After the premier access Disney+ debut of giant, international action-blockbuster Mulan and the Christmas Day “regular Disney+” debut of giant, critically acclaimed Pixar film Soul, it’s clear that Disney is investing a ton more resources into their streaming services, a move only exacerbated by loss in revenue and pandemic-era difficulties. But now, it sounds like Disney is going even further with this “skip the theaters, go straight to Disney+” strategy. Deadline reports of talks going on inside Disney regarding the sending of three key feature films straight to Disney+ instead of any kind of future theatrical release: Cruella, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan and Wendy.
Cruella, directed by Craig Gillespie, casts Emma Stone as the iconic 101 Dalmatians villain Cruella de Vil in a live-action origin story; Pinocchio, directed by Robert Zemeckis, features another reunion with star Tom Hanks; and Peter Pan and Wendy will be directed by David Lowery and star Yara Shahidi as Tinkerbell. While conversations have been overheard from various sources on these three films’ shifting to Disney+, let alone whether they’ll premiere as a part of premier access or just be on the main service, Disney itself has not officially commented.
This news comes in the wake of another bombshell streaming service shift — Warner Bros. debuting Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max on Christmas, to fight Soul in streaming attention combat — and comes as a further shift in attention and priority away from theaters and toward streaming, especially in our ongoing struggle to contain this damn airborne virus. With barely any movie theaters open and parks still closed, Disney+ is one of the remaining consistent sources of revenue for the studio at this time, and it makes sense in the short term why they would consider this move for this trio of films (and it does make sense to keep the ever-growing Disney+ bolstered with premium content, as we’ve only seen their numbers increase with Mulan and high-budget programs like The Mandalorian).
But for our long term journey — which might be more short-term than we think, given the latest developments in vaccines — what does this mean about the sanctity of movie theaters? About the cultural power Disney possesses? About the confidence in these films? And about what we’re gonna do for storytelling and entertainment for years to come? I hope this isn’t a bigger domino fall in our shift to home entertainment versus theatrical entertainment, because the power and influence of the theater is something I believe we’ll all need and cling to when it’s safe again. Let’s hope Disney keeps their next investments as diversified as possible, so we all have options beyond Disney+. At the very least, let’s keep Black Widow in theaters once it’s safe, yeah?