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How Pixar’s Legacy is Changing Forever with Disney+

Pixar’s Elemental (2023) is about to splash into theaters, but CEO Peter Doctor signals a fiery change in the future of animated films with Disney+.

Chris Evans as Lightyear
Chris Evans as Lightyear | Courtesy of Pixar Studios

“We’ve trained audiences that these films will be available for you on Disney+,” says Pete Doctor, Pixar’s powerhouse director who’s credited with the direction of Inside Out (2015) and Up (2009).

With the anticipated Elemental just days away from debuting in theaters, The Walt Disney Company is gearing up to welcome audiences back to the big screen with its previously mentioned animated film and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023).

MEET MY MOM — In Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental,” go-with-the-flow guy Wade (Mamoudou Athie) introduces fiery young woman Ember (voice of Leah Lewis) to his mom, Brook (voice of Catherine O’Hara). Ember is decidedly out of her element, but quickly warms up to his family. Directed by Peter Sohn (“The Good Dinosaur,” “Party Cloudy” short) and produced by Denise Ream (“The Good Dinosaur,” “Cars 2”), Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental” releases on June 16, 2023. © 2023 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Nonetheless, Pete Doctor signals that something’s different in the contemporary release format of motion pictures, particularly when streaming services come into play:

In the long run, there’s been a bit of a mixed blessing because we’ve trained audiences that these films will be available for you on Disney+. And it’s more expensive for a family of four to go to a theater when they know they can wait and it’ll come out on the platform.

We’re trying to make sure people realize there’s a great deal you’re missing by not seeing it on the big screen. In the case of ‘Elemental,’ it’s a beautiful spectacle, there’s detail everywhere. I think you feel it more and it’s a better experience. There’s the shared experience as well, that you get to see it in a room with strangers, and there’s something about the energy that comes from other people that makes the whole experience more vibrant and interesting.

Disney / Pixar's Elemental
Disney / Pixar’s Elemental starring Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie

General audiences will turn to Toy Story (1995) as the pinnacle classic of Pixar Animation’s powerhouse catalog, expecting upcoming Pixar films to follow the same path of industry-changing technological breakthroughs and instant-classic writing. Since then, the groundbreaking animation studio has produced such classics like A Bug’s Life (1998), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2005), Ratatouille (2007), Wall-E (2008), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Brave (2012).

Disney / Pixar's 'Up'
Disney / Pixar’s ‘Up’, starring Ed Asner

However, with the rise of the”streaming wars,” audiences have noticed the influx of original animated movies coming to Disney+, such as Turning Red (2022) and Soul (2020).

Though Elemental was hand-crafted for a debut in theaters, Pete Doctor signals how moviegoers are already “trained” for the next evolution of watching films: at home with Disney+. Though Elemental was hand-crafted in Emeryville, CA for a debut in theaters, Pete Doctor signals how moviegoers are already “trained” for the next evolution of watching films: at home with Disney+.

Pete Doctor at Pixar's Headquarters
“Soul” director and cowriter Pete Docter takes a break with some friends at his office at Pixar Animation, where he is chief creative officer. (Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Doctor shares with Variety:

“We made ‘Soul’ for the big screen. We looked at every frame. There’s so much detail and gorgeous imagery and work that was done that you can’t quite appreciate on a smaller screen. However, there was a pandemic going on. On one hand, we were so thankful that there was Disney+ so that we could release the film and people could see it. Otherwise, it would just sit on a shelf for a year and a half.”

Image: Pixar Animation Studios

Disney+ and HBO Max have revolutionized the streaming world with premiere releases of current films hitting their respective platforms after a set date or dates in theaters. Even Netflix let Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) sit in theaters for two weeks before subscribers could watch the new film on the streaming service.

Now, with Marvel Studios’ adding such works as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) to Disney+ just a few weeks after its theatrical debut, audiences have been silently conditioned to wait for movies to hit Disney+ instead of outright purchasing tickets to a theater (plus the additional concessions and all the fun).

Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyme (left) and Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man (right)
Image: Marvel Studios

This notion of streaming vs. physical movie-watching has been debated for years. Still, it’s interesting to see Pixar’s signal and awareness of how they create and release movies in the coming years.

Has Disney+ completely sidelined the importance of seeing a new movie in theaters? Families being able to save hundreds a year by simply waiting for The Little Mermaid (2023) or the upcoming Wish to arrive on Disney+ is a disheartening dismay of future filmmaking.

More About Elemental

Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental” is an all-new, original feature film set in Element City, where fire-, water-, land- and air residents live together. The story introduces Ember, a tough, quick-witted and fiery young woman, whose friendship with a fun, sappy, go-with-the-flow guy named Wade challenges her beliefs about the world they live in.

SOURCE: Variety

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