The coronavirus outbreak has been absolute hell for Hollywood. Movie theaters are closed around the country, meaning the films that had been scheduled for release are on indefinite hold. Productions have also needed to shut down, meaning many of the movies with release dates down the line might also need to be rescheduled. Some movies are skipping theatrical release altogether. No studio is safe from the havoc, except, apparently, Pixar.
Pixar has certainly had a rocky road when it comes to the studio's current film. Onward was one of those films that had its theatrical release cut short due to the outbreak. It saw an early release on digital platforms and is scheduled to hit Disney+ this Friday. I had a chance to speak with Onward director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae ahead of the film's Disney+ debut, and while Onward may have been hit hard by circumstance, it seems the rest of Pixar is actually doing quite well. While the Emeryville, CA studio is closed like so many places right now, Pixar's staff continues working on their films from home, and is doing remarkably well, to the point where no delays are expected. According to Rae...
So far all the films are managing to stay on schedule. People are really doing a phenomenal job of really working from home, of doing production from home. And so I think everybody’s been almost pleasantly surprised by the productivity. We have films in the pipeline that have release dates and we really are trying to keep those.
Pixar movies take years to make and tend to be expensive, but if there's a plus side under the current circumstances, it's that most of production is simply done on computers, and those computers can be basically anywhere, so work can continue on Pixar films while other studios are at a standstill.
While the idea that Pixar can continue work during the pandemic might seem obvious, Pixar's situation of surprising productivity does appear to be unique, even among computer animation companies. Illumination has already announced that its upcoming feature, Minions: The Rise of Gru, will miss its scheduled July release. Due to the closure of the company's office in France, the film simply won't be done in time to meet that date, even if theaters are back to business as usual by then.
Pixar has a movie on the calendar even sooner than that. Soul is currently scheduled to open June 21, and while its certainly possible that the movie may need to be pushed back if theaters aren't open for business, it apparently won't need to be pushed back because it's not done.
Beyond Soul, we don't know what Pixar has planned for the future, but the studio has at least three other films in various states of production, one is set for release in June of 2021, and then another pair are scheduled to hit in March and June of 2022. If work was completely stopping on these projects, we certainly could see a need for release dates to be pushed back, but it appears that won't be necessary.
Onward is now available on Digital platforms. It arrives on Disney+ Friday.