Friday, August 09, 2013

Animation's Gravy Train

It keeps rolling along.

Disney's Planes, a Cars spin-off originally intended for a direct-to-DVD release, is doing strong matinee business at the North American box office, putting it on course for a three-day debut in the $30 million range and restoring some luster to the family animation business after the disappointing performances of Turbo and The Smurfs 2.

Pixar did not produce Planes; rather, it was the brainchild of DisneyToon Studios, Disney's direct-to-DVD unit. The 3D animated pic cost a modest $50 million to produce. ...

The "modest $50 million" is due to a large chunk of production being done in India. As previously noted, there WAS an animation crew in Glendale, but it was relatively small.

Let's look at some animation costs of yesteryear:

The Rescuer -- $7.5 million

The Fox and The Hound -- $12 million.

Little Mermaid -- $40 million

Lion King -- $52 million

Toy Story -- $30 million

Tangled -- $251 million

Rio -- $91 million

Despicable Me -- $69 million

Monsters University -- $200 million ...

Civilians (and I'm one, more or less) should always take "official budgets/published budgets" with a sack of salt. Sometimes they're close to reality, sometimes less so.

$50 million is on the high side for a direct-to-video release. Disney's last hand-drawn feature, Winnie the Pooh, cost $24 million, was designed to be lean and inexpensive, and performed its mission. (Management wanted a feature they could release on little silver disks to keep Winnie merchandise going. Although release theatrically, WP was designed for the home video market.)

The idea (nurtured by the entertainment press) that "the glut of animated features is depressing the market" is 50% flapdoodle. Audiences turn out to see movies they want to see. If How to Train Your Dragon II or Toy Story IV had rolled out the day and date Turbo was released, either one would have bettered the snail's numbers. Planes is doing well because it's perceived as part of the Cars franchise. And Cars I/II did pretty damn well at the box office.

Add On: Looking at the way weekend grosses are shaping up on Saturday morning, it dawns on me that Planes is going to have pretty much the same weekend opening as Turbo. ($23 million vs. $21 million.) Both are non-sequels (well, Planes is a semi-sequel, but still). Both opened in a crowded field. Maybe Planes will end up at tad higher, but it seems that the two are accumulating similar grosses.


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