Here's something you never hear or read:
"Only Warner Bros. can make money doing live action features ..."
Kind of stupid, right? But there was a remarkably similar conventional corporate wisdom that lasted for fifty years ...
"Only Disney can make money producing animated features."
This was pretty much what was heard from Culver City to Burbank from the time I was a teenager (and my old man was painting backgrounds for Sword in the Stone and Jungle Book), until the period when Jeffrey Katzenberg started to oversee new Disney blockbusters in the late eighties and early nineties. (The exception to this long-term rule being the Don Bluth-Steven Spielberg features American Tale and Land Before Time.)
But at the point where Jeffrey's band of Disney animators were creating mega-blockbusters one after the other, rival conglomerates threw long-time conventional wisdom over the rail and commenced making animated features for themselves. (Disney's billion-dollar grosses being too hard to resist.)
And whattayaknow? Every one of the big corporations, from Warners to Paramount to Ted Turner, performed multi-million dollar face-plants, cranking out flop after feature-length flop. And one by one, they exited the animation business.
Ah, but that was the 1990s and the age of the Number Two pencil. Now we are deep in the 21st century where c.g. feature-length cartoons are the new coin of the realm, and every conglomerate rakes in the long green with their own brands of computer-generated toonage. Universal has Chris Meladandri's Despicable Me. Disney has Pixar and its traditional house brand (Toy Story 3, Tangled.). Fox has Blue Sky Animation and the Ice Age franchise. Lastly, Viacom owns Nickelodeon and its DreamWorks Animation distribution deal. (Even though that deal may now be in jeopardy.)
With the release of Rango from yet another "new" animation studio (the visual effects shop Industrial Light and Magic), we are light-years past the moldy idea that only a chosen few can make animation. The genre is now the highest flying sector of long-form motion pictures for every big entertainment company, with a higher rate of success, more lucrative overseas grosses, and bigger sales in the DVD and Blu-ray markets than any other product Hollywood makes.
Little wonder then that more and more companies are tripping over themselves to set up animated production slates and create their own ninety minutes of box office magic. The axiom that "Only Disney can make any money doing animation" is more outdated than black-and-white silent melodramas.