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SYFY WIRE Turning Red

Pixar's next original feature 'Turning Red' skips theaters, to hit Disney+ exclusively in March

The new animated project about a teenage girl who transforms into a giant red panda arrives Friday, March 11.

By Josh Weiss
Turning Red PRESS

Pixar's future may lie in the world of streaming. The animation studio's next original offering — Turning Red — is foregoing a traditional theatrical release for an exclusive streaming debut at Disney+ on Friday, March 11. Theatrical screenings are still planned for countries and territories where the subscription platform is not widely available.

The film, which centers around a dorky and boy band-obsessed teenager who suddenly transforms into a red panda when she hits pubescence, is the third Pixar title to skip the big screen after Soul and Luca. Similar to those releases, there will not be an added Premier Access fee of $29.99 for subscribers (à la Mulan, Raya and the Last DragonCruella, Black Widow, and Jungle Cruise). The trailers and marketing materials for Turning Red have been rather clever, not specifying how Disney planned to roll out the movie. However, the decision was most likely born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, whose latest viral variant (Omicron) continues to disrupt daily life.

“Disney+ subscribers around the world enthusiastically embraced Pixar’s Academy Award-winning Soul and the critically-acclaimed Luca when they premiered exclusively on the service and we look forward to bringing them Pixar’s next incredible feature film Turning Red," Kareem Daniel, Chairman, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said in a statement. “Given the delayed box office recovery, particularly for family films, flexibility remains at the core of our distribution decisions as we prioritize delivering the unparalleled content of The Walt Disney Company to audiences around the world.”

Helmed by Academy Award winner Domee Shi (director of the Bao short that played before Incredibles 2), Turning Red features the voice talents of Rosalie Chiang (Mei Lee), Sandra Oh (Mei's mother, Ming), Orion Lee (Mei's father, Jin), and Wai Ching Ho (Mei's grandmother). Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya, and Hyein Park play Mei's tight-knit group of friends: Miriam, Priya, and Abby. Tristan Allerick Chen (Mei's classmate, Tyler), Addie Chandler (Mei’s secret crush Devon), James Hong, Lori Tan Chinn, Lillian Lim, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Sasha Roiz, and Lily Sanfelippo co-star.

The Grammy-winning duo of Billie Eilish and FINNEAS — you may know them for their work on No Time to Die and plenty of other chart-topping songs — were tapped to write three new tracks for the film (credited to Mei Lee's favorite boy band, 4*Town).  

"After Bao, people asked, 'Why isn't the bao a girl?'" Shi remarked during a conversation with Empire Magazine. "I said, 'A short film cannot encapsulate the complexity of a Chinese mother-daughter relationship.'" Since the story takes place in 2002, the director drew from her own youthful days of the early aughts.

Produced by Lindsey Collins (Finding Dory), Turning Red arrives on Disney+ Friday, March 11. 

Right now, it's unclear whether Pixar's second release of 2022, the Toy Story-inspired Lightyear (starring Chris Evans in the title role), will receive a theatrical or streaming release. That said — if any animated film could come out strong at the box office regardless of circumstances, it's a new Toy Story-related one.