Welcome to Jim Hill Media - Entertainment News : Theme Parks Movies Television

Toon Tuesday : Want to help chart Pixar's future? Then be sure and take that animation studio's online survey

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Toon Tuesday : Want to help chart Pixar's future? Then be sure and take that animation studio's online survey

Rate This
  • Comments 38

As part of their classic comedy routine, "The 2000 Year Old Man," Carl Reiner asked Mel Brooks what he attributed his amazing longevity to. To which Mel replied:

"I never, ever touch fried food. And I never run for a bus. There'll always be another."

I bring up Brooks' bus joke for a reason. In that it reminds me of a rather delicate Pixar-related problem that the Walt Disney Company now finds itself dealing with.


 Copyright Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

To explain: Please take a look at the chart that I've compiled below. Which details the worldwide box office totals for every Pixar film that's been released to date.

Film Title
Domestic Gross
Overseas Gross
Total
"Toy Story"
$191.7 million
$170.1 million
$361.9 million
"A Bug's Life"
$162.7 million
$200.6 million
$363.3 million
"Toy Story 2"
$245.8 million
$239.1 million
$485.0 million
"Monsters, Inc."
$255.8 million
$269.4 million
$525.3 million
"Finding Nemo"
$339.7 million
$524.9 million
$864.6 million
"The Incredibles"
$261.4 million
$370.0 million
$631.4 million
"Cars"
$244.0 million
$217.8 million
$461.9 million
"Ratatouille"
$188.2 million*
$50.8 million*
$239.1 million*

 * This film is still in theatrical release. Its box office totals have yet to be finalized

Please note this animation studio's highest earning production to date was "Finding Nemo." And that every Pixar production that has followed this Andrew Stanton movie then went on to earn significantly less than the picture that preceded it.

 
Copyright Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Now I bring up this pattern because -- if you're familiar with your Walt Disney Animation Studios history -- there's actually a historical precedent for Pixar's current predicament ...

Film Domestic Gross Overseas Gross Total
"Beauty and the Beast" $145.8 million $206.0 million $351.8 million
"Aladdin" $217.3 million $286.7 million $504.0 million
"The Lion King" $312.8 million $455.3 million $768.1 million
"Pocahontas" $141.5 million $204.5 million $346.0 million
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" $100.1 million $225.2 million $325.3 million
"Hercules" $99.1 million $153.6 million $252.7 million

... In that once the Walt Disney Company committed to producing a new animated feature (And -- in some cases -- two new animated features) per year, the worldwide box office totals for the Mouse's newer feature length cartoons began steadily dropping.

 

 Copyright Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Oh, sure. There were a few WDAS productions that bucked this trend ...

Film Domestic Gross Overseas Gross Total
"Tarzan" $171.0 million $277.1 million $448.1 million
"Dinosaur" $137.7 million $212.0 million $349.8 million
"Chicken Little" $135.3 million $179.0 million $314.4 million
"Mulan" $120.6 million $183.7 million $304.3 million
"Lilo & Stitch" $145.7 million $127.3 million $273.1 million
"Brother Bear" $85.3 million $165.0 million $250.3 million

... But these tended to be films that deliberately avoided the well established Disney Feature Animation template. Either by embracing a technology (In the case of "Dinosaur" and "Chicken Little," CG) that then gave these movies a distinctly different look or (In case of "Tarzan") by using some radically different source material.

Mind you, in the case of "Mulan," "Lilo & Stitch" and "Brother Bear," it was the studio itself (i.e. The late, lamented Walt Disney Feature Animation - Florida unit) that made all the difference. It was that talented group of artists & animators that actually worked onstage at Disney-MGM Studios that then came together to creat this truly entertaining trio of films. As the theory goes, these folks were far enough away from the suits back in Burbank that they could then develop animated features that had their own unique story sensibility.

Which -- in theory -- should also be the case up in Emeryville. But given that audiences today are clearly not responding to "Ratatouille" with the same enthusiasm that they once showed for "Monsters, Inc." and "The Incredibles" ... The people at Pixar are reportedly now wondering what they have to do in order to make their latest releases seem less like those buses that the 2000 Year Old Man referred to. In that you don't have to really rush out and catch the latest Pixar film while it's still in theaters these days. Because if you do miss out on it ... Well, there's always the DVD and/or the new Pixar movie that will be out next year.

