In Disney and Pixar's "Soul," Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie...

In Disney and Pixar's "Soul," Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) is a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. When he gets lost in his music, he goes into "the zone," an immersive state that causes the rest of the world to literally melt away. Credit: PIXAR

Disney Plus subscribers are in for a holiday treat: "Soul," the animated Disney/Pixar feature, will bypass U.S. theaters and instead premiere on the streaming platform Christmas Day.

And unlike Disney’s "Mulan," which made a similar move earlier this year, "Soul" won’t cost subscribers a $30 premium.

"Soul," the story of a jazz musician (the voice of Jamie Foxx) whose soul is accidentally separated from his body, is the latest example of Disney’s willingness to move some of its biggest films out of theaters and onto its home entertainment platform during the COVID-19 pandemic. The studio did so with "Artemis Fowl" and "Hamilton" earlier this year, which were both offered at no extra cost to subscribers. So far, only "Mulan" has required an additional fee for viewing. But the live-action remake of the 1998 animated original will, however, follow suit and become part of the regular Disney Plus streaming catalog on Dec. 4.

Moving "Soul" to Disney Plus may come as good news for subscribers, but it still seems like a last resort for Disney. The studio bumped the theatrical release of its Marvel film "Black Widow," for example, into next year rather than make it available for streaming. The recent announcement that the James Bond thriller "No Time to Die" would also move to next year, however, was quickly followed by news that Regal, America’s second-largest theater operator, was temporarily closing its 536 domestic venues, making it that much harder for a theatrical film to turn a profit.

"We are thrilled to share Pixar’s spectacular and moving 'Soul' with audiences direct to Disney Plus in December," said The Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek. Pete Doctor, the film’s director, added, "Soul investigates what’s really important in our lives, a question we’re all asking these days. I hope it will bring some humor and fun to people at a time when everyone can surely use that."

"Soul" was glowingly reviewed after its screening at the London Film Festival. Critics called it "gorgeous" and "genuinely profound."

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