Pixar Lays Off 175 Workers as It Returns Its Focus to Films

Pixar will stop making original shows for Disney+ as part of a broader retrenchment, resulting in layoffs that will reduce its work force by 14 percent.

Jim Morris, the president of Pixar, announced the layoffs in an internal memo on Tuesday that was viewed by The New York Times. He cited “the return to our focus on feature films.” About 175 employees will be let go.

Questions about Pixar’s health have swirled in Hollywood and among investors since June 2022, when the Disney-owned studio released “Lightyear” to disastrous results. How could Pixar, the gold standard of animation studios for nearly three decades, have gotten a movie so wrong — especially one about Buzz Lightyear, a bedrock “Toy Story” character?

Pixar’s next film, “Elemental,” an opposites-attract love story, arrived to alarmingly low ticket sales in June 2023, but ultimately generated a solid $500 million at the box office.

One problem: Disney had weakened the Pixar brand by using its films to build the Disney+ streaming service. Starting in late 2020, when many multiplexes were still closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Disney debuted three Pixar films in a row (“Soul,” “Turning Red” and “Luca”) online, bypassing theaters altogether.

The layoffs on Tuesday, which were reported earlier by The Hollywood Reporter, acknowledged another reality: Pixar, like other Disney-owned studios, including Marvel, lost its focus when it was pushed to create original programming for Disney+. At the time — around December 2020 — Disney was pouring money into the streaming service in a wild and ultimately unsuccessful effort to attract up to 260 million subscribers worldwide. It had 87 million at the time. It has about 154 million today.

Robert A. Iger, the chief executive of Disney, has since reversed course, emphasizing cost containment and quality — less can be more, if the standards are high. He has said repeatedly over the past year that the creative teams at Disney were stretched too thin by the streaming strategy.

As part of the retrenchment at Pixar, “Elio,” a movie about an 11-year-old boy who is inadvertently beamed into space, was delayed. It was supposed to arrive this March. Disney pushed it to June 2025. (Pixar’s next film in theaters will be “Inside Out 2.” It is scheduled for release on June 14.)

Pixar’s original series for Disney+ included “Cars on the Road,” focused on the “Cars” characters Lightning McQueen and Mater, and “Dug Days,” a series of shorts about the dog from the movie “Up.” The studio’s last original Disney+ series, “Win or Lose,” about a coed middle school softball team, will arrive late this year.

Pixar will continue to make the occasional short film for Disney+.

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Kim browne

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