Joe Gardner in Soul form and Alberto and Luca on a bike in Luca

Studios like Disney used to rely on box office returns to make money off of their imaginative animated productions. However, it’s no secret this has all been thrown into flux due to COVID-19, and more of the company’s films have been given streaming releases. This past week, it was announced that Pixar’s summer offering Luca would be coming exclusively to Disney+ subscribers for no extra charge, while Cruella and Black Widow are getting a chance at both theaters and the streaming service’s Premier Access. The decision is reportedly rubbing Pixar workers the wrong way.

Pixar’s two latest projects, Soul and Luca, will not get the chance at a wide theatrical release, even as more theaters are opening up in anticipation for the movie industry’s first summer box office season in two years. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s former editorial director Matthew Belloni, Pixar employees are discouraged by Disney’s strategy:

Both Soul and Luca are huge productions and technical achievements that each spent four years in development at Pixar before their respective releases. The two films were slated to hit theaters before COVID-19 struck, and instead of the Walt Disney Company delaying them or giving them simultaneous theatrical and streaming releases, the animated films have been deemed straight-to-streaming titles.

According to Matthew Belloni’s tweet, the Pixar employees in his social circle feel Disney is “demoralizing” the animation wing of the studio by not even charging its audience aside from the monthly $8 fee to be a Disney+ subscriber, a price nearly 100 million people already pay for each month. Perhaps it would not have bothered some Pixar team members if the studio hadn’t decided to assign a higher price value to upcoming films like Cruella and Black Widow.

The decision to provide Luca on Disney+ exclusively was described by the studio as a “special offering to kick-off the summer season,” not unlike when Disney brought Hamilton to the streaming service last July and it became a massive streaming hit. The Disney+ strategy has become more vital to the company within the past year, and placing Luca exclusively on the service would presumably be done to bring in more subscribers and keep existing subscribers on board as Disney+ reaches a lull in other high-profile releases, like its MCU shows.

Prior to that, Soul was sent exclusively to streaming over the holiday season without any additional charge. The movie became CinemaBlend’s No. 1 movie of 2020 and a sweet gift for families to enjoy over the final days of the year. Though it is interesting that Disney decided to bring its recent movie from the Disney Animation side of production, Raya and the Last Dragon, to theaters and Disney+’s Premier Access, while the two Pixar titles have been given different treatment.

Luca hits Disney+ on June 18. Check out what other big releases are coming this summer with CinemaBlend’s 2021 release schedule.

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