‘Turning Red’ is the third Pixar film to go straight to Disney+

Does Disney have a new favorite child?

words by: Alee Kwong
Mar 20, 2022

Pixar’s newest film, Turning Red, released recently, and while it’s been a huge hit, there’s a problem among the Pixar staff—they are tired of their hard work being sent straight to Disney+. New streaming content is always good news for subscribers, but many of us are used to Pixar movies hitting the big screen first, and it feels like Disney+ is their version of “straight to VHS.”


Turning Red is a story about a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl, Meilin “Mei” Lee, who’s living in Toronto during the early 2000s. While her family runs a temple that honors the goddess Sun Yee (a goddess who loved red pandas), there’s a little family secret: All the women who are descendants of Sun Yee, are given the ability to turn into a giant red panda when they feel intense emotions. This is a story that not only touches on the awkwardness of growing in your teen years, but also speaks to generational trauma that a lot of people can relate to.


Last June, Pixar released Luca on Disney+, and Soul was released a year prior. The releases on the streaming platform made sense because it was executed as a means to aid COVID-19 precautions. Pixar was not the only studio to release new movies on their streaming platforms, as many production companies wanted to receive some form of return since so many people were still avoiding movie theaters. While COVID-19 is still very much a concern, the increase of vaccinated and boosted people have provided a sense of safety—enough for people to return to movie theaters.



Since the return to theaters, many Disney films have spent a considerable amount of time in theaters before being available for free on Disney+. Encanto spent a month in theaters, Marvel’s Eternals had a whole two months, and West Side Story spent a whopping three months exclusively in theaters.


Marvel films, such as Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings , were offered to Disney+ subscribers at a premium price, but this was never the case for Pixar films. So why did Turning Red get skipped over? No doubt that this is extremely frustrating for the teams that worked on all three films. Anonymous Pixar staffers spoke recently with Insider about the situation.


“It’s safe to say that we’re all feeling extremely disappointed,” one Pixar 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.”


Another Pixar staffer said the Turning Red straight-to-streaming decision was “a shock,” although not entirely unexpected, as the pandemic continues to impact movie theater attendance. The staffer added, “Sucks, but I get it.” “With omicron infections so high, I haven’t heard anyone say the decision to pivot to streaming is wrong,” a third Pixar staffer told Insider.


We’ve seen that more and more people have started to funnel into movie theaters, which probably means that we will start to see fewer straight-to-streaming films (such as Lightyear—which is set to release in theaters on June 17, 2022) . As it’s been for the past two years, a lot is up in the air and at the mercy of COVID-19.


Turning Red is now available to stream on Disney+.


Photos via Disney/Pixar