 
Copyright Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

With the hope that they can turn this lack-of-urgency situation around somehow, Disney & Pixar are now working together to find new ways to get would-be movie-goers excited about upcoming productions. Take -- for example -- that Buy n Large website that went live last week. Which will (in theory) help familiarize film fans with the enormous & inept faux corporation that helps drive the story in Pixar's Summer 2008 release, "WALL * E." FYI: Most of the witty image captures that I've used to illustrate today's article were actually grabbed off of that new website. So if you've got a few minutes and are need of some tongue-in-cheek fun, I suggest you go check out the Buy n Large homepage.

Beyond that, there are already plans in the works to help expand the definition of a Pixar film can be. With projects like "A Princess of Mars" and "1906" now in that studio's development pipeline, films that will liberally mix live action and CG ... Well, it's hoped that these two productions will then help get audiences excited about what else the folks up in Emeryville may have up their sleeve.

But for now, in the wake of "Cars" and "Ratatouille" not exactly wowing Wall Street and/or the movie-going public, the folks at Pixar and Disney are now trying to get a better handle on what film fans actually want & expect from this CG studio. Which explains that survey that just popped up over on the Pixar webpage.


 Copyright Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Though this is obstensively a survey that's being used to fine-tune the features / mix of elements to be found on the Pixar webpage, there are also some questions here that (to be blunt) reek of a corporation that's trying to refine its mission statement. Take -- for example:

What do you like most about Pixar films?

  • Quality of the animation & artistry
  • Story
  • Characters
  • Cutting edge technology

What does Pixar mean most to you?

  • Quality
  • Authenticity
  • Storytelling
  • Animation
  • Family Entertainment
  • Universally appealing films

 
Copyright Pixar Animation Studios / Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Given that there are literally hundreds of Pixar fans who regularly come by JHM (If only to kick my butt whenever they feel that I've posted something that reflects badly on their favorite animation studio) ... Well, if you'd like to let the folks back in Burbank know which aspects of Pixar Animation Studios you feel are the most important, be sure and take this survey ASAP.

Beyond that, what do you think that Disney & Pixar officials should be doing in order to help this CG operation avoid the same pitfalls that tripped up WDAS back in the late 1990s? Change this animation studio's upcoming productions back into "must-sees" ?

Your thoughts?

Blog - Post Feedback Form
Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment
  • * Please enter your name
  • * Please enter a comment
  • Post
  • So I'm watching TV, and I see this ad for probably the 10th time this week. It's for Nicole Kidman's new movie - The Invasion - which from what I can tell from the ad, is a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  They give Nicole some advise - just don't show any emotion, and they (aliens) can't find you. So I guess I should just give the same advise - don't react to the Pixar-is-going-to-Hades articles. I know it's difficult - it was for Nicole in the ad I saw. I also noticed her costar was Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, and I thought how perfect, cause he showed no emotion as James Bond, this will be perfect for him. The point is here's a movie I have no interest in seeing, but I know these things about it because of marketing - any disappointment for Pixar can directly be traced to the sandbagging Disney Marketing crew. There, I said it, and now the aliens will be able to find me. Here, let me try to save myself: I agree - Pixar is a major disappointment, and they're trapped in a downward death spiral. That oughta hold 'em off for a while.

  • I was getting ready to read more JHM venom against Pixar after reading the title but was pleasantly surprised to read this article bring up interesting points.  

    After being a boxofficemojo watcher lately, I actually had been thinking the same thing about the downward turn Disney movies' box office tallies took after The Lion King, but I thought it was more because it seemed the suits who were running Disney at the time (e.g. Katzenberg and friends?) thought they figured out the formula of making a lot of money and decided to stick their noses into the creatives' business, thinking that they had better ideas than the artists themselves.  Of course, the suits get stuck thinking in that cookie-cutter way and maybe forced the artists to make movies they wouldn't have made themselves.

    I really don't see this happening with the new regime for Disney and Pixar.  Wall-E already seems like a completely different movie; and even Ratatouille felt like a departure from the last two.  And as you mentioned, the Princess of Mars and 1906 don't seem like they'll be lumped in with past Pixar movies.

    As for WDAS, they seem to be headed back to their roots with the fairy tale movie (Princess and the Frog and Rapunzel), and given that everything's been satirical lately, this will likely be seen as something "fresh."

