David Nethery makes a fine point in comments immediately below, to wit:
[If the Simpsons Movie had flopped...] they would have been saying: "See? No one wants to see 2D animation anymore. Not even a pre-sold property like The Simpsons can bring them in to a hand-drawn cartoon".
How many financial flops (Everyone's Hero , The Wild, Valiant, Meet The Robinsons, Surf's Up, Flushed Away, Happily N'Ever After) have to happen before CG's teflon shield wears thin and the conventional wisdom starts "blaming" CG animation for the flops like they tried to blame hand-drawn animation for the financial failure of Treasure Planet, Titan A.E. , Quest For Camelot, Home On the Range, instead of maybe figuring out that , as Steve rightly noted, "if you make a movie people want to see, then they'll go see it. Whether it's hand-drawn, cg, or live-action."
What continually irks me is the lazy conventional wisdom that always breaks out when some film or other flops: "Oh, nobody wants to see...a Western...another high schooler comedy...a new hand-drawn animated feature..."
It's all nonsense. What nobody wants to see is the same film for the third time, especially when the film is witless. The animated Broadway musical (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King) wowed audiences, and ticket buyers couldn't get enough.
Up to a point. Then the fresh, inspired razzmatazz became less fresh and way less inspired, and the grosses fell off. Anybody surprised that Quest for Camelot -- the Warner Bros. version of the animated Broadway musical -- didn't burn up the wickets?
If you're the first in your neighborhood with a product that is new and entertaining, you're gold. And when you're not first? It's like a wise old Disney story artist told me at lunch yesterday:
"Too bad about Sony Pictures Animation and 'Surf's Up.' They really ate it being the fourth penguin picture out there."
The story artist has a point. Timing is everything. And quality is everything else. And if you don't have both of those things in abundance, you are often in trouble, box office wise.
When I was much younger, a chunk of conventional wisdom regarding live action was "Westerns don't make money." Then Dance With Wolves came along, made a whole lot of money, and the wise industry sages said: "Welll. That was a non-recurring phenomenon."
Which is, of course, the category that The Simpson Movie will land in. "Good movie, great grosses, and yeah it's hand-drawn, but it's a non-recurring pheonomenon."
Which will be the absolute, gospel truth.
Until it's not.