The film is the studio's third consecutive release to exclusively debut on the streaming service amid the pandemic.
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Pixar's Turning Red is turning away from movie theaters.

The animated film will be released exclusively on Disney+ in March, Disney announced Friday, becoming the third straight Pixar movie to forgo a theatrical release amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Like its predecessors Soul in 2020 and Luca in 2021, Turning Red will be available to Disney+ subscribers at no extra charge.

In Disney and Pixar’s all-new original feature film “Turning Red,” 13-year-old Mei Lee “poofs” into a giant panda when she gets too excited (which for a teenager is practically ALWAYS). This unfortunate new reality for the teenager lands her in a multitude of awkward situations. Featuring Rosalie Chiang as the voice of Mei Lee, “Turning Red” opens in theaters on March 11, 2022.
Pixar's 'Turning Red'
| Credit: Disney/Pixar

"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 of 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."

Indeed, setting aside the massive performance of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the box office has continued to gross well below "normal" levels amid the recent Omicron variant surge. Disney's most recent animated film, Encanto, has grossed about $91 million domestically and $207 million worldwide — a solid number by pandemic standards but far below the typical gross for a Disney release. (2019's Frozen II took in more than $477 million in North America alone, while 2018's Ralph Breaks the Internet and 2016's Moana both topped out above $200 million domestically.)

Encanto played exclusively in theaters for 30 days before the film debuted on Disney+ on Dec. 24. The studio's previous animated feature, Raya and the Last Dragon, was made available for a surcharge on the streaming service while also playing in theaters, following the path of Disney's biggest tentpole titles in 2021.

Pixar films, however, have been available to stream for free for subscribers, a move that has reportedly drawn ire from the animation studio's staff.

"Luca doesn't even have a premium price next to it," one employee told Insider last year. "Does it make it lesser? It's hard to grasp."

Turning Red tells the story of 13-year-old Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), who turns into a giant red panda when she becomes stressed or excited. The film is directed by Domee Shi, who helmed Pixar's Oscar-winning short film Bao, making it the animation studio's first movie directed solely by a woman.

Turning Red also stars Sandra Oh, Never Have I Ever's Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and The Defenders' Wai Ching Ho. It premieres March 11 on Disney+ .

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