    >>> what do you think that Disney & Pixar officials should be doing in order to help this CG operation avoid the same pitfalls that tripped up WDAS back in the late 1990s? Change this animation studio's upcoming productions back into "must-sees" ? <<<

    As I've mentioned earlier, I'm not worried about Pixar.  As for improving WDAS, I think Dick Cook and co. reducing the number of films released per year is a start.  That way, every Disney film starts to become a "must-see," since they'll only be putting out a few per year now.  And for now, WDAS should start with just making sure they make good movies and get the brand name back up there.  I have high hopes for their next four films (which I hope Jim will have more info for us soon).

  • Now come on, Jim...

    Going from 339 million to 188 Million (for a movie that's still in theatres) is nowhere near the fall that Disney experienced (312 to 99) so I think it's a little bit of a silly comparison to make.

    There can be tons of arguments to explain Ratatouille's current box-office takings, such as a hard-to-market film, over-saturation at the marketplace, a huge number of blockbusters this summer, and ever-changing movie-going habits, but 188 million is still a large take, even if it doesn't quite match up to the other Pixar films, and possibly more importantly, The Incredibles, Cars, and Ratatouille are definitely stronger films than Pocahontas, Hunchback, and Hercules.

    The fact, is, I think the article would have had the same point without the comparison drawn to Disney - and people will only give you more flak for drawing such comparisons (particularly through their love of Pixar).

    To answer your question, I believe that the same commitment to story-telling, especially fresh and 'risky' approaches, is the most important thing to focus on for Pixar. And they already seem to be doing that with Wall-E.

    Even though Wall-E too might be bound for 'only' another 188 million, I don't know any studio that wouldn't mind having the highest-grossing G-Rated film of the year, and 7th highest box office rating (as Ratatouille is currently doing).

  • I hope you all took the Pixar survey. I did. I made sure to mention something that Floyd Norman mentioned previously. STORY! The CG animation; 3D effects and even traditional animation don't meant anything without a great story.

    Then again this has been an odd summer movie season. Ratatoullie is a great film. The problem is, every film this year has been great. The studios need to at least cooperate somewhat as far as scheduling their grade A+ releases...because this year they over saturated the market and all the studios lost out financially.

  • Ummmm....I'm a little confused by the charts.  Only the first one makes sense.  Why does the second one with Lion King and Hunchback leave out Little Mermaid?  And why does the second one have films way out of order (Chicken Little before Mulan)?  If the charts are meant to show consecutive films doing poorer, then why are the charts missing big films and out of sequential order?  The point with Pixar is made, but the rest seem a bit....Fox Newsed (Or CNN'ed or any show that takes just the facts to make the point they want to make)

  • I would be interested in the numbers on Ratatoullie if Transformers hadn't opened right after it followed the next week by Harry Potter. Cars didn't make the big bucks right away, it took some time, but I don't think it's competition was as stiff.

    That being said, I've recommended Ratatoullie to several folks with children who said they didn't want to go see a movie about rats in the kitchen. So I guess that the story concept can be an important part of a movie's success. Who knew?

    Not really looking forward to the garbage robot thing, but I'll probably see it.

  • gee. toon tuesday used to have fascinating backstory.

  • and PS - Officially heart curmudgeon

  • ADD: I just checked out the "Buy N Large" site. Ouch.  MIYAZAKI's "Spirited Away" made some nice little comments on consumerism without pushing your face in it. It doesn't look (at this point anyway) that Wall -e is going to be as subtle.  Oh well, the Republicans it loses in the US will more than be made up for in additional European grosses.

  • >>If only to kick my butt whenever they feel that I've posted something that reflects badly on their favorite animation studio...

    To be clear, its the warping of facts and numbers to support your opinion that, I at least, have a problem with.  Is Pixar my favorite animation studio?  I don't know.  I enjoy many offerings from several different studios.  It's the continual negative tone of pretty much ever Pixar piece that I find annoying and tiresome.

    Now on to the article that I was expecting to annoy me because it was about Pixar, but did in fact did not....yes I was surprised too.

    I have often wondered why Lion King was so popular.  As a film, I didn't think it was better than Aladdin or B&TB, but it cleaned up.  My opinion is that the year gap between Al and LK built up some anticipation.  Disney had come off a 3 picture hot streak and then they said "no movie for you in '93"...they teased movie goers a little....

