Disney and Netflix aim for, well, Disney

There is a whole new animated feature that is trending these days. above the moon has all the marks of a typical waltz disney ( SAY -1.20% ) theatrical blockbuster. It has crisp animation, an all-star cast, and musical earworms. It’s even directed by longtime Disney character animator Glen Keane. Corn above the moon isn’t being aired by Disney, and it certainly isn’t turning on the spotlight at a multiplex near you.

above the moon is currently the second most viewed offer on netflix ( NFLX -3.15% ). A collaboration with Netflix Animation and Pearl Studios, the buzz-making feature with an all-Asian cast is winning accolades as it touches the hearts of kids and kids at heart. It’s also doing something that Disney itself has done with Pixar. Forward and I will try again later this year with Soul — bypassing both the theatrical release window and the premium video-on-demand (VOD) option that seemed like the secret sauce at the start of this pandemic. It’s available to Netflix subscribers at no additional cost, and it’s something that could possibly come to sting Disney.

The main characters of above the moon. Image source: Netflix.

Win, lose or draw

It looked like Hollywood was onto something special earlier this year when Comcastit’s (CMCSA 1.60% ) DreamWorks Animation is out Trolls World Tour as a $19.99 digital rental. The musical episode Trolls The franchise was a success, clearing 5 million rentals in the first three weeks of spring availability. Comcast ultimately cleared $77 million of those 5 million rentals after giving streaming platforms their share of the action to generate the referrals.

Movie studios that at the start of the pandemic were only pushing back their planned theatrical releases have started taking notes. Several premium VOD versions, usually priced between $20 and $30, have been launched in the market.

None of the expensive streams seem to have had the same kind of success as Comcast did in April, and that likely includes Disney’s live-action reboot of Mulane last month. We will know more about Mulane when Disney releases its fiscal fourth quarter results next month, but its recent move with Soul is revealing. Pixar Soul was supposed to hit theaters next month, but weak box office returns since multiplex operators returned in August have led many studios to delay upcoming theatrical releases. Disney chose to enter the digital market with Soul on Christmas Day, making it available at no additional cost to existing Disney+ subscribers. Yes Mulane was a $30 hot ticket, Disney probably would have gone that route with Soul unless he doesn’t trust the publication.

Why did he Trolls World Tour succeed when so many other potentially bigger films have failed? Timing has played a huge role in Comcast’s success. It was released just weeks after the pandemic halted, with entertainment-hungry families looking for a taste of what they gave up in March. Paying almost $20 for a digital rental might seem outrageous, but it would cost less than bringing the whole family to the multiplex. It also helps that few people thought the new normal would last this long. We weren’t as deep into the recession, and paying for a movie that would otherwise have played in theaters was a forgiving novelty.

A lot has changed, and Disney can’t be happy even though it’s spearheading the revolution. Soulto like Forward, will be part of the growing Disney+ catalog. People are paying $6.99 a month or less for the platform, making the action live Mulane at $30 a hard sell. That’s the equivalent of over four months worth of Disney+ bounties, and it will be free on the service in December anyway. With Netflix now streaming the Disney-esque above the moon to all Netflix subscribers at no additional cost, the premium model has been reduced to ashes.

Will we get another premium VOD hit? Will we return to cinemas? Many applaud Disney for burning its boats – for disrupting before it was disrupted – but with others now playing the same game, that may not be the best strategy.

This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a high-end advice service Motley Fool. We are heterogeneous! Challenging an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and wealthier.

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