Luca and Alberto hiding they are sea monsters in Pixar's Luca

This past year, we’ve had a lot of time to reflect on why we love going to movie theaters amidst growing options on streaming. Action movies are more exciting on a larger scale, horror movies are scarier when we’re not in the comfort of our homes and there’s nothing like crying in a theater full of strangers for a Pixar movie. This summer, action and horror movies are returning to the big screen with offerings like Godzilla vs. Kong and Spiral: The Book of Saw, but Pixar is sitting the season out. Just like Soul, the summer coming-of-age film Luca is going straight to Disney+ subscriber , and that's a whole different kind of sad.

Following Disney Animation showcasing its new film Raya and the Last Dragon in open theaters and on streaming for a rental fee, Marvel Studios will provide both options with Black Widow, along with Disney’s live-action division for Cruella, Pixar is not getting the same treatment. Luca will be free to subscribers as a sweet treat for families to enjoy over the summer and get a lot of eyes on it. But at the same time, there is an underlying feeling that Walt Disney Studios perhaps does not value its cutting-edge studio as much as its other divisions, isn’t there? Let’s talk through Disney’s decision.

Alberto and Luca on a bike around seagulls in Pixar film

The Latest Pixar Films Are Not Part Of A Larger Franchise

A lot has changed this past year regarding the value of giving a film a theatrical release, and for the time being, it’s really up to each studio’s own business strategy. Warner Bros, for example, is dropping every single movie it has slated for 2021 in theaters and on its streaming service at the same time, and Universal is releasing all its films in theaters first with a thinner window before it becomes available to see at home. When it comes to Disney, its streaming service seems to be a giant piece of its revenue puzzle considering all the major content being trafficked through it.

Disney+ has become the home to a number of huge television shows, such as The Mandalorian, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The service also had great success with dropping Hamilton over the summer and Soul over the holidays, at times when there were major COVID waves. But my guess is that moving forward, this will continue COVID-19 or not. Disney will probably find itself a major release to draw in subscribers over the summer and over the Christmas season, along with keeping a packed theatrical slate intact. This year, it was either Luca or two major properties that the studio has seen big box office bucks with before: Marvel and live-action movies based on their animated classics. So Pixar once again pulled the Disney+ straw.

Anna Kendrick's Trolls: World Tour character, Poppy posing

Animated Movies And Streaming Have Been Successful Partners This Year

The precedent for Pixar films like Soul and Luca going straight to streaming may have been unknowingly set by Universal when the studio decided to send its DreamWorks film Trolls: World Tour straight to VOD rental last March, much to theaters’ disdain. When the sequel made its way to homes in 2020's early quarantine days, it made some shock waves with distributors, but also became a huge hit for at-home sales. Since then, the model has been adopted by Disney to release its Pixar movies, but as a way to draw its audience to Disney+ and perhaps lure in people to pay the company on a monthly basis for new content.

It does pose a question moving forward: will we expect animated movies to be more streaming-focused? Studios have moved mountains to delay live-action films again and again so they can be released theatrically, but for some reason, animated films are not afforded the same respect. Why isn't a Pixar or DreamWorks film, which often takes five years of hard work and detail to be produced, in such a rush to be released? I don’t have a clear answer for that, but the studios seem to be currently framing it as a “gift” for families to enjoy these films in such drastic times, and that is certainly valid and noble considering the circumstances. More people will have access to a film like Luca than Black Widow or Cruella this summer, that’s for sure. But a business is a business, isn't it?

WALL-E looking into space

Pixar Movies Have Value In Theaters

Even though Soul did not come to theaters in countries where Disney+ was available to people, the movie did get a chance at some international markets and it became the second-highest grossing Pixar film to ever come out in China. That’s right, it even beat out movies that came out pre COVID-19. People want to see Pixar films in theaters. Personally, I would rather go out to a theater to see an original concept like Luca than the live-action offering of Cruella. There’s nothing like giving a Pixar film our undivided attention and crying in a theater with people. Why won’t you let us, Disney?

The discussion here is whether movies like Luca or Soul should be available on streaming like Disney+. They absolutely should, but let’s not lose the value and experience of appreciating Pixar on the big screen with other people in the process (even for a short window). As much as studios need to stay afloat and adjust to the times by providing other options aside from theatrical releases, Pixar films are should be seen in a communal setting. Whether that’s at a drive-in you take your family to or in a dark theater, some of our most memorable experiences going to the movies is through these films, because animated films are as valuable and important to cinema as blockbusters and franchises. Even if Luca or Soul are not familiar names, neither were WALL-E or Ratatouille before they became cultural moments in the industry.

Alright, it’s your turn. What do you think? Are you bummed Pixar’s recent films are Disney+ only? Vote in our poll below. Luca comes exclusively to Disney+ on June 18.

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