Saturday, December 13, 2008

How Disney's Bolt is doing

So the “Homeward Bound meets Hollywood meets 3D animation” film isn’t doing incredibly well. Thoughts about what this means for Disney are down at the bottom.

I think it will barely break $100 million in domestic, and Chicken Little was doing better at this point in 2005.

Domestic: $80,412,867
Foreign: $19,578,438

Worldwide: $99,991,305

Compared to Chicken Little in 2005, which had $14 million for the third weekend, instead of $9. By the third weekend, Chicken Little totaled $99 million; and it went on to do $314,432,837 worldwide.

So far, Lasseter’s attempts to clean up Disney’s animations haven’t helped. He went in to Meet the Robinsons and Bolt and tried to clean up the stories (including replacing the writer/director on Bolt). He did, and I’m sure they’re much better movies for it. But it doesn’t change the overall concept, story arc, character set, and marketing ammo.

For example, I thought Bolt should have been about a cyborg dog fighting villains (ala Incredibles), not about a Hollywood dog who thinks he’s something he’s not and who has ran away.

Walt Disney masterfully balanced stories that were very young (Bambi, Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp), and made them appeal to older people too (Dumbo actually didn’t do all that well; so Walt wasn’t perfect). It’s too difficult a feat to keep attempting that.

The truth is that Disney is hitting a younger audience than they intend. In other words, in order to get the 9-year olds, they need to make a film for 12-year olds. Bolt feels like it is geared toward 9-year olds, which means it’s probably attracting the 5-7 year olds. That’s not the Shrek or Pixar market.

The good news is that Lasseter knows he needs to stop these “young kids” film projects (they weren’t started under his command; he’s just been cleaning them up) and concentrate on epic fairy tales, which were Walt’s two biggest successes (Snow White and Cinderella) and what redefined Disney in the late 80s (Little Mermaid) and in the 90s (Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Mulan, Tarzan).

The bottom line is that I think Lasseter should have cut a few costs off the production and sent Robinsons and Bolt to the Disney channel and DVD (like the Tinkerbell movie). Chicken Little helped a little, but the other two aren’t helping Disney’s image at all.

Now they’re advertising a Cars short that will play before the movie. I haven’t heard of Disney advertising short films since Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies. =^)

Are these poor numbers reflective of our economy? I don't think so...

Kung Fu Panda was out this year (economy has gotten worse this year, but still), and it’s the most successful non-Shrek DreamWorks animation. Also, history has proven that people are more than willing to spend money on entertainment in a crisis. Plus Madagascar 2 is out right now and doing much better than Bolt. Also, Twilight did ridiculously well, based solely on the fact that it is a successful book.

I think this reflects the story, marketing, and satisfaction of the film rather than our economy.

In other words, it’s the story and trailer that turned me off. It's not our economy.

The story was aimed too young. There’s only so much the trailer could do.

It looked like it was targeting 9 year olds, which means it’s most attractive to 5-7 year olds. Adding a hilarious hamster doesn’t help enough.

However, we can’t hit Lasseter too hard for Bolt and Robinsons. He did clean up their stories substantially (that’s what Disney says, and I believe them). However, I still don’t think they were worthy for theatrical release (it was the fault of the original concept; no cleanup work would help). I think Disney should have put them in the "Disney Channel + DVD" release bucket (like Tinker Bell).

Disney can mess up their live action releases with dancing Chihuahuas if they want, but animated features have a legacy they need to maintain. They’re animated features affect the entire Disney perception, while another Air Bud or babysitting comedy goes by without anyone caring.

The future of Disney and whether Lasseter's reign will be a new "Golden Age" for Disney now rests on the shoulders of the coming movies, Princess and the Frog (2009; 2D), Rapunzel (2010; 3D), and King of Elves (2012; 2D/3D mix).

However, Pixar is going to blur that line with their upcoming Bear and the Bow (2011). It’s also a fairy tale, and I think Lasseter should have had it done at Disney instead. Pixar usually just does character pieces, not fairy tales (although this is an original fairy tale, written by the director).

I’m mostly just excited that we get to see two Disney and/or Pixar animated films every year, and with the coming lineup, I’ll probably watch them all, starting in 2009.

- The Emperor

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