in 2024. The first of the three, “Soul,” is set to hit theaters on January 12, 2024.

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