    Following LK as the shift began to multi animated releases from Disney a year (counting the Return to Neverlands...Piglet's Big Movie etc and Pixar) I think there were too many animated films being released with Walt Disney Pictures at the head, in a single year.

    What was an event film (I worked at the Disney Store in the early 90s...tons of promotions for each film) had now turned into an animated offering every 6 months (every 3-4 months towards the end)

    Now Pixar is releasing a film a year and Dreamworks is releasing 2 a year.  One wonders how these films would be received if they came out every other year.  To build some excitement...to create a desire to see their offerings rather than "hey its summer time lets see what studio X has out"........

    On a side note.  I would like to see Pixar do an animated film that visually, is way different than anything they have done before.  Right now it feels like all the characters from all their films live in the same world.  Monsters Inc would have been a great opportunity to make the monster world wacky and crazy and really neato....instead it looked like our world...which was kinda boring.  I live in my world...show me a world I have never seen.  Get crazy Pixar!  

    http://www.raymation.net

  • The Republicans it loses?!? I forgot Dems shop only at Mom and Pop stores or grow their own food and goods. I nominate you post for most ridiculous, uninformed post ever, congrats.

    Finding Nemo is an anomaly, if Disney is looking to repeat that, they will be looking for a long time. I think Disney is more concerned with money, and the folks at Pixar are more worried about putting out good stories, Lassester is the closest thing Disney has to Walt right now. Cars is responsible for more money than you gave it credit until recently Jim, hopefully Ratatouille does well on home video.

  • No offense Jim, but I'm getting sick of reading about Pixar....

  •    What do you like most about Pixar films?

         X* The ones made before "Cars"

           * Quality of the animation & artistry

           * Story

           * Characters

           * Cutting edge technology

       What does Pixar mean most to you?

         X* Great Family films, before "Cars".

           * Quality

           * Authenticity

           * Storytelling

           * Animation

           * Family Entertainment

           * Universally appealing films

  • Now that Ratatouille has dropped out of the box office top 10 I think that domestically it should just about hit its 200 million mark. But I expect the film to rake in about 270 million overseas. It seems to me that audiences abroad, especially Europa, are more attracted by the quality of a film, the reviews and positive word of mouth. Cars is the only Pixar film to gross less overseas than domestic, most likely because Cars sucks. Ratatouille does not. Moreover, I think the only bad apple in Pixar's run is Cars. Cars is probably the single most important reason for the "meager" box office returns Ratatouille has been collecting, not Ratatouille in itself.

    I have to agree with Jim on his thesis that a Pixar/Disney production should be a happening, something to look forward to. Making great movies is probably the only real way to achieve such a status for your films. And Pixar is working really hard to recover from Cars. Not by betting on short term money, but by investing in, as Iger said, a character that will enrich the Disney legacy.

    Ratatouille will do good overseas, Pixar will stubbornly create original content and people will go and see good films when they are released. And let's not go about yelling that Pixar's mission statement is flaying just because they do a little bit of research into how they are perceived.

    One last thing: The succes of The Simpsons Movie says nothing about traditional animation being embraced by audiences or not. It tells us that The Simpsons is an extremely healthy brand, built on quality.

  • >> But given that audiences today are clearly not responding to "Ratatouille" with the same enthusiasm that they once showed for "Monsters, Inc." and "The Incredibles" ... The people at Pixar are reportedly now wondering what they have to do in order to make their latest releases seem less like those buses that the 2000 Year Old Man referred to.

    But for now, in the wake of "Cars" and "Ratatouille" not exactly wowing Wall Street and/or the movie-going public, the folks at Pixar and Disney are now trying to get a better handle on what film fans actually want & expect from this CG studio....there are also some questions here that (to be blunt) reek of a corporation that's trying to refine its mission statement. <<

    Hmmmm.  So Pixar's having a tough time of it with this new Brad Bird film, eh?  You don't say!  Huh.  That's very interesting.  Thank you for bringing that to our attention.  We'll have to look into that one...  (nods head, sits quietly)

    (Don't worry folks, whenever my crazy father-in-law goes off on one of his political rants, I just say something like the above and it appeases him just enough to where we can switch subjects and have a nice dinner together.  Works every time.  Here's hopin'...)

Page 1 of 3 (38 items) 123