While every Marvel Studios movie has been released in theaters, the animated films by Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios that were scheduled during this time period were not so lucky. “Soul”, which has a black protagonist and mainly a black cast, has been completely removed from theaters. With a release date of June 19, 2020, Soul’s big-screen debut was postponed to November 20 due to pandemic concerns and then canceled altogether in favor of the Disney + release on December 25 – although it still received its theatrical debut in countries outside the US that did not have access to Disney +. If Disney was willing to make “Soul” a theatrical debut in foreign regions, why not do the same in the US? Surely, if the pandemic were so alarming, there would be no movie release at all.
“Raya and the Last Dragon”, a fantasy film inspired by Southeast Asian cultures, received similar treatment to “Black Widow”, which was released in both theaters and Disney + on March 5, 2021. However, unlike Natasha Romanoff’s solo film, Raya, has been severely delayed due to the refusal of many movie chains to screen the film, citing issues with Disney’s rental terms regarding the release of Disney + on the same day. One of the biggest hits came from Cinemark, the third largest theater chain in the US.
This was followed by “Luca”, a fantasy film set on the Italian Riviera and inspired by the childhood memories of director Enrico Casarosa when he grew up in Genoa. Despite the scheduled release of the movie that will start on June 18, 2021, Disney decided to do the same as it did with “Soul”, giving up all aspects of theatrical performance and instead falling into Disney +, again mentioning pandemic issues – although “Raya” gained a (stop) release in theaters, as did “Black Widow”, which debuted less than a month later. Once again, this weakens the “pandemic concerns” argument.
These films are followed by “Encanto”, a musical that highlights Colombian culture and myths. While “Encanto” was given a short time on the big screen – which made its cinematic debut on November 24, 2021 – it was simply a 30-day theatrical performance between the cinemas until the release date of Disney +. Even so, “Encanto” continued to be critically acclaimed and financially successful, earning mostly positive reviews and becoming the highest grossing animated film of 2021. As expected, the pandemic was the reason for the incredibly short theatrical release that received the “Encanto”.
“Turning Red” – directed by Sino-Canadian director Domee Shee, who also directed Pixar’s Oscar-winning short film “Bao” – has been canceled and will be canceled. Debuting in March exclusively on Disney +, there are currently no plans to limit or cancel the release of “Lightyear” on June 22 – another spinoff of “Toy Story” and the origin story of fictional astronaut Buzz Lightyear.
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