Disney Decision Leaves Fans in the United States Asking, “Why Now?”

why pixar's soul
Credit: Pixar Animation Studios/Canva

Disney fans in the United States are perplexed by one of the company’s recent decisions, and in response to that decision, they’re asking, “Why now, Disney?”

On Friday, Disney made good on a promise the company first announced during the first week of December 2023, with the debut of a three-year-old film at the box office. Pixar’s Soul finally enjoyed a theatrical debut in the United States for the first time, even though it was released in December 2020. It’s the first of three Pixar films that will enjoy such a run.

pixar's soul, luca, and turning red

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios/Canva

Pixar’s Soul (2020), Luca (2021), and Turning Red (2022), Pixar’s so-called trio of pandemic-era films, are being granted special theatrical releases this year–a decision that has confused fans who want to know why the three films, which made very little money, are being released at the box office years after their debuts.

To some fans, Disney and Pixar’s plans sounded desperate, and recent news of potential layoffs coming to Pixar employees later this year nearly seems to confirm that the studio is grasping at straws and hoping for a financial miracle, but Pete Docter, Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, says the reason for the move is much simpler.

pete docter pixar

Credit: The Walt Disney Company

So, Why is Pixar Releasing The Films in Theaters Now?

Pixar originally announced the debut of the three films at the theater in December 2023, and almost immediately, the recurring thought for fans and others was, “Why would Pixar release these films now?”

In a recent interview, Pete Docter explained that it’s happening because of the way the films were created.

“[The films] were made to be seen on the big screen,” Docter explained. “Every frame has been pored over by the artists and technicians here, and it’s a different experience. Hopefully, people have seen them on Disney+, and we’re very thankful to have had that platform to release them because otherwise, the pandemic would have put them on the shelf.”

He continued, saying, “We’re really excited for people to go back to theaters with their friends and see [them] together. The scale and the community are all reasons to go.”

Three Pixar Films: Pandemic Productions

Pixar’s Soul was released on the Disney+ streaming platform on Christmas Day 2000, followed by Luca, which was originally slated for a theatrical debut on June 18, 2021, in the United States.

pixar's soul

Joe Gardner from Pixar’s “Soul”/Credit: Pixar Animation Studios/Canva

In March of that year, however, Disney announced the decision to cancel the theatrical release and grant the film a streaming release only on the same date for which the box office debut had been planned, citing the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Turning Red was released on Disney+ in March 2022.

Related: “A Progressive Cult of Ideas:” Scenes From Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’ Have Parents Seeing Red

pixar's turning red

“Turning Red” (2022)/Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Why Is It Important to Pixar People That Fans See the Films in Theaters?

Docter feels strongly that fans will have a different experience at the theater than they can have at home when it comes to seeing the three films, and he used 2020’s Soul as an example.

Related: I Never Dreamed a Disney Film Could Help Me Process the Pain of Grief. Until Now.


Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

“If you remember the film, our main character Joe falls through a manhole, and he’s in this weird abstract space,” Docter said. “On your screen, it looks cool. However, on a big screen in a theater, it takes up the whole wall, and you’re immersed into this weird world. Then there’s the sound design, too. When you hear it all around you, it is just a different beast. It’s amazing.”

pixar soul great beyond

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Docter further said that Pixar is hopeful that each of the films will grow in popularity as a result of their respective box office debuts.

“I’m old enough to remember a time before home video, before streaming,” Docter said, “and the only chance you had to see a film like Pinocchio or One Hundred and One Dalmations was when it came out every couple of years in theaters. Even though I’d seen them before, it was always just a great new experience to go see these movies. I think people will see things that they didn’t even notice. You see it on the big screen, and you’re like, ‘Whoa, the detail there, that’s crazy.’ There’s just a lot to see in those movies.”


Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

When asked which film he thinks is best to see on the big screen, Docter admits he’s a bit biased.

“Well, I directed Soul,” he said, “so I’m biased, but it really depends on what you’re into. For me, my goal in making Soul was I wanted people to be entertained, but at the end of the movie, go, ‘Oh yeah, we have to go get some ice cream and talk about this,’ because while it’s fun, it also asks questions like, What is your passion? What makes you so driven in your life, and Is that what life is all about? So, there are some big questions that I think—in a perfect world—will spark discussion among friends.”


Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

When Do the Pixar Films Hit the Box Office?

Soul debuted at U.S. theaters on January 12. Pixar’s Turning Red will debut on February 9, and Luca will follow the trend on March 22.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

One comment

  1. I’m surprised by the response of “why see it in theaters?” since to me it should be obvious; you only need to look the Fathom Events such as Ghibli Fest that put popular films temporarily back in theaters for a couple of days to see how popular it is. You go for the experience. Maybe it’s your favorite film or maybe you never had a chance to see it in theaters the first time it was released. I went to see Princess Mononoke in theaters a couple years ago, but I was only eight when it released in the U.S. I would never have seen it then! Then you have the Fathom Events for one of the anniversaries of Singin’ in the Rain, and all time favorite musical of mine which was made long before I was born. I never could have seen it in theaters, but this experience allowed me to see it (along with special bonus interviews!). I was probably one of the youngest folks in the theater, but I’ll never forget it. I’d do it again, too.

    If I had the funds, I’d gladly go see these in theaters. I haven’t seen Soul yet (its on my watch list), but I did thoroughly enjoy the other two.

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