Disney Will Possibly Wait Longer to Put Animated Movies on Disney+, Report Says

Disney has to start making money with its movies, and the release strategy for pricey box office bombs and disappointments like Lightyear and Strange World did not help. The decision to quickly release animated films to Disney+ backfired spectacularly in 2022, as both struggled to bring in families even as rivals found success with Puss In Boots: The Last Wish and Minions: The Rise of Gru. This is reportedly inspiring Disney to pull the brakes on releasing its next animated films to Disney+ while they are still in theaters.

The failures of Lightyear and Strange World were blamed on Disney's pandemic-era policy of releasing animated films quickly to Disney+, Disney insiders told The Hollywood Reporter. During the pandemic, the Pixar movies Soul, Luca, and Turning Red were all put on Disney+ without any extra cost to subscribers and none were given wide theatrical releases. Disney also tried a "Premiere Access" scheme for Raya and the Last Dragon during its theatrical release in 2021, but Encanto and Strange World were both quickly released to Disney+ weeks after their theatrical release.

Subscribers knew they could skip a costly trip to the theater and wait to see the movies at home. Encanto earned widespread critical acclaim, spawned hit songs, and won an Oscar, so it overcame the early streaming release to gross over $256.8 million worldwide. On the other hand, Strange World's release was a total disaster, grossing just $73.6 million. Lightyear, the first Pixar movie to get a wide theatrical release during the pandemic, grossed over $226 million, but since it cost over $200 million to make, it was considered a flop.

With that in mind, THR reports there is "talk" of longer theatrical windows for Pixar's Elemental, which opens on June 16, and Disney Animation's Wish, which is scheduled for Nov. 22. Both films could be the last chance for an original Disney animated hit for a long time since Disney CEO Bob Iger mentioned that sequels to Toy Story, Zootopia, and Frozen are in the works. Elemental is directed by Peter Sohn (The Good Dinosaur), while Wish was directed by Chris Buck (Frozen, Tarzan) and Fawn Veerasunthorn.

This strategy shift comes as Disney plans to be a little more surgical in its release strategies across the entertainment part of the company under Iger's second stewardship. Marvel Studios' pace is about to slow down, something studio head Kevin Feige hinted at in a new Entertainment Weekly interview. "The pace at which we're putting out the Disney+ shows will change," Feige said, adding that the Disney+ MCU shows will be more spread out in the future.

Meanwhile, Disney looks to be shifting Lucasfilms' focus for Star Wars. There has not been a Star Wars movie since 2019, thanks to several projects that never materialized. Taika Waiti still has a movie in development, while Damon Lindelof is overseeing a writers' room to plot out a movie. The Mandalorian Season 3, Rosario Dawson's Ahsoka, and Jon Watts' Skeleton Crew are among the Disney+ Star Wars shows coming soon.