Theaters Lose Their ‘Soul’ as the Pixar Film Goes to Disney+

Courtesy of Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Disney has been hit hard during the pandemic. 2019 was the biggest year ever for the multi-platformed studio, and 2020 took nearly all the wind out of their kingdom’s sails, especially theatrical releases and parks. But there is one branch of the Disney empire that could be their saving grace. By pure luck of timing, Disney happened to launch its much-anticipated stand-alone streaming site, Disney+, right before the pandemic hit, and its success since launch has been the one area that has experienced growth, thanks to everyone stuck at home and parents desperate for content to keep their children from bouncing off the walls during quarantine. 

So it comes as no surprise that Disney today announced that their next major motion picture out of their Pixar Animation Studios, Soul, will bypass theaters altogether and premiere directly on the streaming service on Christmas Day. The studio must have learned its lesson from Mulan, which wasn’t able to achieve much traction in theaters before being released on the streaming service months later. The studio may be hoping that premiering Soul directly on the service will have the same effect that Hamilton’s direct-to-Disney+ premiere did. 

Academy Award-winning director Pete Docter is returning for his fourth Pixar film with Soul, having directed Monsters, Inc., Up, and Inside Out, widely considered three of Pixar’s most heartfelt and warm productions. Docter also shares a writing credit in Soul, along with Mike Jones and Kemp Powers. Powers also wrote the anticipated Regina King directorial debut, One Night in Miami…, a film that is taking film festivals by storm. Soul features the voice talents of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Angela Bassett, and Daveed Diggs, and features original jazz music by Jon Batiste and a score by Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Soul tells the story an African-American middle-school band teacher, Joe, who finds himself in a fantastical place where new souls are given their personalities before heading to Earth. While there, Joe uses the opportunity to examine his own life and figure out what and who he wants to be. With a vibrant jazz influence, Soul is widely expected to have the same kind of resonance with African-American audiences that Pixar’s Coco had with Latino audiences. And Disney is hoping it will be the perfect holiday family viewing experience that the world is craving after a year of such distress and upheaval.


See Disney’s press release here:

BURBANK, Calif. (October 8, 2020) — The Walt Disney Company announced today that “Soul,” the all-new original feature from Pixar Animation Studios, will debut exclusively on Disney+ on December 25, 2020. In international markets where Disney+ isn’t currently or soon to be available, “Soul” will be released theatrically, with dates to be announced.

“We are thrilled to share Pixar’s spectacular and moving ‘Soul’ with audiences direct to Disney+ in December,” said Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “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.” 

“Soul” comes from visionary filmmaker Pete Docter, the Academy Award®-winning director behind “Inside Out” and “Up,” and co-director/writer Kemp Powers, playwright and screenwriter of “One Night in Miami.” It stars the voice talents of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Angela Bassett and Daveed Diggs and features original jazz music by globally renowned musician Jon Batiste and a score composed by Oscar® winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“The Social Network”).

“The world can be an exhausting and frustrating place – but it’s also full of unexpected joys, even in seemingly mundane things,” said Docter, director of “Soul” and Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation Studios. “ ‘Soul’ investigates what’s really important in our lives, a question we’re all asking these days. I hope it will bring some humor and fun to people at a time when everyone can surely use that.”

Over the last six months, marketplace conditions created by the ongoing pandemic, while difficult in so many ways, have also provided an opportunity for innovation in approaches to content distribution. With over 60 million subscribers within the first year of launch, the Disney+ platform is an ideal destination for families and fans to enjoy a marquee Pixar film in their own homes like never before.  

Previously scheduled for theatrical release on November 20, 2020, “Soul” was named an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year along with multiple upcoming festivals including the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival this Sunday.

About Disney & Pixar’s “Soul”

What is it that makes you…YOU? Pixar Animation Studios’ “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions. “Soul” is Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”), co-directed by Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”) and produced by Academy Award nominee Dana Murray, p.g.a. (Pixar short “Lou”). 

About Disney+

Disney+ is the dedicated streaming home for movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and more. As part of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment, Disney+ is available on most internet-connected devices and offers commercial-free programming with a variety of original feature-length films, documentaries, live-action and animated series, and short-form content. Alongside unprecedented access to Disney’s incredible library of film and television entertainment, the service is also the exclusive streaming home for the latest releases from The Walt Disney Studios. Disney+ is available as part of a bundle offer that gives subscribers access to Disney+, Hulu (ad-supported), and ESPN+. Visit to subscribe and/or learn more about the service.


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