'It kind of sucks': Turning Red producer talks 11th hour Disney Plus release switch

A promotional image for Turning Red, Pixar's latest animated movie
Turning Red was originally supposed to launch in theaters. (Image credit: Disney / Pixar)

Turning Red director Domee Shi has revealed she has mixed feelings about the Pixar movie's exclusive Disney Plus launch.

Speaking exclusively to TechRadar ahead of the animated film's March 11 release, Shi disclosed that she had "a lot of emotions" when news broke that Turning Red wouldn't receive a theatrical release.

The Pixar flick was originally supposed to launch in theaters worldwide, before coming to Disney Plus sometime in the future. However, the rapid rise of Covid-19's Omicron variant in late 2021 saw Disney make the decision (on January 7) to release Turning Red on its streaming platform.

Pixar employees were reportedly left "shocked and disappointed" (per Insider) in the wake of the announcement. And that includes Shi and producer Lindsey Collins, who revealed their own feelings towards the move.

Meilin Lee tries to grab her notebook from her mom in Pixar's Turning Red

Wait, you mean to say Turning Red isn't coming out in theaters?! (Image credit: Disney Animation Studios)

"You know, it's a lot of emotions," Shi said. "We made this movie with the intention of it being seen on the big screen but, you know, s**t happens. With Covid, this seems like the best possible way to deliver the movie to the most amount of eyeballs safely in the world."

"If we've learned nothing else over the last two years, every time we think we can anticipate what the next two months will look like, we're wrong," Collins added. "Whatever the decision was going to be, we knew we had to make it now [in early January]. It takes that long to mobilize marketing, press, and everything else. 

"The last thing we wanted was to have something out in the world, but nobody able to see it. We're glad Disney Plus came along, because we don't know what we would've done without it. But it still kind of sucks that we can't release this in theaters."

Turning Red will become the third Pixar movie to debut exclusively on Disney Plus. The pandemic's initial emergence in early 2020 didn't affect Onward – the Tom Holland and Chris Pratt-starring film – from launching in theaters, but its box office takings were significantly impacted by the closure of cinemas globally due to the virus. As a result of the pandemic and theaters closing their doors, Soul and Luca became the first Pixar movies to launch exclusively on Disney's streamer, the two films arriving in December 2020 and June 2021 respectively.

Pixar's next animated offering – Lightyear, which stars Chris Evans as the real-life version of the iconic Toy Story Space Ranger – is expected to end this recent trend and launch exclusively in theaters on June 17. It remains unclear, though, if that'll still be the case closer to release.

Set in Toronto in the early 2000s, Turning Red tells the tale of Meilin 'Mei' Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a confident but nerdy Chinese-Canadian schoolgirl with a seemingly perfect life. That is, until Mei starts inexplicably turning into a giant red panda whenever she gets too emotional. Already forced to contend with the onset of puberty and her overbearing mom Ming (Sandra Oh), Mei must learn how to navigate the highs and lows of teenage life while trying to determine how to remove this supposed red panda curse.

For more Disney Plus-based content, read up on why Disney Plus may be about to become cheaper (but with caveats attached). Alternatively, check out the new movies landing on Disney Plus this month, or read up on how to watch the Marvel movies in order.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

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