Pixar's upcoming movie Soul is skipping theaters and will release on Disney+ this Christmas. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Disney has faced the same decisions as other studios regarding what to do about their upcoming movie slate. They announced multiple delays at the beginning of the year and recently reshuffled the Marvel Cinematic Universe schedule, resulting in Black Widow being delayed until 2021.
One of their movies whose release date has continued to be debated is Pixar's Soul. The animated film from Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out) was initially scheduled to be released in theaters in June 2020, but it was later delayed to November. However, Disney and other studios' recent moves, as well as some theaters shutting down again, re-ignited questions about when and where Soul will debut. It was widely speculated that the film could follow in Mulan's footsteps and become a Disney+ title instead.
Disney has now confirmed that Pixar's Soul will be released on Disney+ on December 25, 2020. The film will be released in theaters in international markets where Disney+ is not available. Disney's press release has no mention of Soul being a Premier Access offering, meaning there might not be an upcharge to watch the newest Pixar title over the holiday season. Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the following about the move:
We are thrilled to share Pixar’s spectacular and moving ‘Soul’ with audiences direct to Disney+ in December. A new original Pixar film is always a special occasion, and this truly heartwarming and humorous story about human connection and finding one’s place in the world will be a treat for families to enjoy together this holiday season.
The news that Soul is moving to Disney+ isn't terribly surprising at this stage. It was one of the final major releases Disney still had on their schedule for a theatrical release in 2020, but the chances of it being able to even be in theaters a month from now looked slim. With some theaters closing down again, there might not be a chance for Soul to arrive in theaters this year, even if Disney wanted it. Of course, it could also be argued that keeping Soul as a theatrical release would've given theaters some hope for business during the holidays, so it moving to Disney+ could force even more to close.
In addition to skipping theaters, Disney's decision not to give Soul the Premier Access treatment is noteworthy. There are mixed reports to how well Mulan did with a $29.99 price tag, and Soul being made available to all Disney+ subscribers could signal that Disney wasn't happy with the return. New Pixar movies are traditionally big deals - even if Onward disappointed at the box office earlier this year (and before the pandemic) - so a family-friendly animated film could've done big business over the holidays. Instead, Disney must be banking on Soul's release to drive up subscriber numbers, which already topped 60 million worldwide. With Soul, season 2 of The Mandalorian, and WandaVision scheduled to debut now on Disney+ in the next few months, the streaming service will finally begin to offer the amount of high-quality original content that subscribers have been waiting for.