Why Pixar's Niche Strategy is Genius
Turning Red is a beautiful success, just like Pixar's new strategy
Pixar seems to be the studio on everyone’s lips over the past month after the divisive release of their recent film, Turning Red. In reality, there should have been nothing divisive about a beautiful story highlighting young teens struggling with finding themselves and parents struggling with preparing their kids to face the world, but its 2022, so what else would you expect?
So why is there such a wide range of opinions on the film? I think mainly because the story was told from the perspective of a 13-year-old Asian girl that is going through puberty. This perspective meant that those who are often used to relating to how a story was told (cough cough, white men and woman), were confused and upset when a story was told from a point of view that was quite literally the opposite of what they are used to.
This has led to some VERY angry takes about the movie over the past month - some of these takes were about the message of the film, some were about the subject matter, and some were about the characters actions. The irony of people getting upset about each of these things is that a Disney movie where a kid rebels against their parents or sensitive topics are addressed is not a new concept at all. So why did they get upset about Turning Red and not the Inside Out or the Little Mermaid? Once again, because Turning Red focused on characters and a perspective that a lot of people didn’t relate to. Disney knows that this is happening with the new releases from Pixar, yet continues to head down this path, and I honestly think it is a genius move.
It is a genius move not due to the people these movies upset, but for the people that these movies portray and represent. For the select few people that can relate to the characters or subject matter of these films, these movies will likely become one of their favorites. This essentially creates super fans. For example, this happened to me with one of the recent Pixar releases, Onward.
For most people, Onward was a so so movie that they didn’t think about again after they saw it. For me (someone who lost their dad early in life and clung to my relationship with my brothers), it hit me HARD and is easily one of my favorite movies of all time, the same for my brothers. Why? Because I saw myself and my life experiences in that movie. Point is, while most people will view this new age of Pixar movies as mediocre films, there is 10% of audience members for each of these films that relate so much to the story and source material that they fall in love with it and it then quickly becomes one of their favorites.
As a Disney fan, would I rather get 10 films that I really enjoy, or would I rather get 9 films that I enjoy and 1 film that becomes one of my favorites of all time? I may be in the minority, but I would choose the latter.
I don’t think it is going out on a limb to say that as a middle-aged white male, I was not the target demographic for Turning Red. However, it was still a great film that I could appreciate and love for what it was and who it was for. Disney isn’t giving up on teaching universal lessons and truths that everyone can take away from the films, but they are changing the way in which those stories are told. Some will yell and scream that Pixar sucks and that Disney has lost its way, but I celebrate it. There is nothing better than experiencing a film where you see yourself and see your life experiences portrayed on screen. I am all for giving people that may have never experienced that sensation, more opportunities to do so. Keep it up, Disney!